Gazette Story on “Out of the Box”

Church opens coffee shop to reach youth

HILLSVILLE — The future of the First United Methodist Church in Hillsville is “outside the box.”

That’s where Assistant Pastor Ronnie Collins has been thinking, as he’s considered new ways to involve youth in the church.

As a result, the church will open FUMC Downtown on Main Street, a kind of church satellite for youth and community.

The goal is to provide a place to go, especially for youth, outside the church where they can find people that have Christian values, Collins said. And there will always be an adult present.

Collins will move his office there soon.

The decision to have a satellite came after a mission trip to “Sportstown,” a $10 million facility in Macon, Ga., which a church bought.

Events have moved rapidly since the church leadership decided to open the place with the coffee-shop-like atmosphere downtown, the assistant pastor said. That was only two weeks ago.

The official dedication will take place Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at 522 N. Main St., when Holston Conference Bishop James Swanson and others will cut a ribbon.

Sept. 7 will also mark the first Sunday morning session for the youth at the downtown location, starting at 9 a.m. Collins said that the youth will go over to the church at 10:45 a.m.

Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings starting at 3 p.m. will be the downtown location’s first weekly offerings. Collins said they plan to add an open mic night with local talent on weekends.

The ultimate goal is to open up every afternoon after school, he said. Lots of youth leaving Carroll County Intermediate School walk right by the Dixon building, so it makes sense.

“If it grows and we’re successful, we’ll do more,” he said.

The downtown space is needed to update the church, Collins said. “We’re in a time when church dominations are dying.”

The churches that are growing are the ones trying new things, he said. It’s a different world than 20 years ago.

So First United Methodist Church has added the Sunday Night Live services, Collins has started blogging and now they’re trying to reach youth without them having to come to the church building.

“We’re trying to change with the times and give the kids something that’s their own,” he said

Work continues on a coffee bar in the space in the Dixon building, where FUMC Downtown will be located, Collins said. There will be cozy seating areas to sit and talk, tables to study, Wi-Fi will be available, music will be important to the place and a couple of big screen televisions will hang on the walls.

The downtown location will probably give the church more opportunities to use the outdoor stage in Jail House Square.

Collins sees the FUMC Downtown as a space for the whole community to use — he plans to offer it for meetings for groups like the Humane Society.

“It’s just a different way to do church,” Collins said. “It doesn’t change the message — it’s just a different way to get that message out.”

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