Baptist church turns its gym into Main Street Youth Center


Dassel-Cokato youth will have a fun place to hang out Fridays after school

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Beginning Friday, May 2, the First Baptist Church of Cokato is offering an after-school program in its new youth center.

Every Friday afternoon from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., middle- and high school-age students from around the community (members and nonmembers) are welcome to come and hang out at the Main Street Youth Center.

For some time now, First Baptist Church Youth Pastor Steve Stahl has envisioned an after-school youth program with no pressure and no preaching – just a fun place for kids to hang out with their friends.

“If we can paint a picture of who Jesus is, then people can make up their own decision to accept him or reject it,” he said.

Students will have an opportunity to jump on a shuttle bus in the school’s west parking lot during the school year. In the summer, participants will need to find their own ride.

At the church, participants have several fun activities to choose from including jamming out on a number of the instruments on hand, playing foosball, air hockey, ping-pong, or pool in the game room, or sipping on some cappuccino in the Backstage Café.

Depending on the demand and turnout, Stahl may choose to extend the hours or even add more days.

Main Street in the making

With a need of more space for youth education and Sunday school, the idea of the Main Street Youth Center came to life.

The church looked into adding on to the existing building, but with a cost comparison, it decided on remodeling the church gymnasium to fit its immediate needs.

“We wanted to keep the gymnasium, but this was the best use of the money we had,” Stahl said.

Stahl had a design in mind which included remodeling the gymnasium to resemble a downtown setting that would also include a stage and game room.

After looking at storefronts on the Internet and visiting Bauer Brothers Building Salvage in Minneapolis, the plans began to fit together. Parishioners got on board, as well.

Elroy Dahlin donated the large Cokato Salvage sign that is hung on one of the storefronts.

Christina Clark, who owns several Snap Fitnesses, donated the carpet and a large Pepsi sign, which hangs above the Backstage Café. This café is used as one of the classrooms and is filled with tables and chairs from the former Scoops.

French Lake Auto Parts donated the front end of a 1950 Plymouth, Mark Johnson of Cokato Body and Paint donated the final body work and Stahl then turned it into a sound booth with working headlights.

A stage was also built for the musically-talented youth and for the church’s own band, Revolution, to use.

The project began just after the Christmas holiday season and with the help of volunteers, it was completed April 1. This was also Stahl’s five-year anniversary at the church, noted his wife, Marnie.

On a typical Wednesday night, the church can expect about 50 youth. During last year’s lock-in, however, there were 137 students.

This year, Stahl was expecting another packed house at the April 25 lock-in.

Another key factor

Bruce Miller joined the First Baptist Church leadership team last August as assistant pastor to Dan Swanson, head pastor.

Before he answered God’s call to join the ministry, Miller worked for a construction company in Grand Marais.

With his construction background, the “ball was put in [his] court” to make sure the youth center was constructed correctly and at the right price. Therefore, Miller became the project’s contractor.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on this project with Steve. It’s awesome to see everything come together,” Miller said, referring to the donated materials, volunteers, and the help from the congregation.

“I think the kids are really going to enjoy this,” he said.

Miller is a full-time student at Crown College working on his Christian ministries degree.

He and his wife, Lori, live in Dassel. Together, they have four children, Nathan, 23, Christina, 22, April, 21, and Luke, 17.

What he enjoys most about his job is ministering, helping, and teaching people.

“God gave me a pastor’s heart,” he said.

Miller and his wife thought they would miss Grand Marais, but the people in the Dassel-Cokato community have been so welcoming that the don’t look back, he said.

“I know this is where we belong,” Miller said.

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