Gas station reborn as symbol of unity among prairie churches
The needs of youth take top priority for seven churches local to Herbert, Sask. In March, after months of planning, searching, renovating, and decorating, they officially opened a new drop-in centre in a former Texaco gas station – complete with a coffee bar, HDTV equipped with wifi and PS3, multipurpose room, and arcade room – for all the youth of the town of approximately 700.
Inspired by Joe’s Place in Moose Jaw, Sask., the centre provides a “third place” (neither school nor home) for Herbert’s young people. It’s currently open 3 nights a week from 7–11 with a ratio of 1 supervisor to 4 students.
Clint Hartog, Herbert MB’s youth pastor from 2005–2010, informally served all the churches in town, interacting regularly with some 60 students, grades 6–12, accompanying them on activities ranging from snowboarding trips, to a visit to juvenile court.
So when Herbert MB lost “the Loft,” a Quonset used for youth activities, in 2008, Hartog called a congregational meeting to discuss the church’s vision for involvement in youth ministry. “We asked if they saw a building as being part of that picture. We asked if we should pursue working together more formally with other churches.” The members responded yes.
Hartog asked if Herbert MB “would be willing to carry responsibility anyhow” if other churches wanted to be involved but couldn’t contribute financially? Again, the congregation agreed.
“We sent out an invitation letter to area churches asking them to prayerfully respond to the opportunity of searching together to purchase and renovate a building for the youth of Herbert,” says Hartog. “We were overwhelmed that all agreed to be involved at least on some level.”
The local Evangelical Free Church, Associated Gospel Chapel, St. Paul’s Lutheran, Church of God (Pentecostal), Main Centre MB, and Herbert MB have 2 members on the board of the new youth centre; members of Crossroads Church in Herbert volunteer with the youth and sponsor college-age students from the UK to serve at the youth centre as part of mission training.
The show of unity among churches and concern for the youth has made an impression on townspeople who sometimes cite interchurch bickering as a reason for not attending.
Hartog’s title is now youth centre director, and though the MB church still contributes a large portion of his salary, he is responsible to the board, not to any one church. “We know that in any town, youth can find options that aren’t healthy physically or spiritually. We aim to be the opposite – to provide a positive peer environment where youth can meet Jesus.”