When a global pandemic changed plans for a church in the Tuscaloosa area last year, Coaling Baptist students devised a plan for an outdoor worship and recreation space to gather together.
Stimulated by concerns about COVID-19, the students first met under a carport. They enjoyed outdoor Bible study and found they could invite friends without the usual connotations associated with asking them to enter a church building.
“We did this for several months and then moved back into the facilities when it got better,” said Travis Seagle, student pastor at Coaling Baptist. “But a lot of them still wanted to do something outside … and there are some people who still feel uncomfortable meeting inside. So we started with the idea of creating an outdoor area. “
The church had a piece of land that was not included in future building plans, so Seagle asked if students could use it.
“We have started pulling resources from a variety of different locations to create an outdoor space,” Seagle told The Alabama Baptist. “The students started to come up with ideas for some things they would like to have, like volleyball and 9-square-in-the-air and a GaGa ball pit.”
The group – with an average of about 35 high school and 25 middle school students weekly worship service – devoted several Saturdays and other days to manual labor building components of the room. Adult volunteers also took part.
“Church men saw what we were doing and said, ‘Hey, you need lights.’ I agreed, but I didn’t plan to spend that much money, ”Seagle recalls. “They said, ‘You need them,’ so they put some lights on for us and really made it a general purpose function space that we can use at night or anytime.”
That year, as his birthday approached, Seagle asked people to donate to the outdoor worship area instead of giving it a birthday present.
“We got about $ 2,500 that way,” he noted.
The space includes “a well-built stage,” said Seagle, as well as stands that came from a church that no longer used it for baseball. The students helped with the renovation.
“We bought new wood and the students painted the stands and made them sturdy,” Seagle said, adding that the seats can hold about 100.
“We have more grandstands on the way that we bought from the district from an abandoned ball field. When we get that, we’ll renovate [them] also to create even more space, ”he said.
And if COVID-19 numbers threaten to ban indoor church gatherings in the future, Seagle said Coaling Baptist “would still have an alternate meeting place on campus that would require little to no facility”.
A high point of the process was when a 7th grade girl whose father is a building contractor was there to help.
“She showed some of the older boys who are juniors and seniors how to use the power tools and how to do things right. It was great to see how she used the skills her father used to help, ”said Seagle.
The Church has already used the outdoor area for a missionary service – one of its college students was serving in Arlington Mission this summer.
“We’ve had some great student ministries out there and we hope we have many more,” said Seagle, who has been with Coaling Baptist for 16 years.
“Serve the People of God”
The church is planning a congregation service for the students in the area on the Sunday before school starts.
“We’re going to have a time of worship and some food and a time of prayer,” Seagle said.
Before the ward service, Coaling Baptist students plan a prayer walk on the campus of local schools.
“I think we have to be flexible in the last few days, and I think our students have come to understand the importance of flexibility as we do our ministry and serve the community and people of God,” said Scout.
“Flexibility is so important and it is so great that the Lord made this space possible for us, the Church made this space possible for us so that we can be flexible in the days to come.”
Coaling Baptist students seek to “show the world, while we live for Christ, that we are not sitting in our usual boxes and in our usual Christian caves, but that we are ready to go outside of the norm to do anything what it takes to tell ”. People about Christ, ”said Seagle.