This past April, during the “It’s What We Do” initiative, we were challenged as a church family to show a tangible expression of love in our community through the GO + DO weekend. The weekend consisted of 126 different service projects and 1500 volunteers. One completed was the construction of a new skate ramp at The Garage in Wadsworth. The Garage, one of Grace’s city partners, is a ministry that assists at-risk youth in the Wadsworth area. Through club meetings, social activities, and mentoring, they encourage students to think critically about their life choices and matters of faith. The mission of The Garage is for teens to find freedom and purpose through their daily walk with Jesus.
Laurie Beal, The Garage’s site director, talked with us about the impact the skate ramps have had on their community of teens.
“Having the new skate ramps built by Grace Church has given us back a very useful tool in ministering to a variety of at-risk teens in our community! Some of our teens use skating to exert their pent-up energy and emotion in a healthy way, and some of them just really enjoy skateboarding or riding scooters as a hobby. For others, their skills on the ramps are a welcome way to receive accolades for their talents that, sadly, may be some of the only positive affirmations they receive throughout the entire week.
Our old ramps had deteriorated to the point where we had to take them down for safety reasons. There was a select group of teens that came to skate during office hours but did not come to many of our teen ministry nights or events. These drop-in visits allowed for meaningful conversations with our mentors that were on site, and we began to see relationships develop.
Once the old ramps were taken down, that group of teens stopped coming. We would still see those teens out and about in the community and talk to them, but we didn’t have the avenue in place anymore for lengthy conversations that often turned to conversations about the hope of Jesus. Sadly, we have seen three of those teens heading downhill during the 3-year period where we did not have the ramps. The lack of ramps is not the sole reason they slipped into more troubles, but I am sure that not having the accountability and conversation with adults who cared for them probably played into that.
The ramps are also a great asset to have for ministry nights as a fun activity before we begin club meetings, during free time, or after we end. One of our students, Sophia, put it this way; “I really like the ramps outside, because when we are talking about a heavy topic in The Garage, we can take a break and go skate for a little bit.
”We minister to teens in a variety of ways all throughout the week, bumping shoulders with upwards of one hundred kids. Of course, not all of them skate on the ramps, but those who don’t still love to be in on the action. They run up and down them, sit on the built-in spectator decks or watch from our new picnic tables, also built by the amazing Grace crew! Even the toddlers of our teen moms love when we go outside during our support group meetings so they can run up and down them. One of our mentors, Kristol Barr, stated, “I love that Grace Church helped out and built the ramps, because the kids really need a constructive outlet. This allows another way to connect with them, which is fantastic. And I really love that we get to continue to help them make good decisions because they have someone right there talking them through it. I also feel like it attracts more kids to come to our ministry, and more kids to talk to about Jesus is always a great thing.
”We are so thankful for the caring people of Grace Church for loving the teensin our community like we do and giving them these awesome ramps and gathering area. The ramps give us one more valuable tool in our box to utilize as we build relationships and trust. It is then that we can have those meaningful conversations about life and the possibility and HOPE of a new life in Christ!”