For Wednesday Church Services, a Youthful Revival

Jason Collins, 15, of Tulsa, a student at Lincoln Christian School, plays a video game at the Oneighty complex at Church on the Move.
Jason Collins, 15, of Tulsa, a student at Lincoln Christian School, plays a video game at the Oneighty complex at Church on the Move. (Photos By Robert Cross For The Washington Post)
By Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Ashley Young and 800 other teenagers swarmed through the Church on the Move's youth center as they do every Wednesday night, shooting pool, jabbering over blaring Christian rock music and listening to Scripture.

"I come because I want to be right with God," the 17-year-old high school junior explained matter-of-factly. "Sundays aren't enough."

Just down the hill at an adult service, Donna and Dennis Godsey are on the same page. They traveled 60 miles on a recent Wednesday -- as they do every week -- for prayer and worship at the church and to hear the Rev. Blaine Bartel gently exhort them on how God wants them to piece together the "puzzle" of their lives.

"Sundays, we just do the basics. Wednesday night you hear the Word and you just feel blessed," said Donna Godsey, 59. "When you come on Wednesday, it's like you're a better person. It helps you cope in today's world. I seem to learn a lot more."

Long a tradition in many churches in the South and Midwest, Wednesday worship has for years enjoyed special status for the faithful: Schools often give light homework that day, businesses refrain from keeping employees late, campaigns consider the evening in scheduling candidates, and other community groups rarely schedule events or meetings on a night that has long been earmarked for worship.

Now, Wednesday night services are undergoing an updated revival as churches compete to attract and hold on to congregants with contemporary and practical messages, music and props. In many churches, Wednesdays are a center of activity for congregants who turn to them as the center of community and family life. It is not uncommon to see churches in this part of the country that have come to resemble small towns, offering singles nights, athletic teams, counseling for couples, and even meetings for young professionals.

"Christians understand that church is not an activity -- it's a lifestyle," said Buddy George, a pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., home church of Rick Warren, author of the best-selling "The Purpose-Driven Life."

"Being part of the body of Christ is how you live life. It's not something you do once a week. Gathering with other believers more than once a week is healthy for the family of God. It's staying connected."

For Church on the Move, one of the Bible Belt's fastest-growing nondenominational churches, the efforts to attract the next generation of believers comes at a 92,000-square-foot state-of-the-art community entertainment complex called Oneighty -- complete with basketball courts, 20 Apple iPod centers, 20 computers and countless video play stations suspended from the ceiling.

After listening to an hour-long sermon and Christian music performed by a 10-member rock band, students have full run of the place. It is a model that has been adopted by several hundred churches nationwide. "They make church fun," Ramiro Satoe, 13, said as he aggressively worked the race-car arcade game on a recent Wednesday night.

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