(Above) Micah Owensby jumps a trash can during Bethphage Lutheran Churchâ€™s Skate Ministry meeting Tuesday. (Below) Andy Hovis attempts a trick. Hovis will build a skate boarding ramp as part of his Eagle Scout project. Diane Turbyfill / LTN Photo
Skate Ministry still growing
strong at Bethphage Lutheran
In July of 2003, a local pastor noticed kids skate boarding in the parking lot of his western Lincoln County Church.
Instead of shooing them away, he decided to start up a program that would embrace them.
And one year later, the Skate Ministry at Bethphage Lutheran Church is stronger than ever.
â€œI think anytime youâ€™re making positive relationships with kids itâ€™s got a positive return,â€ said Bethphageâ€™s pastor, the Rev. John Bell.
The ministry started out with about seven members. Today, about 25 kids show up each Tuesday night. More than 60 skaters are signed up for the program.
Bell expects those numbers to keep rising.
â€œI expect it will probably continue to grow, especially when school starts,â€ he said. â€œWith the heat and rain this summer weâ€™ve just hit a little bit of a lull. But for a lot of kids, I think itâ€™s one of the things they have to look forward to over the summer.â€
The ministry aims to give kids a place to skate and hang out while at the same time teach them about faith.
Each Tuesday meeting includes a 15 to 20 minute devotion. After that, skaters are free to carve and grind and do kickflips, ollies and aerials.
Tuesday, the trick to try was an aerial over a garbage can behind a small ramp.
Micah Owensby, who after several attempts sailed effortlessly over the obstacle, has been involved in the Skate Ministry since the beginning.
â€œThere are a lot more people (now). It seems a little more developed,â€ he said. â€œThereâ€™s a lot more community. Everyone pretty much became friends with each other.â€
Bell said just two of the ministryâ€™s 60 members attend Bethphage. Some are members at other churches, but at least half donâ€™t regularly attend services anywhere.
The ministry is a good chance to reach those kids in a setting that is comfortable to them.
â€œWeâ€™re reaching kids that we ordinarily wouldnâ€™t reach,â€ said Bell. â€œParents say the demeanor of the kids has changed since they started with Skate Ministry.â€
It also keeps kids off the streets and gives them a safe place theyâ€™re allowed to skate. Itâ€™s hard to find good pavement in rural western Lincoln County.
Kevin Caldwell II joined the ministry a couple months after it started. He skates at Bethphage â€œevery week that I can.â€
Usually he has to travel to a skate park in Kings Mountain, so the proximity of Bethphage to his home is a definite plus.
â€œI just wish they had it more often,â€ said Caldwell of the once-a-week program. Heâ€™d also like to have more ramps and equipment to accommodate the growing number of skaters.
The sense of camaraderie is a major draw for the skaters, many of whom have become fast friends.
â€œIt seems more like a bunch of friends fathered together to skate than just a bunch of random people,â€ Owensby said. â€œItâ€™s something to do â€¦ itâ€™s fun.â€
For information, call the church at 704-735-8405.
Kevin Caldwell II skates toward a ramp Tuesday while other skaters watch. Bethphage Lutheran Churchâ€™s Skate Ministry serves about 60 skaters. Jenny Walling / LTN Photo
by Alice Smith