21st century House of God

The Central Baptist Fuel Center can show images on three 10-foot by 14-foot video screens or combing them into one 42-foot screen, as seen here during its grand opening on April 6 featureing the band Everyday Sunday. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Leslie Radford: CNJ staff writer

Central Baptist Church understands it needs to adapt to the ever-changing world — even if it involves constructing a million-dollar, state-of-the-art youth facility to attract today’s technological teen.

“Jesus was a master communicator,” said Joseph Vest, pastor of Central Baptist for the last five years. “He had a way of getting people’s attention and holding it. Kids these days have a shorter attention span than ever before, and you have to find a way to reach them.”

Vest said times have changed and to interest a young person in today’s world, you have to have a “hook.”

It this case it was is a new youth center that includes the latest light and sound technology, projection screen and cameras. The center opened two weeks ago.

Church leaders hope the entertainment aspect will strike curiosity in teens to come to church and ultimately expose them to the word of God, according to Central Baptist pastor and youth minister Derek Osburn.

Osburn said the church started discussing a new center when the youth group began outgrowing their Sunday school room.

“We were at about 90 percent capacity and needed to do something,” he said. “Our youth group continues to grow. We need to be able to accommodate such growth.”

Youth group member Brooke Campbell, 16, said there was simply no elbowroom in the old facility — the new facility’s spaciousness is much more comfortable.

“It’s nice for us to be able to spread out in the worship center,” she said. “The youth group was so excited to receive this building. We can come here after school and hang out in the game room and visit with friends, and it’s a great place to hold Bible study.”

Campbell came to the church two years ago with a friend. She said she felt welcomed and decided to join.

Osburn visited several youth assemblies in Lubbock, Chicago, Washington state, and Tucson, Ariz., to gather ideas for Central Baptist’s facility. The project took three years and cost more than $1 million, funds raised through pledges by church members and other fund-raising activities.

“(The facility) is truly unique to a church,” Vest said. “It’s also a safe place for our kids to go and just ‘hang out’ without parents worrying about where they are or what they’re doing.”

More than three dozen parents volunteered to run the facility.
“It’s just awesome,” said Pam Atkins, who volunteers on Wednesday night youth group meetings. She said she couldn’t put into words what kind of opportunity the facility, provided teenagers.