GroundFloor ministry at Citychurch, 36 W. Fourth St., is music for teenagers, by teenagers and organized by teenagers.
The ministry began more than eight years ago and catered to teenagers by playing music they could relate to - heavy rock. They could come as they were - in hoodies and baggy pants - to listen to different bands and mosh in the church's basement.
The ministry proved too popular, as became obvious when more than 400 people attended a ska concert in April 2005 - more than double what the venue could hold, then, a year later, the couple who organized it moved and no one was left to direct the project.
So Citychurch leaders decided to do something radical. In October 2011, GroundFloor operations were given over to the youth.
"Let's experiment at empowering our teens," Elder and Pastor Larry Stout said.
It taught the organizers practical business skills, such as management, logistics and marketing. In addition, it helped that the teenagers knew what other teenagers wanted. They knew which bands had the skills to fill the venue and which ones to avoid.
"The kids do such a wonderful job," GroundFloor coordinator Kathy Fenstamaker said. "They give their time. ... You feel safe if your kids are here."
Part of that safety comes from knowing people in security shirts wander the property, which Fenstamaker said lets attendees know they can have fun, but they cannot cause problems.
While the event is targeted for teenagers, the majority of the attendees are in the 18- to 20-year-old range because the venue is so close to Lycoming College.
With that age group, promotion becomes easier as people share the Facebook event on their pages, text their friends and share it in other ways.
The church has not readily accepted the group as easily as the group has accepted the church as a venue site.
"The church itself challenges us," Fenstamaker said. "We really are inviting quite a few interesting people into the building."
Stout said the church wants to have kids sitting in a circle singing Kumbaya, which is not going to happen.
"We're pushing the boundaries," Stout said.
By pushing those boundaries, it allows the attendees to see a different aspect of church than they are used to. Their idea of church is something they would never attend, but by showing church can be something different, "the seed is planted," he said.
While some of the bands perform gospel music in the form of heavy metal, others just abide by the lifestyle, Stout said.
"The Gospel is reaching people where they're at," he said.
By targeting that audience, it brings a new generation to the church.
"If you play it, they will come," Fenstamaker said.
Letting teenagers run the ministry has taught them a lot about management, but it has taught Fenstamaker and Stout something also.
"The kids that used to scare me, they're coming up and giving me hugs," she said. "They're just people like us. They look different, (but) they're kind, good-hearted people."
"They're normal people," Stout said.