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California skate park becomes ‘teen church’

It’s Tuesday night and more than 200 young people are jammed in and around a half-pipe at Skate Street in Ventura, Calif. Some wear inline skates; others sit on their skateboards or BMX bikes as they listen to Ryan Delamater, youth pastor at Ventura First Assembly of God, speak about a topic that is foreign to many of them: Life in Christ.

"I wanted to reach out to some kids who are doing some things I did when I was growing up," says Delamater. "The kids around here are really into skating, surfing and snowboarding. So meeting them at a skatepark is a great way to introduce them to Christ."

The owners of the 29,000-square-foot park allow Ryan Delamater, youth pastor at Ventura First A/G, to use it free of charge.

The owners of the 29,000-square-foot park allow Delamater to use it free of charge. Since April 1999, Delamater estimates that nearly 500 teens have given their lives to the Lord.

"I want them to be godly people, to live lives of integrity, to know how to be a good friend, to keep their promises and to be honest," Delamater told the Los Angeles Times. "It’s just like normal church, but the kids wear baggy clothes and carry skateboards."

For many of those that come this will be their only exposure to the message of Christ. Delamater laces his sermons with personal experiences and speaks on topics the teen-agers can relate to. Though he is enthusiastic and entertaining, his primary goal remains to win others for Christ.

"I’ve been coming for about a month to listen to the sermon," Matt Lagerstrom, 18, told the Times. "I like to hear how God helped people and coming here gives me some form of God in my life."

The church and pastor, Tony Cervero, enthusiastically support the outreach. Since starting the skate night Delamater has had to start Monday night discipleship services to accommodate all the youth.

— Kirk Noonan


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