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Town’s weekly traffic jam takes teens to ‘Next Level’

HARRAH, Okla. (BP)–It’s not a movie premiere or an appearance by a popular rock group, but it’s the closest thing this town has to a traffic jam.
Every Wednesday about 6 p.m., scores of teenagers crowd around the entrance to the Harrah Theater, many after being dropped off by their parents.
They’re there to go to the “Next Level” of worship and fellowship.
“We just outgrew any meeting place we had in the church,” explained Keith Davis, youth minister at First Baptist Church, Harrah, Okla.
The Harrah church had been without a youth minister for about two years and was running about 40 in the youth group at the time Davis joined the staff.
“We’ve really tried to reach out to our community with good publicity and just loving our kids,” Davis said. “We’re now running close to 200 on Wednesday nights.”
Since the church doesn’t have a room to accommodate that many youth, Davis said he had been praying for a space where “we could have music that wouldn’t bother the rest of the Wednesday night activities at the church.”
Davis drove by the theater one night and decided to stop and see what it was like on the inside.
“It seats 250, has a stage with a fully equipped sound and lighting system and spotlights,” Davis said.
“They have a country music show twice a month on Saturdays. So the manager was more than happy to rent it to us every Wednesday night.”
The weekly sessions are basically worship services geared to youth, Davis said.
“We try to hit on topical issues which relate to teenagers,” he said. “We have just finished a series on peer pressure which included sex, drugs and alcohol and self-image.”
A typical Wednesday night program will feature music led by a band of two college students and three high school students, testimonies, prayer and a youth speaker, who most of the time is Davis or one of his assistants.
During the first 30 minutes of the hour-and-a-half program, music videos are played, visitors are located, youth ministers mingle with the youth and the kids “just kind of hang out.”
The theater manager opens the concession stand to sell refreshments during that time.
Next Level has attracted a lot of visitors, and Davis has assembled an outreach committee to make sure all the youth are visited or get a phone call.
“The teens are reaching out and bringing their friends,” Davis said. “Harrah doesn’t offer a lot outside of school activities for youth, and when you live in a community like ours, the kids are going to spread the word.”
Melissa Scoggins, a ninth grader at Harrah High School, said Next Level “is great because we get to sing and just have fun with our friends with no sin involved.”
Miles Mixon, also a ninth-grader, said he didn’t know where he or his brothers would be if it weren’t for the people in his youth group.
“The Next Level and other youth activities have helped form me into a better Christian,” Mixon said. “When I went to Falls Creek (state Baptist youth camp), it totally changed my life and my brothers.
“One of the best things about the youth activities is that you can go to them and go home and not feel guilty,” Mixon noted.
Matt Grice, a 10th-grade student, said Next Level gives him a place to worship God with all his friends.
“I have so many good friends to share God with,” Grice said. “We can all hold each other accountable for what we do. We can all hang out and have good, clean fun without all the bad stuff.”
Grice added if he ever needs to talk to someone about something, “there is always someone in the youth group I can talk to and trust.”
Kendra Cherry, a 10th-grade student at Liberty Christian School in Shawnee, said she believes the Harrah youth group has grown because “we stand for Christ, witness to our friends and set a good Christian example for our classmates.”
Davis said the youth group has about 140 in Sunday school and is now discipling around 70 kids after church on Sunday nights in homes.

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  • Dana Williamson