Four years ago, Flemingsburg Baptist Church in Kentucky invested in a vacant building as a means of reaching the youth in the community.
The Refuge, as it’s called, has become a place where relationships are developed and the gospel is shared. Bobby Carr, the church’s youth pastor, realized an abandoned building located beside the Dairy Queen near the middle school would provide a as the “perfect opportunity” for a ministry site.
The proximity of the building to DQ wasn’t lost on Carr, who said the middle school kids “were flocking there every day.”
Sharing the gospel ‘from day one’
He went to the church with the idea and they agreed, spending tens of thousands to purchase the building and equip it with ping-pong tables, televisions, video games and, of course, food. The plan is to “ultimately share the gospel with them,” Carr said. “It has worked from day one.”
Even during the days when COVID-19 numbers were surging, attendance was still good, he said. The building is open Monday through Thursday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Carr said students come after school, eat something and many times return to school for various practices. But during those two hours Carr and other adults try to build relationships and share the gospel message.
“This ministry is not intended for church kids only,” he said. “It’s mainly geared to reaching out to kids who are unchurched. It gives them a safe place, gets them off the streets and offers positive relationships with adults.”
Many of the youth who are coming have “never heard of Jesus, never heard of the Bible or anything about it,” he said. “The majority of them have no clue as to what the Bible teaches, who Jesus is or the salvation He offers.”
The 38-year-old Carr, who has served at the church for six years, said the lack of biblical knowledge is surprising. However, many of the youth, after hearing the gospel for possibly the first time, have responded in a positive way. The gospel, he said, has its own.
The church recently had a youth lock-in, and when the gospel was presented, several responded.
“One of our students is a senior and he said, ‘This is my last year, can you have [a lock-in]?’ I said, ‘I’ll do one just for you.’ We had 20 kids show up; I always do an evangelistic devotion, and six kids got saved that night,” he said. “It has been unreal how God is working. Every single day at the Refuge something new is going on, a new kid starts a relationship with either me or one of the adults. These kids have no one to talk to, no one loving on them. Kids are crying out for people to love them and accept them.”
Gaining trust, impacting lives
The Fleming County school system approves of the Refuge and announces meetings there on a regular basis. A couple of years ago, Carr noted, one of the biggest elementary schools in the district had 93 sixth grade students and only six lived with their parents. The rest were living either in foster care, with grandparents or with a guardian or caregiver.
“They’re essentially raising themselves,” he said. “It has been a struggle to gain the trust of the kids. They don’t trust adults based on how their life is. (But) once the relationship is built, you would not believe the things that can happen.”
Carr said they have had some students with gender issues come to a Bible study. One of them, he said, interrupted and asked if he could sit closer so he could hear better.
“We have the gospel to share with them and there’s nothing better for them to hear,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was written by Mark Maynard and first published by Kentucky Today, news service of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.