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Pleasant Grove Baptist Church extends youth ministry into summer
Program to last from June to August
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Dana Pratt teaches a younger group of children Wednesday during youth ministry at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. Previously the church only held a youth ministry during the school year but decided to extend the program through the summer this year. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Pleasant Grove Baptist Church summer program

When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays from June to August

Where: Pleasant Grove Preschool, 9730 Waldrip Road, Gainesville

How much: Free

More info: 678-776-2990

With the start of summer, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church is starting something new for its youths. A new program is underway at 7 p.m. on Wednesday nights.

Unlike the traditional youth ministry which runs concurrently with the area school calendars, this new program will meet from June to August to offer youngsters a safe environment to learn about God and fellowship every Wednesday night.

“We felt like God was wanting us to continue (the program) to give the kids something to do during the summer because if you don’t fill their time, something else will,” program leader Heather Hendrix said.

The program stemmed from a suggestion made at a church meeting to extend the Wednesday night program into the summer. Pastor Jeff Wilkie, who was looking for new ways to expand the youth program, gave it his full support.

“This is something we just have started,” Wilkie said. “(We are) trying something new to get the community involved, to let them know this is who we are.”

Located across the street from the church with the kid-friendly atmosphere and small basketball court, Pleasant Grove Preschool was the perfect locale at 9730 Waldrip Road in Gainesville.

“We just thought over here was a little different atmosphere and we do have lots of classrooms that we can split off in,” Wilkie said. “A little different setting versus the church.”

Each week, Hendrix introduces a new lesson.

“This summer we’re doing God’s love, God’s amazing love,” she said. “So each week is structured around the love that he has given us.”

Hendrix gives a guide to each of the teachers who design a lesson plan based on the age group and needs of the class. The five classes are separated by ages and eventually by gender. The age divisions are 6 years old and younger, 7 to 9, 10 to 11 and 12 and older. For those ages 12 and older, the group is separated by gender to allow boys and girls to ask questions and express concerns they may not share otherwise.

Before separating into classes though, Hendrix leads the group through praise and worship. She picks songs from the hymnal book to which each age group can relate.

“Generally we try to keep it two good, funny, fun songs for the little ones and a serious one for the older kids,” she said.

Hendrix said a good mix of children from the church congregation as well as subdivisions and homes in the area come each week.

“We want to make sure they are learning about God, having that fellowship and positive reinforcement,” Hendrix said. “Just getting to know us as a church family, too. It’s good structure for them.”

While the energy is high, like any new organization or event, the turnout has varied week to week, ranging from single digits up to 13, with ages from 2 to 14 years old.

“We knew with the summer the number would go down substantially,” Hendrix said. “This is vacation Bible school season.”

With other churches offering vacation Bible school back to back for almost a month, Hendrix knew the numbers of attendees would differ but ultimately hopes to see the program grow.

Activities will vary from week to week with two weeks off before the end of the summer, but Hendrix and Wilkie were excited about some of the other activities planned.

“We’re going to do two cookout-type events for them, just so it’s not class every Wednesday, and kind of give them a break here and there,” Hendrix said.

Neither have a doubt when summer ends and Team Kids begins again, despite a few minor differences, children will transition seamlessly into the other program.

“The kids have no problem transitioning,” Hendrix said. “To them they’re going to church. Some of them may realize ‘Oh, we didn’t do this over there,’ or ‘We did this over there but not over here.’ But they’ll fit right in, they’ll get adjusted to it.”

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