On a warm and sunny day in early May, I spent several hours with Pastor Tim Cummings and Jeff Raatz learning about the genesis of New Creations. Back in 1967, Tim and his bride, Bonnie, got the call to work with young people - teenagers - in trouble. For several years, the couple took children into their home in southern Indiana. The Cummings had three goals in mind - to help youngsters develop spiritually, to help them restore relationships with their families and to take each student as far as he or she could go academically.
Pastor Tim explained that these goals remain the same today - although today, children ranging in age from 12 - 17 live in dormitories and attend classes on the 600 + acre campus of New Creations Boarding School. It is important for families considering New Creations to understand that it is a Christian program - described in the school's materials as "offering Christ-centered training, education, counseling and care for young people and their families." There are currently 30 teens enrolled but New Creations has the facilities to double that number.
There is a two story, red-brick Federal style house - formerly the home of the farm family that had once owned the land - that serves as the office for New Creations. After visiting with Tim and Jeff for a while, two female students arrived to take me on a tour.
The first stop was the Chapel. Like all of the buildings Pastor Tim has built on campus, it is simple in design yet functional. The large meeting room has chairs set up in three sections - seating for boys on one side of the room and for girls on the other with seating in the center section for staff, visiting family members and for the handful of local families who worship there. There are services on Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Thursday evening as well as a student-run service on Friday morning each week.
We walked through the Girls Dorm - a simple, concrete block building that was built in the late 70s. My tour guides showed me their bunk area as well as the common room that serves as a place for the girls to "hang out." We walked by the Boys Dorm but did not go in because there was no male staff member with us.
There is a large building set deeper in the property with a gym, the boarding school classrooms and the cafeteria. There are also rooms that house a Christian Day School for the children of staff and for a few local kids whose parents want a values-based educational setting. Boarding school teens are able to join the day students upon reaching one of the upper levels of the behavioral program that is in place. The academic curriculum is a computer-based Christian program from Alpha Omega called Switched On Schoolhouse or SOS. Using 10 work packets in each of five subjects a year, students can work at their own pace to master material in Language Arts, Math, History & Geography, Science and the Bible.
My tour guides told me that while their faith had deepened and that they were both doing better in school than ever before, the best thing about the work they had done at New Creations was a renewed relationship with their families. One of the girls is graduating this month. Part of her transition plan is taking a mission trip to Africa - and her mother is going too. The trip was coordinated by New Creations in conjunction with other schools and churches. My other guide shared that she had been able to go with other students on mission trips to help families in need more locally.
The girls returned me to Pastor Tim and Jeff and we talked in greater depth about the school program, monthly meetings with parents and students and the role of the Christian environment in helping teens sort through their problems. Pastor Tim speaks eloquently about the role of Christian counseling there - counseling "in the moment" designed to help students find out who they are and understand their place in the world. Jeff is taking on more and more responsibility for the daily operations of the school while Tim is focusing his efforts more and more on fundraising.
My impression is that the student who would do well here is one who is having difficulty communicating with his or her parents and other authority figures and needs the structure that 24-7 care has to offer. Most of the teens at New Creations are bright - but have performed poorly in school. New Creations can handle kids on medication and can bring the kids to town to see a clinician - but that has not been the norm. However, Jeff is currently having discussions with a licensed clinical therapist with a strong Christian background who would deepen their counseling expertise. Students who pose a serious run risk would be a problem given the school's proximity to I-70.
Interestingly, while many teens with significant therapeutic needs would not be appropriate, several adopted teens with fairly significant attachment issues have done well—especially in cases where an older teen completes high school at New Creations and moves on in life. Staff members feel that they have had successes with other "tough cases" in the past - and are willing to look at applications from more complicated kids and family situations. The tuition at New Creations is reasonable and, for the family in need because of a troubled teen but with limited resources, the program may be very attractive.
It was also quite clear to me that the staff - from Pastor Tim and Jeff to the teachers to the counselors (house parents in other schools) to the secretary - all have a heart for working with teens. In fact, their care for and commitment to the students is strong enough for you to feel it when they talk about their work. So, while the buildings are plain and, in some cases, in need of some cosmetic work, the relationship between students and staff shines through.
In 1984, New Creations added a Bible College to the campus. The school offers two and four year degrees of Biblical Studies in Residential Counseling, Christian Education, Pastoral Theology and Missions. Students are able to earn scholarships in the form of full or part-time employment - sometimes by working with younger students in the boarding school. They are currently 8 students enrolled at NCBC.
The last leg of my tour was a drive around the campus with Pastor Tim. The property and all of the buildings on it have been paid for by his fundraising efforts. The low tuition is offset by annual gifts to keep the school in business.
We drove to a beautiful 45 acre lake. The boarding school kids come out on day hikes and also spend time camping at the lake during the summer months. There is also a horse barn near the lake and students have the opportunity to ride and care for the horses. In the summer months, New Creations offers camp experiences for youngsters who are not students at the boarding school. Primitive camping facilities are also available for rent to community and corporate groups.
Two dreams for the future are underway. One is for a 38-room lodge just off the lake and the other is for two large cabins near-by. Both projects need additional funding but Pastor Tim is convinced that the "little miracles" that have made New Creations what it is today will continue and that, in the not-so-distant future, both projects will be completed.
New Creations complies with Indiana laws regarding boarding schools and is accredited by the International Christian Accrediting Association (ICAA). The school also belongs to the Oral Roberts University Educational Fellowship.