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Student center targets teens with cutting edge technology

HOOVER, Ala. (BP)–Built on a solid foundation of prayers and God’s Word, Hunter Street Baptist Church’s newest extension, the 24:7 Student Center, opened on May 3.

According to Michael Smith, student pastor at the Hoover megachurch, about 1,500 people attended the grand opening.

“I thought the night was incredible,” said Smith. “It was everything we’d hoped it would be and thought it would be.”

“I thought it was great,” said Pastor Buddy Gray. “And on Sunday morning, we had about 500 youth who came (to worship).”

The center, built in six months, consists of three buildings: a worship building, a Sunday School building and the main building, which houses a café that will serve food and beverages, computers with Internet access, a 25 foot rock climbing wall, a game station with X-Boxes and PlayStation 2s, two basketball cages and conference rooms.

Outside are a full basketball court, a sand volleyball pit and an amphitheater.

Smith said the computer programs and games are rated E for Everyone, and the computers have safeguards for the students.

“They’re totally filtered and totally firewalled,” Smith said.

“We wanted to create a safe environment for kids who are members to bring their friends,” Smith said. “This is creating a great opportunity for us to reach students who wouldn’t step in church.”

“I knew it was good to bring somebody to church,” senior Stephen Foshee said. “But it’s easier to bring somebody to church with all this.”

Judy McCoy, a member who has two children in Hunter Street’s youth group, said the center has done a good job of creating a safe setting for the students to meet and hang out.

“I’ll feel very confident they’re in a safe and protected environment,” she noted.

Amid all the fun and games, Smith wants to keep the focus on the ministry and purpose of the student group.

“We want to make sure the students and the entire church understand that it’s about the spiritual ministry, not about the building,” Smith said.

To that end, church members took turns reading the entire Bible throughout the building, and prayed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week before the center’s opening. Smith also made sure the building’s foundation was solid. “The students wrote prayers and thoughts on the concrete before laying the carpet,” Smith said.

“It set our mentality,” said junior Brad Hardekopf. “(The building) is not for us. It’s gonna glorify God.”

“It’s a challenge,” said senior John-Paul Basham. “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

Gray said the involvement of the church members in the Bible reading and prayer reaffirms the church’s attitude toward its students and the new center. “That’s the reason the adults wanted to do this,” Gray said, “… to reach other kids and grow our own kids. It’s a place for our own kids to mature, a place for our kids to bring friends.”

The students feel that positive attitude. “This is encouragement for us,” said Foshee. ” I’m glad to have a church that supports us.”

“I think it’s amazing that Michael and Buddy and our church allow us to have a vision like this,” said student Samantha Ralston. “It’s shown me what God can do.”

Smith said God blessed the student ministry so much when they were meeting in a “plain old regular chapel, ” that he is ready to see what God will do next.

“God is doing an awesome work in the lives of our students,” he said. “I hope I can dream big enough.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next,” Gray said.

The students also have embraced the vision of growth and evangelism. “It already feels like home,” Foshee said. “This is God’s turf. It’s an encouragement to be here.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: FOCUSING ON SCRIPTURE.

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  • Erin Webster