For several years now we here in Student Ministry have been working really hard to cultivate and maintain good relationships with several of the schools here in our city. This year we were given an amazing opportunity by Churchill High School, to take over a room and create a space just for students to come, hangout, relax, chat, and maybe build some new, meaningful relationships.
We were given the Junior Boys football locker room. Yes you could tell. It smelled, well, like 9 and 10th grade boys who have just played football. Thankfully after several weeks of open windows and air fresheners the smell started to fade. We moved in couches, built a table, moved in a pool table that we were able to purchase through the generous donations of our church community, set up a Nintendo Wii, and provided board games. We were able to open up the room every Tuesday and Thursday over lunch. We started to spread the word that the room would open on December 8th and were waiting that first day hoping that someone would show up.
The room was a hit. We started getting students coming out just to check it out because there was a pool table and couches. Slowly more kids started checking it out, eventually having up to 80 kids cycle through it over a lunch break. We started having students waiting outside the room when we got there. We were blown away by the reception. We had our regulars who were there every week and the craziest thing started to happen, high school students started talking! Yeah, we heard about tests and about shopping trips, and hobbies, but we also heard about fathers who had left and about mothers in the hospital. We heard about brothers serving in the military oversees. We got to celebrate college acceptance letters – all just because we showed up and listened.
We heard from teachers that we were becoming part of the school’s regular life. We got many thank you’s for giving their students a place to go and to stay out of trouble. They would send students our way when they thought they needed a place to relax and feel loved and cared for. The principal would stop by on regular occasions and thank us for what we were doing for their students. We were also able to help the student leadership team by giving them use of a great space for several events that they put on throughout the year.
Sadly, our year is wrapping up. The Jr. boys football team have started spring training and we have had to clear the room, but, we have a standing invitation from the principal and from multiple support staff to keep coming around. There are already plans being made to get us a room for the 2016-2017 school year and hopefully on a more permanent basis.
We love being able to be a part of our community and are so grateful for this opportunity. We can’t wait to see what next year will bring and to continue to see what God will do in our community.
~ Jesse Hochstetler