Project Aims to Build Bridge Between Younger Generation and Jesus
By Adrian Powell
When you speak to Pastor Jason Johnson, it doesn’t take long for you to understand how he gets things done. The man has no lack of enthusiasm for the people of his city, the youth that are growing up there, and how he believes the ministry of the church can make a difference.
Prestonsburg is a small town that serves as the county seat in Floyd County, Kentucky, known as the “Star City of Eastern Kentucky.” The median income for a family in the area is $27,852. At the time of the last census, the population was 3,255.
Add to this area limited opportunities for entertainment or cultural expression, and you have a recipe that is likely to have teenagers engage in unhealthy lifestyle choices, including substance abuse. The area has some of the highest death rates in the United States due to drug overdose, and a 46-percent obesity rate. In order to help the youth in his town deal with the issues they bring to the table, Pastor Jason tries to think “outside the box.” Because so many of the youth that don’t go to the church tell him, “There’s nothing else to do,” he is taking action to address the need for the youth to have something to do, as well as seize an opportunity to spread the gospel.
This idea is a community arts center called “The Bridge.” The building they are preparing for this outreach, renewing its ministry purpose, is the former warehouse of a Church of God publishing ministry. And just as the original evangelists of the Church of God would have “brush arbor meetings,” The Bridge will meet the youth of the area wherever they are, figuratively speaking.
The Bridge will host youth events, and serve as a safe, positive venue that will bring hope and purpose to their lives. Using the multi-disciplinary arts as a point of focus, Pastor Jason plans to host art-education programs, music theory and instrument lessons, drama, and dance, as well as offer a venue that will host concerts of various styles.
The church will actively participate in this effort. It doesn’t hurt that Pastor Jason is also a music teacher and his wife Jan a dietician, who also teaches dance. They have other artists in the congregation and in the community, who are able to teach art classes, too.
The community arts center is going to be focused on cooperative outreach to the people of Prestonsburg, bringing members of other congregations together with Prestonsburg Church of God to pinpoint the best way of reaching the people of the area. According to Pastor Jason, “So many of the youth and even adults won’t enter the sanctuary of any church, but using ‘The Bridge’ we will be able to unite the secular with the sacred, in order to bring the light of the gospel to the people who need it most. If we are truly Christ-followers, we need to follow the example of Christ and go into the towns to give people the Good News.”
The Bridge is projected to open after restrictions from COVID-19 are lifted, possibly as early as next summer.
Listen to Church of God Ministries general director Jim Lyon interview Pastor Jason Johnson about The Bridge on CBH ViewPoint at www.soundcloud.com/cbh4hope/planting-hope.
Prestonsburg Church of God is one of several congregations this year to receive a Change the Story grant. In these dire times communities are experiencing desperate need, and churches are struggling to respond. The Change the Story Fund exists to help congregations meet local, critical needs. Your gift of as little as $10 will provide micro grants that empower churches to Change the Story in their communities. Learn more and invest with your generous gift today at www.jesusisthesubject.org/change-the-story.
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Adrian Powell is pastor of Faith Community Church of God in Grove City, Ohio. He has been published in the Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Call and Post, Columbus Post, and Vital Christianity. He has also authored two books: The Jubilee Harvest and Resident Aliens: A Living Faith in a Hostile World, available from Amazon.com.