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Pastor reaches out to Craig kids with Youth Explosion

Collin Smith

— Imagine a child in a very conservative, regimented church in 1960s Alabama, and that would be part of Pastor Steven Wallace’s story.

“You didn’t go out of the confines of what was expected,” Wallace said.

He is now, at 50 years old, the pastor for Ridgeview Church of God in Craig, where he has preached to his congregation for five months since moving from Alabama.

From Sunday until tonight, Ridgeview Church of God has held a Youth Explosion, during which young people around the area have listened to young pastors and live music.

“It’s just a rally, a youth revival,” Wallace said. “We’re just giving kids a chance to worship in their own way, without the traditions of how a church is supposed to be.”

Wallace thinks today’s youth are essentially the same as any generation, but the world and culture have changed, and the community shouldn’t shun them for that.

“In our society, I’m 50 years old, things are totally different and the culture is totally different,” Wallace said. “We have to reach out and embrace young people, to accept them and love them no matter what they look like.”

Wallace doesn’t want church or Christianity to be a hindrance to young people’s growth, but a process of that growth.

“Kids will find a place to belong,” he said. “If we put up walls and regulations that say, ‘This is how you act here or in this church setting,’ they won’t become a part of it. This is catered for kids to show up so we can show them they are important.”

Karla Kulp, 13, has been a member of Ridgeview Church of Christ for as long as she can remember, and has gone to every Youth Explosion since Sunday morning. She was at Thursday’s event in City Park, listening to Kairos – which means “God’s word” – the Christian band that has played all week. Wallace’s 20-year-old son is the drummer.

“I like (Wallace) a lot,” Kulp said. “He relates to teens as well as he does to the adults.”

Whitley McCoy, 16, has only been to Ridgeview Church of Christ twice. She regularly attends Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and identifies herself as a Mormon, but came to Youth Explosion because she’s “just religious,” she said.

“My mom told me something was going on, and I just wanted to come out,” McCoy said.

Michelle Cramer, whose husband is the Ridgeview youth director, supports Wallace’s program.

“It’s good for the community because it brings us all together. It’s open for everyone,” she said.

Wallace has been a pastor for 32 years and has held Youth Explosion events in other parts of the country, including Alabama.

He feels he has found a home here and wanted to share something he felt good about with the community.

“I love Craig,” he said. “There’s a lot of good, neat people here.”

Wallace believes churches should go out into the community, and Youth Explosion is a way to do that.

“It’s important to not only congregate, but for all churches to get out of their comfort zones, out of the four-square buildings, and meet the people out there,” he said. “It’s not even about churches. There’s so much religion in the world, and not enough love of Christ. It’s just to get out into the marketplace and help people.”

Wallace has visited places all around the world, sometimes as a missionary and sometimes as a teacher. He has lived in different places in Europe and done mission projects in Romania and Panama, among other places.

Most recently, he has participated in building a youth camp for Native Americans in Big Timber, Mont., nine hours north of Craig. The youth camp is a partnership between different Christian denominations, Wallace said.

“Most people there were from Asbury United Methodist Church in Alabama that come to work with us,” Wallace said. “My heart goes out to the underdog, and that’s why I want to help the youth. They are wanted and they are loved, they just haven’t met the right people yet.”

Ridgeview Church of Christ plans to visit the camp in Big Timber in November to repair buildings, and also visit Brazil some time in the future to build churches there.


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