Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Very Bad Prank
Pennsylvania Youth Pastor Alarms Congregation with “Unconscionable Stunt”
Like many Evangelical youth pastors, Paul Craw thought his young charges needed a little shaking up.  So at a recent mid-week service at The Runway Christian Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the 27-year-old minister tried something a little off the beaten path.  But instead of shaking things up, he ended up with a group of hysterical teenagers.  And irate parents.

“He should be fired immediately,” said Tara Spivak of nearby Hummelstown, whose daughter, Justa, 15, has been attending Runway’s Youth Group for the past three years.   “How could he even think that something like this would be okay?”

Senior Pastor Gabe Michelletti knew something was wrong. “We often hear excess noise coming down the hall when we’re in the sanctuary for mid-week service,” the 58-year-old veteran pastor said.  “But it’s usually laughing and other assorted roughhousing.  This time was different.”  Indeed, there was no laughter among the sounds emanating from the hallway, as several youth group members left the mid-week service officiated by youth pastor Paul Craw early.  Many were in tears. 

Youth pastor Paul Craw is contemplating alternate
forms of employment after his shenanigans at The
Runway Christian Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania,
got him into exceedingly hot water.
“I felt like a baby running to my Dad,” said Earl “Trip” Decker, 13, whose father, Junior Decker, was waiting for him in his Ford F-150 in the church parking lot.  “But I couldn’t stay there anymore.  I was very upset.” Carl Stuntz, 43, whose son Ian is a relative newcomer to the group, says he has spoken to the district attorney about pressing charges.  “That was just unconscionable.”  For his part, Ian, 14, was too shaken to comment.

But Maddyssyn Newman, a diminutive and bold 12-year-old girl, was not. “He shouldn’t have said those things.  He’s supposed to be a minister.”  Maddyssyn’s mother, 49-year-old Soffra Newman, a tax attorney, was livid.  “He told them they were sinners!  And that they needed a Savior.  My little girl!  This is my little girl we’re talking about here!  How dare he?!”

Irate parents such as Soffra Newman and Carl Stuntz
may be quarreling over how to deal with youth pastor
Paul Craw.  But they agree that no youth minister
should be calling children to repentance.
Mr. Craw, who has been placed on paid administrative leave while the church investigates, asserts he did nothing wrong, though he does not dispute the claims of the parents or their children.  “I was preaching from 1 Corinthians 15.  But some of the kids had trouble with the idea of Christ dying for our sins.  That led to a discussion about the nature of sin and why we are all sinners in need of a Savior, and that’s when the wheels started coming off,” he explained. 

But Craw’s explanation of events, however biblical, is profoundly unsatisfying to many of the parents.  Some, like Soffra Newman, were outraged. “What was he doing preachingto childrenin the first place?”

According to Mr. Craw, preaching is an activity that is perfectly acceptable for youth pastors, a view that is increasingly regarded as out of step with contemporary youth ministry.  “That’s just crazy,” said Junior Decker, 46, a single dad, whose son, Trip, no longer wants to attend the youth group.  “They’re children, for cryin’ out loud!”

Pastor Craw, who has been at The Runway for only a year-and-a-half, says he has toed the line for most of his short tenure at the church, but that something just didn’t feel right.  “I was getting tired of youth activities like Christian paint ball, ‘Feetohs’ (a game in which girls feed the boys Cheetos with their feet), wrestling in creamed corn, and Wildlife 4 Youth Rampage.  I was tired of functioning as a glorified babysitter.  So I decided to do what I should have been doing all along; I attempted to teach the Bible.  I decided it was time to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name.”

"How you can tell children they are
sinners--in the guise of youth ministry--
is beyond me."  Runway Christian
Center Senior Pastor Gabe Michelletti
All this is news to Gabe Michelletti.  The founding pastor and graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary said his working relationship with Craw had grown somewhat distant in recent months, and that he had a feeling “that boy was up to something.”  However, he says he never expected something like this. “If I had any idea this was going on, I would have put a stop to it immediately.  These kids are going through the toughest time of their lives.  The last thing they need is somebody coming along and telling them they’re sinners.”  While Michelletti said he cannot speculate on Craw’s future with the church until a full investigation is complete, he concedes that, “Yeah, he’ll probably be fired.”

Meanwhile, the embattled Pastor Craw says he has received phone calls from parents and other parishioners who feel he is doing the right thing.  A small group of parent-supporters, the CrawDads, is helping raise financial support and assisting him with finding another position in the likely event that he is, in fact, on the exit ramp off of The Runway. 

Craw says that he was aware of the recent scandal at the Glad Tidings Assemblies of God in nearby Middletown, Pennsylvania, in which youth group members were subjected to a mock kidnapping.  The teens had their regular youth meeting interrupted by several men who, in real life, were off-duty police officers, but who posed as kidnappers and proceeded to blindfold, bind, and transport them in a van to their pastor’s home, where they were forced to watch him ostensibly being physically abused.  In reality, however, the pastor was a confederate in the “role play,” which severely traumatized some of teens and outraged many of the parents.  Criminal charges may be filed.

“What they were doing over at Glad Tidings—I don’t think that was very wise, to say the least.  But what I was trying to do—preach the Gosel—is an activity with a rich history, going back to the Early Church.  It’s what we’re called to do. I don’t see what the problem is here.    I think we’ve gotten pretty far off the mark when the contents of 1 Corinthians 15 have become shocking, and that we shouldn’t teach this to young people. I’m not even trying to get into the whole thing of whether the Gospel is a scandal or not.  But it certainly seems to have gotten me in trouble.”


  1. Is this a joke? I can't seem to find any Web site for this church anywhere. Plus, when I google "Runway Christian Center Hershey" all I get is this Web page.

  2. Read the Banner up top. Christian Satire.

    1. A real reporter knows how to spell. Check your spelling or use Spell-Check if you want to pass satire off as real news.
      Karen Janssen

    2. Have you read very many "real journalistic" stories (especially on the internet)? Spell-check (and worse of all "grammar" check) are hardly ever used.

  3. I say we all are sinners and once kids know right from worng they need to be tought, its not like they are 5-7 year olds,they are teenagers and someone needs to tell them the thruth. May GOD be with him and protect him, i was told i was a sinner by the time i was 12-13 and i am very close to JEHOVA, if these kids freaked out that bad maybe this church needs to take a step back and see if they are really teaching GOD'S WORD !!!! Think of it this way if our LORD decides to come today and no one taught the kids they are sinners and teach them to pray and ask for forgiveness then where well they end up ? My son is going to be 7 and i teach him of GOD'S WORD and that we ALL are sinners. Our world needs to wake up and christians need to preach the word to ALL our teens so they dont get left behind, they might be kids but they know right from wrong and EVERYONE gets judge by our father EVERYONE !!!! GOD BLESS YOU ALL, i hope people sit back and think about this.

  4. What a waste of time. Terrible. Not funny or even remotely "satirical" in anyway, Christian or secular. I've been a "believer" for over 25 years, and my Dad was a Baptist Youth Minister...sarcasm is great & can be effective if used properly. This isn't properly, in my simple unasked for opinion.

  5. wow you really had me going there:) Probably closer to the truth than we realize

  6. Bahahaha, you had me at Maddyssyn.