Sunnyside Skate Church, Chicago 1991
I wish I had a copy of this original picture, all I have is a poor photocopy that was recently found folded up in a box of miscellaneous items. On the first row you can find a picture of Phillip Telfer at the age of 18. My wife Mary is also in this picture (this was taken before we were married). I had moved to Chicago from my home state of Oregon to work with an inner-city church. I helped the youth pastor, Dirk Currier, launch an outreach to skateboarders. We built a small skate park in the basement of the church. At the time, it was the only public skate park in the city of Chicago so we didn’t have to beg any skaters to come to church. We passed out a few flyers at some local skate shops and within months we were hosting over a hundred skateboarders packed into our little basement skate church. We called it Sunnyside Skate Church because the cross streets of the church, Sunnyside and Paulina. The skaters were required to attend a short church service where we presented the gospel each week.
Sunnyside Skate Church would not be the last skate ministry I became involved in. I moved out of Chicago to the small town of Mt. Carroll, IL in 1998 and served as a youth pastor for several years at a local church. I built a skatepark in the church parking lot. I remember a church board member asking me how many skaters I thought there were in a small town of only 1700 people. My reply, “I don’t know but I guarantee that everyone of them will be coming to our church.” I was right. I wouldn’t trade those amazing years for anything. One of those young punk skaters was a Jr. High student, Rhett Simkins. Rhett is a pastor now in Mt. Carroll and is my office director for the ministry Media Talk 101. Our youth group didn’t just attract skateboarders because the skateboarders attracted spectators and we experienced an unusual momentum that resulted in a youth group of up to 80 students attending our Wednesday evening youth service. When I began to keep track of attendance I was shocked to discover that we actually had around 120 students in our youth ministry over the course of a month of meetings, they just didn’t show up all at once. Whatever your unique interests and talents are, they can be used for Christ and His kingdom.