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Skating around the truth

Posted: October 10, 2008 7:40 p.m.
Updated: December 12, 2008 5:00 a.m.

A skateboarder shows some moves.

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Young skateboarders of the Santa Clarita Valley have sparked the attention of a few local church members.

In September, Eric Christiansen and Elijah Kellogg of Grace Baptist Church took a group of skateboarding youth to a Santa Paula skate park for a day of boarding, barbecue and fellowship. 

“Upon arrival, the Ignition team launched into action,” said Christiansen. “Immediately, raffle tickets and invites for the barbecue were passed on to skate park locals and any others nearby. Skaters filed out of the bus and got down to the business of skating.”

After the kids were given free lunch, Christiansen delivered a Christian Gospel message to thirty skaters and several homeless people that had gathered at the park.

“It was a rewarding day,” said Mike Barr, a church volunteer who joined his two high school daughters at the park. “I think we’re on to something this valley has never had.”

The day marked the take-off of Grace Baptist’s Ignition skate ministry.

The vision

As a seasoned skateboarder, Eric Christiansen, who also identifies himself as a husband, father of three and follower of Christ, saw a need to reach out to the skateboarding youth in Santa Clarita.

“There’s a lot of organized sports in this valley, but for some reason, not a huge emphasis on skateboarding,” he said. “So it becomes kind of an outlaw sport.

“Skateboarders themselves are very individualistic,” he said. “Being one myself, I see those kids not having any real role models, direction or validation for their sport.”

While the outspoken and independent-minded skaters are not always looked most favorably upon by members of society, Christiansen believes those character traits can have the potential to reach many others for Christ’s message.

“It has been proven time and again that when these individuals, who are used to speaking out and being different, are touched by Christ, they become extremely effective for His Kingdom,” said Christiansen. |

Christiansen and the church held several meetings and engaged in much prayer over the idea.

While attending an International Christian Skaters Conference, Christiansen says it was there that “the Lord ‘ignited’ his heart.”

And thus, Ignition was born.

“It was then decided that Ignition would launch with a series of road trips to some of Southern California’s best skate parks, twice a month, leaving from the Grace Baptist parking lot,” said Christiansen.

After Christiansen presented the idea to parents and the youth at Grace Baptist on a weekly basis, the first skate trip and ministry’s Web site, www.ignitionskateministry.com, was successfully underway.

Off to a good start

“I really enjoyed it,” said 17-year-old Kathy Barr. “When I got there everyone was really friendly. Eric was sharing stuff from the Bible and people who weren’t even part of our group were listening.”

“There were good skaters there,” said Mike Barr, Kathy’s father. “They had a lot of fun and didn’t look at it as another church thing they had to go to ... You had to be there to see the synergy of what went on.”
Christiansen and Barr agree they both see the ministry’s potential for growth.

Those already involved are trying to attract their friends that would normally never come to church, using the camaraderie to get them to a spiritual situation they might not otherwise be drawn to, said Christiansen.

“I’m trying to get my shepherding group to go,” said Kathy, referring to a small bible study group she belongs to at Grace Baptist.

Christiansen said he hopes the ministry can also reach fathers, like him, who used to board as well.

It’s rewarding to see those parents getting involved with their children, said Christiansen. “There’s nothing like participating with your own child in a sport.”

Skate park at Grace Baptist
The Ignition ministry may soon provide local skateboarders with an alternative to grocery store parking lots or campus grounds.

“Ignitions’ ultimate goal is to establish a skate park on the grounds of Grace Baptist Church,” Christiansen said. “This facility would draw youth from all over Santa Clarita Valley to skate, but, most importantly for consistent, direct Gospel teaching.”

Once the ministry can demonstrate a need for a skate park on church grounds, Christiansen said he hopes the park can be completed by March.

mgasca@the-signal.com

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