By: Katie Sobiech
If you’re 20 years or older, don’t expect to be entering the doors of First Glance anytime soon, that is, unless you’re a volunteer. The reason? You’re too old. This hang out somewhat hidden from the public eye is for junior and senior high schoolers only. And they will check your ID.
Getting started in September of 2000, this ministry’s mission has not changed, and that is to introduce students and their communities to Christ and the church through real, loving and non-threatening avenues. “We want to give students a glimpse of Christianity, and a glimpse of who God is,” Noelle Beck, the ministry’s Director explained.
First Glance (F.G.) makes it possible to reach students in a relaxed, non intimidating atmosphere, yet at the same time, offers them an opportunity to learn more about Christianity. Many of the students have expressed that they think church is scary. “They tell me, ‘I’ve never even been inside of a church before’,” Beck explained.
F.G. offer’s a skate night, video games, internet, food, a youth church service, and various programs to show un-churched students that Christianity isn’t so bad after all.
How it all Began
This entire ministry began as a simple outreach of the Jr. High department at The Chapel. Both Beck and a friend, Karen Freeman, were given the role of reaching outside of the four walls of their church, which inspired them to start a program for students in a local community center in Kenmore. At the time, there wasn’t a lot for students in that area to do.
Before any of the students showed up on the first night, Beck placed a bet with one of her coworkers that only three students would end up coming. Well…she lost that bet. Twenty -two students ended up showing up, and this number grew in just a few short weeks to 60. They now have over 800 students, 600 which are registered, and about 200 that have visited. There are also over 70 volunteers.
Because of their continued growth, in May of 2003, they moved from the community center into the building they are in now, located above Rent-A-Center on Kenmore Boulevard.
A Positive Alternative
Walking into the F.G. building, you almost feel as if you are underground. The walls are colorfully splashed with graffiti, and the skater bowl takes you by surprise -it’s much larger than it looks on the outside. There’s a basketball hoop, a large TV surrounded by smaller TV’s, computers, a concession stand, a large comfortable blue couch, tables and chairs… definitely not a lack of things to do. It’s the perfect place for bored kids.
By spending time at F.G. students are spending less time getting into trouble or finding themselves getting involved in destructive pastimes. There is supervision, yet a sense of freedom there.
“This is a place where they can just be,” Beck said, “Its fun and safe. We let them be fun and crazy and loud and throw footballs. As long as their not harming themselves or other people, it’s ok.”
Before entering, students need to show their ID’s (ID’s are free). It’s just the ministry’s way of keeping track of who’s there. And there’s something for everyone. “It’s really cool, we have kind of a whole culture of skateboarders that come, and a few of our male leaders really invest in them,” Beck smiled.
They have an optional Bible study beforehand which students come to as well. “We don’t force them to be a part of anything that they don’t want to be a part of,” Beck stated, “these students aren’t a project, we really genuinely love them and care for them.”
On Tuesdays they have a class for teen mom’s to learn more about how to take care of their babies. The Stop Having Sex Club also meets, and they have Skate Night.
Donuts and juice are given away for free on Wednesday mornings before school. They also have Second Look, a youth church service, the first Wednesday of every month. This gives students a chance to take a deeper look at what it’s all about. They have a band, set up a late night show, and bring in members of Goss Memorial Church, a church that they work with closely and that many of the First Glance students get connected with.
On Thursdays and Fridays students come from 7:00-9:00 P.M. to play basketball, skate, play video games, relax and hang out with friends.
The great thing about these ministries is that each one was brought to life based on a specific need. The Teen Mom’s program began in 2006 after two student’s babies died at only four months old. After attending two baby’s funerals they felt they needed to do something. “We never add programs just for the sake of adding programs,” Beck explained, “we always do it as a response to a need that we see and we always match it up with our vision – to connect students to their communities, Christ and the church through real, loving and non threatening avenues.”
This ministry has definitely impacted lives, but for most, it’s a process that takes time. “Sometimes it takes several years before they get to the point where they ever step foot in a church, and some never do,” Beck said.
For others, there is a complete turnaround; they get baptized and start attending church regularly. One girl told Beck “I’ve only been to church two times, and both times it was because of you.”
After one of their road trips this girl started going to church every single week. “It’s just a really cool example of how God changes lives,” Beck said.
Pointing Them in the Right Direction
Beck makes it clear that they are not here to trick the kids into Christianity. “We don’t force them, don’t coerce them, we don’t trick them. We just love them, build relationships with them, and through our life and example we try to get them connected to the local churches. Sometimes we see that happen and it’s cool and amazing, and sometimes we don’t and that’s ok,” she said.
“We really love this community, my husband and I live here, many of our volunteers live here, and this isn’t us coming in and saying ‘Let us fix your problems’. We’re just here to live in the community and show Christ’s love along the way.”
Whenever she’s asked how many kids have gotten saved she simply responds “I don’t know,” explaining, “We’re not checking off how many kids come to Christ. It’s not something we’re trying to keep track of. We’re just trying to point them in the right direction and get them closer to Christ, and sometimes they get connected, sometimes they fall away, sometimes they never make it there, but we just keep doing what we’re doing.”
Their building which holds anywhere from 100-240 kids a night has become such a hit that it’s running out of room; and really, the rate at which this ministry is growing could be considered somewhat miraculous due to the fact that they don’t even advertise, and there aren’t any signs on the building – it’s all word of mouth. Beck explained “Part of the reason we’re not advertising is because we’re out of space.”
And so now, they are in the midst of a major fundraising project in order to purchase the building next door.
How You Can Help
Financial gifts for a bigger building are what they are most in need of, and for every three dollars that they raise, there is a group of donors who will give a dollar towards the fund, matching up to $225,000.00. “Anyone who gives will be giving even more than they are giving,” Beck said.
Other than financial gifts, they are always in need of volunteers, and there are many opportunities; anything from construction and painting, to hanging out with the students, babysitting or cleaning the building. Prayer support is also important.
“We love this community and we want to see if we can impact it in a certain way, so we’re attempting,” Beck said.
For more information or to become a volunteer please call (330) 328-4900.