At last month’s longboard surf tournament on Wrightsville Beach, a local youth church ministry began trying a new way to witness the teachings of Jesus and share their Christian faith by sharing their love for surfing, skating and other board sports.
The 180 Student Ministries, a newly-founded youth ministry at Southside Baptist, was making the first of what youth pastor Christian Rutherford plans to be regular events at surf contests, skate parks and other places that kids could be hanging out. The group of a dozen kids walked the beach, passing out water bottles stickered with the group’s logo.
“We’re passing out water bottles and loving on people for who they are,” said Rutherford, who said the drinks were a great way to open conversation. “We want to get people out who like to ride and create a good, clean environment. And if they find Jesus, that’s awesome.”
Rutherford said the ministry operated in the spirit of how Jesus preached his message, pointing out how He sought out the poor, downtrodden and neglected.
“He’d be at the bars, he’d be at the skate park,” Rutherford said.
Tristan Darnell, a 14-year old Murray Middle School student, said that the youth ministry offers an opportunity to connect with other young people through the spirit of generosity for which Christ preached.
“A lot of kids surf and skate and will forget to bring drinks, so that’s a way that we can connect,” said Darnell, explaining that the group plans to offer water, sports drinks and snacks at skate parks and surfing locations. “A lot of them don’t go to church, some come from bad homes. We just hang out and let the know that God is there for them.”
Passing out water offered a “great chance to meet people,” said 12-year-old Topsail Middle School student Ava Salerno. Taylor Applewhite, 13, a Roland-Grise Middle School student,said that she enjoyed passing out the drinks because “their faces light up when we give them a bottle of water.”
The two also talked about how they enjoyed their time spent with the 180 Student Ministries.
“You can tell them anything, they won’t judge you,” Applewhite said.
“We talk about the Lord in a place we’re allowed to,” Salermo said. “Everyone is real, no one puts on a show.”
Rutherford said the plan for 180 Student Ministries was to bring the group to more events at local skateparks.
“We focus on relationships and are trying to do what Jesus was doing, which was loving people for who they are,” Rutherford said.