JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Several Florida congregations are building skateboard ramps and rails as they try to build their youth ministries. There's just one catch for the teens: in order to skate, they have to attend church services, according to the Florida Times-Union.
More than 100 teens have been visiting Jacksonville's Oceanway Assembly of God on Tuesdays and Wednesdays since the church started its skateboard ministry in February. The teens can skate either before or after 7 p.m. services that feature Christian rock music, dramas and messages geared toward young people.
"We tell them we love them, God has a plan for them and wants the best for their lives," said Oceanway's youth pastor, Al Force.
Oceanway requires parents to sign notarized liability waivers, and has notaries standing by each Tuesday and Wednesday. The church also provides helmets and pads.
Liability is still a deterrent to many churches. Board members at Jacksonville-area Fort Caroline United Methodist Church resigned when the congregation started a skateboard ministry, according to the newspaper. Members were worried about the congregation's liability, the church's pastor, the Rev. Curran Spottswood said.
The ministry is worth the obstacles, Spottswood said.
"It's bold. We're drawing in lots of kids from the neighborhood who would normally not set foot in the church," he said. "It's one of the more exciting things we've done."
Swaim Memorial United Methodist Church in San Marco, Fla., re-opened its parking lot to skateboarders in January after temporarily shutting it down in response to church members' complaints.