JERSEY SHORE - "This is a church?"
That is the question some teenagers ask the first time they enter the part of the Crossroads Community Church devoted to them. With neon duct tape on the walls, arcade-styled video games in a corner and a cafe in another corner, it certainly does not look like a typical church.
Crossroads offers a weekly youth service every Wednesday night. The doors open at 6 p.m. and almost 200 teenagers file into the large room to play video games, order food and hang out with their friends. At 7 p.m., the teenagers rush to their seats for worship, Associate Pastor Jason Borowicz said.
"Hundreds of kids get excited about surrendering their lives to Christ," Borowicz said. "Being a Christian is cool."
For about half of a year, the church has been opened at 1454 S. Route 44. Previously, the church was in the Jersey Shore YMCA for six years.
"There was no place to hold a youth service," he said. "We have a facility now to facilitate a youth service in our community."
Having a space for the youth has provided an opportunity for Borowicz to see changes in the teenagers, including releases from drug, alcohol and pornography addictions.
"This is one of the greatest fatherless generations we've had ever," he said. "The fatherless generation kids seeking love and attention is from anything that the world will provide."
The youth program, known as 180, refers to the 180 degree changes people have made in their lives because of it.
To face those challenges, Borowicz helps them see that God has a purpose for them and they have the potential to change the world.
He noticed an opportunity to help teenagers because he did not see anyone else doing it.
"No one's reaching out and focusing on the current teen generation," Borowicz said. "I saw a huge gap. ... I really feel like the teen generation has been put on the back burner."
Because people mostly have been ignoring that generation, he figured the ministry eventually would be as large as it is today with almost 200 teens regularly attending, but he did not expect it to happen so quickly.
Part of the reason for the growth is because the church is a place where they will not be judged for their tattoos and mohawks, he said.
Presenting Jesus in a current way without compromising the message also helps interest the youth.
"We give the kids an opportunity every week to respond to the message," Borowicz said. "The altar is filled with young people surrendering their lives to Christ."
Borowicz recently finished a series about what happens after a person dies and explaining Heaven and Hell.
"We try to recognize where the kids are at and the issues they're dealing and try to break down the Gospel to be relevant," he said.
Some of those issues include suicide, lust, anger and addictions.
Because of the seriousness of the discussions, the services are for middle school and high school students. Those out of high school only can attend as leaders.
"It's all encompassing," Borowicz said. "We don't let younger kids come. What does an 11 year old have in common with an 18 year old?"
Though a Jersey Shore church, teens from Williamsport and Mill Hall attend and he has not seen any problems.
"When the kids come, they're just excited to have another opportunity to hang out with friends," Borowicz said. "Their lives are just being radically changed and transformed."
The 180 youth program is not only about weekly services. Also involved are small groups that meet at church and in houses, student leaders, mission trips, retreats and monthly events like skate nights and bonfires.