Westwood Baptist Church creates new worship spaces for kids
Story by Clarke Stackhouse
Photos by Keith McCoy
A retro garage furnished with vintage gas pumps, cars and tools is the newest addition to Westwood Baptist Church’s youth center. The garage opened on Aug. 17 after a 40-day renovation period bringing the new theme and decor to Westwood.
Pastor of Families Ric Callahan said the church was in need of basic repairs and maintenance and they decided to renovate some of the kid’s areas with new themes and space to fit the growing congregation.
“The church was in need of some updates so we decided to focus on some of the kids’ areas to make them a fun place for the kids to worship,” Callahan said.
He said the garage is geared toward students in first grade through sixth grade and split into two groups, Club 252 for fourth through sixth grade and Route 66 for first through fourth grade. Callahan said they have around 170 students attend each Sunday.
“With the new garage, they’ll check in at the touch screens on the gas pumps and be greeted by our volunteers dressed as mechanics,” he said.
Callahan said the garage theme was a playful way to make church enjoyable and give the kids a comfortable environment to worship God.
“It’s a fun, unique setting to have our ministry in a garage,” Callahan said. “It’s also a way to remind the kids that God restores, renews and refreshes our lives, just as mechanics do to our cars.”
Callahan said the kids have had a great response to the changes and seem to enjoy the new theme and drawing close to God.
Fifth-grader George Walker said he’s had so much fun in the new space and all they have been learning.
“I love learning about God and everything he did for us,” Walker said.
He said that they had a mix of contracted workers, volunteers and staff help renovate the spaces with Method-1 Custom Interiors, of Trussville, leading the design. A local junkyard donated different items for the stage and main worship area.
Patrick Dorough volunteers on Wednesday nights to help lead the kids in worship. He said the new environment helped energize the kids and is a fun area to learn about God.
“This space has been great,” Dorough said. “The kids have really responded to it and its made learning about our savior even more fun for them.”
Dorough said they have been working through the basics of the Christian faith and have found some fun ways to incorporate the theme of the worship space. He said they have set up an incentive program to learn Bible verses and phrases with a roadmap on the wall and each kid has a car with their name on it. As they memorize and pass off the scriptures and phrases their car moves along the road with different incentives at some of the stops.
While the older kids hang out in the new garage, the pre-school has undergone a playful outdoorsy renovation. Brightly colored walls depict scenes of outdoor fun and summer playtime and have lemonade stand check-ins.
The area will also include a clubhouse stage and worship area for the younger kids on Sundays.
Callahan said they wanted to design the spaces with questions parents asked their kids after church in mind.
“A lot of times after church parents will ask their kid if they had fun, if they learned something and if they want to come back,” Callahan said. “We wanted to make sure the new spaces would allow the kids to answer positively to those questions.
He said they have about 150 volunteers each Sunday to help work the areas, along with multiple volunteers on Wednesday nights to help lead the worship and operate the lights and sound.
Pat Conn helps run the lights and sound in the Garage and loves seeing how excited the kids are to come into the space and learn about their faith and God.
“They needed help running the board and I have some experience with it, so here I am,” Conn said. “I really enjoy helping and the kids really enjoy the new space and I’m glad I can help.”
“We keep growing and growing,” Callahan said. “We have a lot of young families moving into the community and we wanted to cater to them and their children. We hope the new spaces will bring even more people to our church.”