By Katie Sobiech
When the Music Stops (WTMS) stretches farther than just going into schools; and it doesn’t stop when the bell rings. It’s part of a bigger picture, painting a new horizon of hope for teens, many who could care less about their future, because they don’t feel they have one.
Follow-up with students looking for more to life is crucial, which is why WTMS leaders created Generation Akron (GA).
GA, a fairly-new cultural movement, is the umbrella over initiatives such as God.Bar, Awakening and Summit at the Summit. It started as an entirely faith-based venture, in hopes to create a meeting place for young adults who aren’t necessarily comfortable in the “church environment” – but interested in faith.
“We wanted to create a venue where that could happen,” Brandon Kightlinger, Founder of Generation Akron, explained.
Coming from a Place of Faith
“We are all Christians – men and women of faith. We really love God. When we come to programs like (WTMS) we want to honor the schools and laws, so we don’t include that in our programs,” Kightlinger said, “So WTMS is a motivational, non-religious program. But when we go into our faith-based initiatives, we’re able to present Jesus, which to us, has changed our lives. So we’re able to present that with boldness and see further change in the kids’ lives that have connected.”
“Not every kid does, but some stay connected with us and there’s really deep impact and life-change at that point. When they come to a relationship with God and a community of people that loves them, it’s important. We can’t say it in the schools. You can’t talk about issues of faith, but in every one of our stories that we share, the difference between where we were to where we are now was our relationship with Jesus,” Kightlinger continued.
Kightlinger and his crew spent months cleaning out a local warehouse space downtown, which they couldn’t use due to ventilation and circulation issues, which Kightlinger says was “really discouraging”.
But this didn’t stop them.
A gentleman from one of their churches offered to make his warehouse available to them for their gatherings, which they use now.
As they moved into a new building, their vision also began to expand to reaching youth- not just young adults.
God.Bar was their main gig – a monthly gathering for young adults at a bar in downtown Akron.
“We discuss issues of faith- it’s really discussion driven,” Kightlinger explained.
But they expanded into doing youth-based initiatives and non-religious, motivational programs more recently.
WTMS formed as a result of the vision for a youth program. So they now cater to both youth and young adults.
“We just go out and have fun, be ourselves, enliven it, rapping, dancing and people just have a good time. It’s just tearing down the walls of apprehension and building a relationship through the fun,” Kightlinger said of WTMS.
One by one, stories have trickled in from teens whose lives have been touched by the different programs GA offers.
“There’s a girl out east who was really touched by WTMS and wanted to do everything that we were doing, so she started coming to the Takeover gatherings,” Wendy Broderick, who shares her story at WTMS, said.
“She brought some of her friends and really grabbed a hold of the revelation that her life mattered and she could really see change in the lives around her and in her school. She began doing what we challenged the kids to do and really encouraging her friends around her,” Broderick continued.
Broderick says “Speaking life into their lives and encouraging them” is so important.
“I’ve not only seen a huge change in her life and the way that she carries herself, with joy and purpose that she didn’t have the first time I met her, but the people she’s encouraged as well. That’s a tangible way the kids really just grab a hold of what’s going on in Akron through the Takeover. And that’s just one story,” she continued.
At the end of their performance at Garfield, a young girl cried as she made her way to the stage to thank Kightlinger for his message.
Teens also wanted autographs.
It’s evident that this generation recognizes something special and wants more, and GA seems to be the perfect outlet for that missing piece in their lives.
The group shares their stories for free, some even taking off of work to be a part of this endeavor. For booking information and more on When the Music Stops please visit http://www.generationakron.org. or visit their Youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/user/GenAkron