Skateboarders find love and acceptance as church lot becomes destination

CANTON?God told Moses to reach the Hebrews, Paul to reach the Gentiles, and the people of Lakeside Baptist Church to reach the skateboarders, the church’s student minister says. They did not have to go very far to do it.

In the middle of the church’s parking lot in Canton, on any afternoon, several young teenagers can be seen doing tricks and riding slopes on boards. What cannot be seen is the beginning of a movement among them?God is transforming their lives, church members say.

“God brought it to us,” said Drew Erickson, Lakeside Baptist student minister. About a year ago, on a Wednesday evening, two or three teenagers began skateboarding on the parking lot. The kids had been chased off of every parking lot in town, eventually landing on the doorstep of Lakeside Baptist Church, Erickson recalled.

The newly paved lot is an exceptional place for skateboarding, and the sloping terrain attracts teens wishing to sharpen their skills. After realizing they were welcome on the property, the group began to show up every day after school.

Sean Little, an adult leader for the junior high boys small group, began spending time with the teens on the parking lot and developing friendships.

“My job was to get there early and hang out with them and meet their friends,” he said. “It started out as a friendship.”

Later, Erickson enacted a rule that would bring them inside the church doors. On Wednesday nights, which is youth outreach night, kids are allowed to skateboard on the lot, but at 6:15 they are required to come in for worship and Bible study.

An evangelistic message was presented in the small groups, and the ministry started seeing big results. Little began leading at least one new student to Christ every week. After several weeks, he began to see an average of 20 seventh and eighth grade boys in his group.

“They are not shy to tell their friends about Jesus,” Little said. “They were not afraid to tell their friends that they couldn’t go out and skate until they talked to someone about getting their lives right with God.”

After four months of outreach, the skateboarding ministry started to explode. Erickson and Little started visiting the new students during their lunch hour at school. The skateboarders were unsure and standoffish towards the youth leaders at first, but Erickson and Little pursued a relationship with them. They invited them to church and challenged them to bring their friends also.

The students within the youth ministry have also been instrumental in reaching out to this group of teens. “I began privately challenging my kids to reach out to these skater kids,” Erickson said.

The students began inviting the skateboarders into their homes, and in turn, the skateboarders began inviting their own friends to come. Two student leaders from the youth group took the initiative to hold a skateboarding demonstration on the church parking lot one Saturday afternoon. The leaders wanted to reach out to the kids that had not been to church in a while, and as a result, 30 teens showed up for the demonstration, Erickson said.

Currently, an average of 40 skateboarders come to Lakeside for skating and Bible study on Wednesday nights, Erickson noted. Little’s group, the eighth grade boys, consists entirely of skateboarders. At church, they receive a love and acceptance that many have never experienced before, Erickson said.

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