A Middle School Milestone
If you enter through our Baker Center doors, go down the stairs and turn to your left, you will enter the Middle School domain. There you’ll find a large rectangular room (M16) that is newly renovated. Last night, a group of middle schoolers gathered there for food, games and ministry. Today, Pastor Jody used the space for Lunch Lessons; over 70 members of our church family shared in a meal and discussion on the book of Revelation.
It’s a large, open, airy room with serving counters and café tables in the back, an elevated sound booth, mobile game tables, and chairs to seat 150. The black ceiling compliments the wood tones in the new flooring and the neutral, modern design.
It was not always this way.
John Little, our Facilities Manager, says that records indicate that M16 was one of the first sanctuaries in this building. “Yes, around 1930 this would have been a meeting space for worship. After they built the upper two floors the sanctuary moved upstairs.”
John personally remembers in 1998 when the middle school room was used for our first contemporary worship service. He was attending when the Baker Center was built and in 2000, the service moved upstairs. This would have been when M16 was converted into a youth area.
It was divided into two spaces, one styled like a 1950’s café in bright red and teal with records hanging from the ceiling. It was not a theme which resonated with today’s students, and it was not heated. The meeting space was much smaller than it is now, and therefore limited in how it could be used. There was impractical, worn carpet on the flooring; the room’s colors were lime green, royal blue, and burnt orange.
“It’s been 22 years since the room was renovated,” John Little confirms. “It was time.”
(Below, the team)
Last year John approached Rob Gunkelman, Pastor of Middle School Student Ministries, to tell him he felt the custodial team could tackle the updates. This was no small commitment as the team has been short-staffed for more than a year, and the demands of cleaning and maintaining our buildings are already great.
But before coming to KSC, John had worked in remodeling for 35 years and had a vision for seeing the space refurbished. Fred Shoap, who had retired from KSC, had come back to help out on a part-time basis.
“We had Fred which was huge,” John says. “He was such a skilled carpenter.” (Fred passed away before the project was completed; the improvements are part of a rich legacy of craftsmanship and service that Fred left behind.)
It was a coordinated effort: John at the helm, Fred designing the sound booth and stage, Terry Martin assisting on construction and Del Martin painting.
They took out the divider between the café and the main space so that it is one large room. They installed new electrical; John brought in his brother-in-law, Dave Zentmeyer, to do the job at a discount. Heat now flows throughout the space. New cabinets and a counter complete the serving area. The flooring is the same attractive, durable vinyl that was chosen for the Student Ministry Center.
And the response?
“The kids were shocked,” Rob says. “They are loving it.”
Lisa Moore, mother of a middle school student, says she feels the space is more practical now. She explains that previously, the Wednesday night time was more disjointed when the game tables were in the hall, the food was in the café, and the meeting happened in the main room. Now it’s just one large event with everyone together and it’s impacted the overall experience. She adds, “I think the kids enjoy the more mature look too.”
Annette Smith, another mom who was on-site helping this past Wednesday, says, “The new Middle School area is bright and inviting! The room has ping pong and foosball to help the kids mingle and interact, and tables for them to hang out and visit. Now they can use the whole room for snacks and drinks, thanks to easy clean-up flooring, haha! I think they love having a nice and modern space to bring friends and to learn!”
Rob says, “The investment shows the students that they are not an afterthought. It says, ‘Your church cares about you and wants you to have a quality space.’” He goes on to explain. “I’m not sure the students notice every little décor choice but they notice how different and nice everything feels, and they recognize that it was done for them.”
In the past several months Rob and Matt Gish, Pastor of High School Student Ministries, revamped the Sunday School schedule within Student Ministries. Instead of two hours of ministry, they now have one hour to attend the worship service. Rob invites the middle school students to attend the 11:00 Baker Center worship service with him and provides them with note sheets and questions to help them to focus.
Rob reflects on the decision when he says, “Having middle school students engage in corporate worship has been really beneficial. Sometimes as students progress through children and student ministries, we assume that they know how to interact in “big church” but that is not always the case. It’s been helpful to have them sit together and take notes. One of the questions is, ‘what sticks out to you?’ While it is often the message, sometimes it’s the worship, sometimes a baptism testimony, or the friendliness of people around them.”
Rob explains that it’s been exciting for him to see the students engaging in all aspects of the worship service and learning that God can speak to them through every part.
Rob continues, “I think having the space refreshed and brand new is kind of symbolic of what God is doing in the lives of the middle school students. In the past year both high school and middle school numbers have increased. We had three pre-teens give their lives to Christ, and several baptisms. They are really buying in and getting involved. God is definitely at work, and the cool thing about KSC is that they invest where they see God working.”
“King Street Church is very generous,” Rob says, “And they are intentional to invest in the next generation.”
That investment, Rob says, is critical. “I was asked when I applied for this position, why middle school? And I’ll tell you, it’s because 86% of all people who accept Christ do so between the ages of 5 and 14, and if they haven’t accepted Him by 18, they only have 6% chance of ever meeting Him. For Matt and myself, yes, what we do is fun, but it’s also one of the most important ministry areas. Student ministries is one of the biggest windows to impact lives for Jesus.”
The other exciting thing, Rob explains, is that the middle school area is not just for middle schoolers.
“Rob had a heart that the renovated room be made available as a multi-use space,” John Little shares. “It is bigger than the Fellowship Room but smaller than the Baker Center so that makes it really versatile. We already know that Pastor Jody will be able to use it for Lunch Lessons.”
Adam Keath, Director of Restoration and Recovery, confirms that Agape English Ministry will soon use the room on Saturday nights for their main classes. They have been growing exponentially and the groups are too large for the KSC Ministry Center.
“It’s a win for everyone,” Rob says. “This project was a big deal, and we’re grateful.”
Yes, we are grateful. Grateful for a congregation that has a history of providing for the next generation. Grateful for a church family that gives generously to empower us to invest where God is working. Grateful for leaders who have vision for their areas of ministry. Grateful for a hardworking custodian team that invested deeply into this important project. And grateful for our middle schoolers. We love you, kids, and we are praying that you will follow Jesus with all of your hearts.