Lake Norman & Mooresville

Denver Baptist steers youths to indoor skate, BMX park

When Denver Baptist Church acquired the large parcel of land across the street from its campus on N.C. 16 in 2007, it also became the owner of a hangar large enough to assemble an aircraft.

The building had been used by the previous property owner to build components for pre-fabricated homes.

Taking advantage of the vacant building, the church leadership decided to convert the space to an indoor skate and BMX park. The idea, said intern youth minister Josh Cody, 20, was to "reach youth who are far from God."

The facility, known as The Hangar, is open to the public Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Admission is $5 Tuesday and Saturday but free on Thursday, when Cody gathers all skaters and bikers together for a 20-minute devotional, similar to a Bible-study session, half-way through the evening.

Cody, currently a student at Gaston Community College, is working towards a bachelor's degree in interpersonal communication and biblical studies, with the goal of becoming a youth pastor or working in an outreach ministry.

"There is a need for a skate park in Denver," said Cody, "but there is a greater need in the lives of the youth who come to the park to find truth."

"I use my testimony from my own life to show that God has the power to transform people.

"I usually pick a passage from the Bible, accompanied by an example from my life experience, to get them to relate to Scripture. Because I know them and they know me, there is a greater chance of their responding to the devotion. If you gain someone's trust and respect, you also earn the privilege to speak to their lives."

The bikers and skaters who come to The Hangar range in age from 9 or 10 to the mid-20s or even, on occasion, older. "We've been known to attract an occasional 'old school' skater in his 30s," said Cody.

With just two or three exceptions, attendees are exclusively male. Helmets are required; pads are encouraged for the younger skaters. Attendance averages 15 on weeknights and runs as high as 30 or more on Saturdays, when bikers and skaters may come from as far as Charlotte.

Cody, who admits that he has never skated, has noticed that on Saturday, older bikers may come with their sons to introduce them to the sport. Behavior problems are quite rare, as are injuries beyond bruises shins and damaged egos, he said.

The ramps in The Hangar were acquired from other skate parks, either purchased or donated. Some ramps are more suited to BMX, others are exclusively used by skaters. The ramps - with names like quarter pipe, box jump, spine, mini-ramp and wall ride - offer ample opportunities and challenges for the youths, although the greater challenge might be that faced by Cody as he ministers to their spiritual needs.