Finding God at the YMCA

By Laurie Winslow Sargent:

Today I attended a Bible study . . . at the YMCA.


YMCA Young Men's Christian Association

I admit that I was surprised to be finding God at the YMCA, and Christian faith in particular. Yes, I know the acronym YMCA stands for Young Men’s Christian Association. It just seems that so many Y’s in the country have lost their Christian emphasis. Now I’ve moved to North Carolina (a more conservative state than others I have lived in) I was wowed by my local Y’s bold mission statement in HUGE lettering on the wall:

Our Mission: to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

I walked down the hall, and saw a large painting of Jesus. By the front door was a wooden box for people to insert prayer requests.  Then I attended a Bible study, joining over 20 women to learn from the Bible and book called Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, by Lysa TerKeurst. We watched a DVD with Lysa (the first of eight videos), then discussed how it applied to us. The leader also made herself available to share the gospel. YES!

Wonder about the history of the YMCA?

From their website, you can read about the history of the YMCA, including this tidbit:

In 1844, industrialized London was a place of great turmoil and despair. For the young men who migrated to the city from rural areas to find jobs, London offered a bleak landscape of tenement housing and dangerous influences.

Twenty-two-year-old George Williams, a farmer-turned-department store worker, was troubled by what he saw. He joined 11 friends to organize the first Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets.

Later, in the United States:

Years later, retired Boston sea captain Thomas Valentine Sullivan, working as a marine missionary, noticed a similar need to create a safe “home away from home” for sailors and merchants. Inspired by the stories of the Y in England, he led the formation of the first U.S. YMCA at the Old South Church in Boston on December 29, 1851.

You can click here for more fascinating facts: YMCA history from 1900 to 1950s. 

I find this particularly interesting because my father-in-law, while a single young man, lived at the YMCA for a short time. He had graduated from MIT, and previous to that, at the young age of 19, had been a WWII soldier at the battle of Iwo Jima. The YMCA gave him a secure transition in a new city as he sought work and eventually a bride.

See this video about the history of the Y–including how the sport of basketball and the Gideons (who distribute Bibles worldwide) got their start at the YMCA:

© Laurie Winslow Sargent. Laurie edits Finding God Daily, and is a multi-book author/contributor and magazine article writer. She blogs for parents at and for writers at  Join her on Twitter @LaurieSargent.

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