It is common for families in the community to be spending time at Faith Community Center on Friday nights. Whether it’s open gym or free swimming, there is always a buzz of activity at the start of the weekend. However, one Friday out of the month, God is bringing parents from all over town to benefit from free babysitting. First Friday is a new ministry of Faith Community Center, organized by Pastor Johnny Kjaer. Different small groups of the Faith Church youth group and young adults come together to offer free childcare on the first Friday of the month for parents or single moms/dads to enjoy an evening out.
Jerry and Beth Riley, who have been active Fun & Fitness members, said that their kids love coming to Faith Community Center for First Friday. “It’s a nice thing they are doing here.”
“It isn’t easy to get a great babysitter for busy, active boys. First Friday is such a great way for us to leave our children in a safe place, with people we trust, knowing they are making friends and having a good time,” said Leanne Heern. Leanne, her husband, and three boys frequently participate in a variety of activities at the Community Center. “I think they are just as excited to go and play at First Friday as we are to go on a date. We really appreciate that it’s free. It’s such a blessing.”
Where some teenage boys use their Fridays for their own agendas, Simeon Standridge is one of the teenagers who serves during First Friday with the 1st and 2nd graders. “Serving is something mandated in the Bible, but it’s fun. Serving here is definitely not hard to do,” he said.
But is this simply another opportunity for Pastor Johnny to help Faith Church’s youth group grow in Christ-like serving? Although the youth group has shown remarkable efforts over the past few years in serving the neighbors of Faith through shoveling and mowing, is there more ministry development than what meets the eye? Some say yes, and view First Friday as a bubbling potential for evangelism.
“God is bringing unsaved folks to the Community Center on these nights and we have a great opportunity to be there to meet them, get them involved in playing with us and prepare the way for meaningful conversations about our new life in Christ,” said Simeon’s father, Steve Standridge.
“It’s a fun place to hang out and make new friends,” said Simeon. “And have pizza!”
Pizza? You may ask.
Before Simeon joins other young adults in babysitting kids, he starts his evening by helping set up pizzas with his dad, Steve. The pizzas are made every Friday for any of the parents who choose to stay at the Community Center for First Friday instead of going out. Steve, a second generation missionary in Italy through Faith Global Missions, said that nobody asked him to start making pizzas. Making pizzas is one of his passions, so he volunteered to provide food for the families who gather at the café tables.
The Standridges are among a few families who gather during First Fridays to both enjoy fellowship as a family and build relationships with those who may not be fellow believers. Parents who drop their kids off for First Friday are welcome to stay at the community center to play table games, puzzles, and cards. And of course, enjoy the sophisticated variety of pizzas made by Steve.
“It’s a great opportunity to connect with people. This has huge potential of opportunities for church people to come for ongoing evangelism,” said Steve. “People open up to the gospel when you spend time with them. They let their guard down and then it’s much easier to have a conversation about God.”
Steve’s passion for evangelism isn’t limited to overseas missions. And the Standridges are not the only family who view First Friday as an exciting mission field. Multiple families sat together in the café last Friday to play games and eat Steve’s pizza.
Steve emphasized the importance of members of Faith Church to take advantage of this monthly ministry opportunity, accentuating the need for families to serve together as one unit in the area of evangelism. Many families possibly already spend quality time together having fun, he suggested. “But perhaps few have intentionally used this as an outreach to another family or more.”
Stories are already being shared of good conversations between the families intentionally staying at the café on First Friday and other folks at the Community Center. Conversations that start, for example, over offering a slice of pizza.
“Families do need to have fun and play together in a day where renting and watching a movie seems to be the best thing many can come up with. When parents have fun with their kids, barriers are broken and healthy relationships are rekindled. Even more, the opportunity for spiritual conversations can be prepared,” said Steve. “There may be families who already have this healthy habit. This is one more reason for them to get involved in helping others to see the great value of this and come and learn to do the same.”
God is using First Friday for more than providing potential childcare needs for parents in the community. It seems that members of Faith Church don’t have to wait until bigger events like the community picnics to meet with unsaved folks. Here we have a monthly opportunity for those with a healthy appetite for evangelism.
“God is bringing unsaved folks to the Community Center… and we have a great opportunity to be there to meet them.”
For more details on First Friday, please visit www.faithlafayette.org/firstfriday