LIVINGSTON, MI-Skateboarding is not a crime; just ask Brighton Nazarene Church family pastor Tim Wessel, whose church has taken the phrase “holy roller” to the extreme.
With an indoor skate park, video arcade, indoor cafe and a paintball course, “The Naz” has also taken an unconventional approach to connecting with area youth, making it one of several Livingston County churches that reach out by rolling out recreational opportunities.
“It’s 22,000 square feet, and we have just about everything you can think of including vert walls and half-pipes,” Wessel said of the skating area. “We recently added a configurable center with rails and stairs.”
The skate park opened about seven years ago after throngs of teenagers began skating on church property. Skaters began interacting with pastors and soon, ramps were brought in to turn the parking lot into a concrete playground.
“It grew into a Friday night skateboard ministry with lots of noise,” Wessel said.
Neighbors were not pleased with the skate park commotion, and eventually the park was moved indoors.
More than 8,000 students have taken advantage of the skate park, which is free for anyone who attends a weekly skate ministry. Otherwise, it costs $5 per day to skate.
“Our goal isn’t to push God or preach to them,” Wessel said. “The goal is to teach them life skills.”
Wessel said it can be hard for some members of the congregation to understand the importance of skate parks and their youth programs, which involve lasers and fog machines.
“What I’ve seen is a lot of churches neglecting the kids,” Wessel said. “But there is value in what we are doing. The kids are looking for something to do. They need a place to go.”
Unique recreation opportunities in Livingston County aren’t exclusive to “The Naz.” United Brethren in Christ Church, about a mile west of downtown Fowlerville in Handy Township, recently built a disc golf course.
“Disc golf is a fun, inexpensive way for people to enjoy the outdoors,” United Brethren parishioner Kurt Charleville said. “There were very few (courses) in the county, and we had the land and wanted to see it used.”
The free, nine-hole course was built by volunteers. During the warmer months, up to 30 players per day enjoyed the place. The church also offers free disc rental and has two full-size baseball fields and two soccer fields that are open to the community.
Several churches in Livingston County also offer more traditional recreation opportunities for parishioners and other community members.
Hidden Springs Church on Latson Road in Howell has a youth wrestling program that competes in the Mid-Michigan Wrestling Association against club teams around Lansing and Flint.
Last year the team had between 20 and 30 members.
The biggest draws for Livingston County churches are basketball and softball leagues. Many churches particpate in leagues together including Brighton Nazarene, Brighton Township’s Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church and Howell Nazarene Church.
Last year, our basketball league for first-graders to adults had about 700 people,” said Illene McMann of Community Bible Church. “We’ve had a lot of people come to our church after first coming to our basketball leagues.”
There are also coed and women’s adult volleyball leagues that pit parishioners from Cornerstone SonRise Church in the Howell area, Community Bible Church and other parishes against one another.
“We have 12 teams in the league,” said Kim Traud, a Cornerstone sports volunteer. “I think it is a nonthreatening, safe place to plug in and start building
Contact Daily Press & Argus reporter Jon Gunnells at (517) 552-2847 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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