We have updated our Privacy Policy to provide you a better online experience.

Boost to the Community

Rural Nebraska residents are grateful for AG church that operates a free indoor activities center for kids.

An indoor activity center for kids and their families has connected a Nebraska Assemblies of God congregation closer to its rural community. Church leaders and attendees pray their efforts are a visible demonstration of the gospel in action.

Pastor Grant Curtis of Chadron Community Church (C3) recognized the need for a place where families in the town of 5,850 could bring their children to play. In 2012, Chadron moved to the remote, rural community from Fort Worth, Texas. He and his wife, Stephanie, have three young daughters.

“The winters get pretty tough here,” he says. “There’s not much to go and do.”

As he drove past a large vacant building in the community, he couldn’t help but envision how the northwest Nebraska church could put the structure to good use.

“I stopped by four or five times and would look in the windows and think, ‘We could really reach out to the community with this place,’” he says.  

Board members supported him, and began praying about how to turn the idea into reality.

Rather than compete with an already existing smaller-scale ministry outreach called The Refuge, the church merged efforts. That ministry, started by the Mike and Shanna Miller family in 2013, also involved community gatherings.

Since opening in July 2015, the new center, likewise called The Refuge, has been bursting with activities, and the community has made good use of it.

The center is equipped with inflatable bounce houses, a game room, foosball table, air hockey table, and bubble soccer balls. The main event is Family Day, hosted twice a week for two and half hours in the morning. Parents can enjoy fellowship with friends and free WiFi in the coffee bar area while kids play. As many as 65 kids and their families have visited on Family Day.

The building is available to church and community groups to rent for free during the rest of the week except on Sunday mornings, when C3 services are held. The church’s youth group, as well as many families and businesses, utilize the Refuge for birthday parties, bridal showers, and meetings. A whopping 53 events took place at The Refuge in January — 33 of which had no C3 connection.

“It just keeps getting busier and busier,” Curtis says. “We have close to three birthday parties a week. We’re really grateful for what God is doing through it.”

The reason church leadership decided not to charge for the use of The Refuge was because of a desire to serve the community. People are encouraged to give freewill donations to help with ongoing expenses. Many have responded in appreciation, with several local business leaders providing sponsorships to help pay for equipment.

In addition to Family Day, the church also uses The Refuge for other community outreach efforts. Local high school students are invited to come for pizza and pop after each home football game. On Valentine’s Day, child care was provided so parents could have a date night. The newest outreach includes a weekly Bible study and dinner for young men from a local Job Corps site.

The growing church, which averages around 185 attendees, provided a generous offering to open the center and continues to provide monthly support for expenses, Curtis says.

The Refuge is staffed entirely by church volunteers. Typically, a couple of retired members help out during Tuesday’s Family Day, along with Curtis and his wife. Five teams have been recruited to check families in and out during birthday parties and to monitor the Saturday Family Day event on their assigned week. When the church offers child care for date night or another special event, Curtis announces the need for volunteers at the Sunday service beforehand.

“We want to honor Christ by serving others above ourselves, and we hope that God will work through our efforts to reach those in our community with the gospel,” Curtis says. “In the end, we want to see God transform the hearts of people in our community for His glory.”

Jennifer Pallikkathayil

Jennifer Pallikkathayil is a public relations professional from Columbia, Missouri, who loves sharing stories of the work God is doing in people’s lives. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Iowa State University.