And you ask, why would I want skateboarders at my church?  The answer is clear.  Hardcore skateboarders – the ones who do tricks and flips – aren’t generally welcome in a lot of churches.  But they are young men (usually) who need Jesus just as much as anyone else, and few people are reaching out to them.

What do you do to reach them?

In North Carolina, a skateboard church is reaching this segment of the population that might have never stepped inside a church under different circumstances.

“We have graffiti on the walls and ramps that go to the ceiling and different things, and we crank loud music when we are skating. But we present the word and we stick by the truth, and what God’s given us in the Bible, we hold to that. We’re given the opportunity to speak to individuals that otherwise don’t get to hear the Gospel.”

At West Seattle’s Skate Church,  the approach was to open a skateboard shop, called TORN.  Using their non-profit status, they’re able to sell name-brand skate decks at a discount.  They also advertise TORN as the best place for candy and energy drinks because the shop is “cheaper than 7-11…closer than Safeway.

“The rectangular store has couches instead of pews, energy drinks and candy instead of coffee and doughnuts, and a drum set and several amps in its worship center. … a place where teens would choose to come and hang out, and not just once a week. He believes “just coming together on Sundays is not church, because church should be something that is happening all the time.”

The message is that you don’t have to be boring to be a Christian, and you don’t have to turn your back on the secular world, only the evil in it. Shiloh Mulkin, 17, gives the reason for using skating to reach people for Jesus:   “A lot of the skating scene that I’ve witnessed is drugs and stuff, and we’re just trying to give kids a different alternative,” he says. “We don’t want people to see just smoking and doing drugs and skating, and see them as all together.”

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If you try a skate ministry, remember to spend some time doing real skateboarding, not just skateboarding references in regular sermons.  West Seattle’s Boarders for Christ member Scott Yamamura says “When they throw a contest, it’s just a regular contest. It’s not really preaching; they are just supporting skateboarding.”

Read all about it here and here.

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In some churches, engaging youth in anything but pizza parties seems a daunting task.  Getting them into the core activities of the church is even harder.  But without the vitality of teenagers, churches get stale and die.

Russell Martin has written an approach to “engage youth in worship” that highlights this warning and suggests alternatives.  In a blog post on theworshipcommunity.com, he remembers when he was a teen, how his own youth pastor asked him to plan the worship services for weekly meetings and special events.  He calls it a turning point in his life.

To Russell, the secret to attracting youth to your church is to “give them ownership.”

They will likely come up with “different, but great ways” to introduce others to Jesus Christ.  “We should not underestimate the talents, abilities, and desires our youth have now and the things they can teach us about worship.”

More important, your youth” know other youth more than you do.”  Visitors “come with friends because someone knows someone.”

More than just training the next generation of church leaders, you are taking better advantage of the Gifts the Spirit has given your congregation.  And it gives opportunity to bring in new people to your congregation.

You just have to give them ownership and let them run with it, even if it’s not the way you’d do it.

Robbie wrote a great post called “No Youth Volunteers: No Youth Ministry”  He gives the qualities of a good youth volunteer: Crazy, Radical, Caffeinated, Brave, Dreamer.

For instance, he says “A Youth Volunteer steps out of their shoes & walks in a teenagers shoes. The best leaders are the ones that relate to the youth, where the youth are at. … Youth volunteers take the Gospel & radically mold it to where the youth are. Jesus did ministry the same way”

The good youth worker sees past the exterior and sees a teen to find themselves in a culture that is constantly changing, trying to find some hope.  “They dream about what God could do…and take action.”

The pastoral youth leader is there to plan, to pray, to organize. But it’s tough doing it alone.  Every church that is committed to reaching teenagers for the Gospel needs mature volunteer believers who will look past their own discomfort to pour themselves into the next generation.  They’re out there.  Go get them.