HUGHESVILLE - As the high school football season gets under way, area students in grade seven through 12 have a place to hang out after home football games - Hughesville Friends Church.
The church on South Third Street once again is hosting its youth program, Fifth Quarter, to offer teenagers an alternative place to hang out with their friends for two hours after home football games.
Tammy Lawson, youth minister, started the program when she came to Hughesville Friends Church in 2008 and saw the community's passion for high school football.
Students take a break from playing games during last Friday’s Fifth Quarter
gathering at Hughesville Friends Church, 137 S. Third St., Hughesville. The church hosts the program after home high school football games in the borough as a place for teens in middle and high school to hang out with their friends.
"I saw that football was big in the community," Lawson said. "Everyone is there on a Friday night."
Lawson said the program embraces the passion giving teens somewhere safe to go and safe things to do. It helps keep them out of trouble, she said.
The program has grown from a high of 32 students in its first year to a high of 65 students last year.
"Friends continue to tell friends about the program," she said. "It's grown every year because of word-of-mouth."
Students can participate in organized activities or simply sit and listen to music with their friends,
The youth room in the basement of the church offers a pool table, a ping-pong table and board games for students to play.
Lawson said she also organizes a large group game each Friday typically derived from a popular TV game show.
In the past, Lawson has hosted Family Feud, Deal or No Deal, Pictionary, Minute to Win It and Fear Factor.
"They really enjoyed Fear Factor because there was a lot of disgusting stuff for them to do," she said. "Minute to Win It also was popular."
This year the youth minister said she plans to let the students decide what they want to play this year, but one thing she is certain will happen again is an all-night event the night of the last home football game.
Lawson said she offered an all-night event last year and because of its popularity plans to offer it again.
During the all-nighter, as Lawson referred to it, the students went bowling, rollerskating, played late-night basketball and volleyball in the parking lot, watched movies and played video games on a Wii console.
One way the all-nighter differs from the regular program is that Lawson adds an evangelistic element to the event.
"I really want the students to know God is not boring. God is not mean, waiting to strike us when we laugh or have fun in this world, let alone in a church," Lawson said. "I'm looking for them to recognize this church is a safe place for them to come, and I hope they recognize it's a place where they can come and be themselves."
So far Lawson has heard nothing by positive reviews from the teens, the church and the community.
"Teens know they have a place to keep hanging out with their friends after the football game," she said. "(Church members) love the fact they know there is a place teens to come on a Friday night, and it's great to hear parents are excited to send their children here."
While Lawson is hopeful the event helps bring youth to church more regularly, she noted the event is not designed to compete with other churches to get people in the building. She said she makes a great effort not to infringe upon any student's personal beliefs.
The program simply is a way for her and the church to share God's word through action.
"Our Heavenly Father is a God who wants us to live in joy," Lawson said. "And, I hope the students find joy in hanging out at the Friends Church on Friday nights."