Three years in the making, “The Point” youth center is surpassing all expectations. The Lovell Bible Church created the youth center to provide a safe place for teens during their lunch hour and after school.
The center runs on the belief that if you practice what you preach, in this case the Christian values of kindness, respect and charitable giving, you will set an example of Christ’s teachings for youth to follow.
Though the center does have some Bible study for its youth groups one night a week at the center, it doesn’t proselytize in its other programs. Instead, the program’s directors focus on providing an example of what good Christian behavior looks like.
An average of 75 to 80 teens, mostly students from Lovell High School arrive regularly for a free lunch, social interaction and games. What started out as a few kids crossing the parking lot of the school to partake in activities at the center on Park Avenue has far exceeded the expectations of its directors, Lori and Dave Scheffler.
The Schefflers, who are Bible Church members, live in an adjacent home. They are tasked with not only providing the meals at lunchtime but also providing a warm, welcoming and safe environment for teens to “hang out” and “enjoy.”
“We never know how many kids will come,” said Lori. “The most we’ve had show up for lunch is 105. In December, the average was about 75. Sometimes we’ll have 92 kids and the very next day 61.”
The project is funded, for the most part, by members of the Lovell Bible Church. It costs around $1,200 – $1,500 per month to operate. Most of the cost is to purchase food for the meals and snacks that are served. Donations are also accepted from other members of the community.
“People have given us Red Apple, Costco and Walmart gift cards to help us with the costs,” said Lori. “We also get donations from outside of our church. People from all denominations have supported us.”
The idea for the center came from the church’s pastor, Kurt McNabb. McNabb regularly ministers to inmates at the Big Horn County Detention Center. Lori recalled that McNabb mentioned to church members the number of young prisoners he was seeing at the jail and expressed that the church needed to do something for the young people in the community as a preventive measure.
Shortly afterward, McNabb was driving down Park Avenue when he noticed a “for sale by owner” sign on a home, Lori recalled. The home had the ideal location across from the high school parking lot, including a large two-car garage that could be converted to a teen center. Not knowing how they would raise the funds for the project, Lori said church members prayed for God’s help and as if by miracle the property was soon purchased by the church.
Over time volunteers converted the garage on the property into the teen center McNabb had envisioned. Eventually, more was added including a game room, two bathrooms and more kitchen space.
Once the center was up and running the Schefflers began managing the operation, using the kitchen to prepare lunches for high school students and to provide snacks during after-school activities. They also oversee after-school activities in the game room, which now includes pinball machines, pool tables and a foosball table.
The dining area is also used for Christian youth group meetings one evening per week. On Wednesday, the center hosts two youth groups. One group called K5 kids caters to children grades kindergarten through fifth grade. The other is a middle/high school aged group that meets later the same night. The groups focus on Bible study and Christian-related topics like how to pray. Though the programs are offered through the Bible Church, non-members are also welcome.
According to the Schefflers there have been very few problems so far, most likely because the center has strict rules about behavior.
“We don’t tolerate bad language or bullying,” said Dave. “We may ask them to leave for the day and to come back again with a better attitude. We don’t ban anyone.”
Lori added, “I think because the kids know it’s all donated and it’s all free and a safe place for them they’re very respectful.”
The couple look at their new project a labor of love.
“This has been the biggest blessing for Dave and I,” said Lori. “We love these kids. It’s been amazing for us to do this and it’s been so much fun.”
Other special programs are offered through the center like “PBJ” (pizza, bowling and Jesus) and a “lock in” all night party with food, games and inspirational speakers.
Ten teens were taken on an adult supervised road trip to Kentucky to visit a life size replica of Noah’s ark and to visit the creation museum. They also visited a huge megachurch and a big city zoo.
“It’s been a very positive experience,” said Lori. “I think we hoped it would be like this, but it has far exceeded our expectations.”
By Patti Carpenter