Here’s how one of Christ Presbyterian’s newest Missional Communities is making a difference in the lives of Nashville kids and teens.
Sometimes the most profound experiences can happen under the simplest of circumstances.
This is the prayer of those involved in the new Preston Taylor Ministries Missional Community (MC) that formed last year among some Christ Presbyterian members in The Nations.
Originally founded in 1998, Preston Taylor Ministries was created to confront many of the problems that exist in the Preston Taylor public housing section of Nashville—such as drug use, gang involvement, teenage pregnancy, illiteracy, poor school performance and crime.
Throughout the years the renowned organization has offered kids multiple avenues of support and relationship-building, including early morning Bible studies, lunchtime mentoring opportunities and after-school tutoring.
A couple of years ago, the ministry realized an ongoing Friday night event could be a valuable addition to adolescents from the Preston Taylor community. The concept of a “Friday Night Lights” program soon launched to offer preteens and teens a fun and safe space to unwind at the end of the school week.
Kelly Bradway, a member at Christ Presbyterian Church’s Music Row location, had already served for several years as a lunchtime buddy mentor with Preston Taylor Ministries when an idea occurred to her and several other regular volunteers—including Maddy Jenney and Helen Lee—that forming a new Missional Community around this Friday night initiative would be a great way to lend support.
The Missional Community now helps host a series of fun Friday night activities at St. Luke’s Community Center in Nashville, where students eat dinner together and participate in group activities such as kickball or dodgeball. Kids can later branch off according to their interests—some bake cupcakes while others may play board games or basketball.
“We want these students to have a fun and safe Friday night while interacting with adults who care about them,” Bradway explains.
Since Friday Night Lights began, purposeful connections between the Missional Community members and students have gradually formed. “It takes time to build relationships,” Bradway says. “At first these kids weren’t so sure about us. But we are starting to see them open up and share about their daily lives.”
While the idea is simple—a meal and some basic Friday night fun—the hope is that these evenings will provide a sense of belonging and rootedness that each adolescent kid desperately needs.
“There are many difficult and dangerous circumstances kids can encounter if they go looking for connection or validation in the wrong places—including teenage pregnancy and gang violence,” says Bradway. “We want to affirm these students and provide a healthy way for them to be seen, known and encouraged. We long for them to realize that other people care about them and that they’re important.”
Reflecting on the ministry of Christ, Bradway says it was in Jesus’ own decision to “live life” with others that they came to know his care and compassion. “He hung out with people,” Bradway says. “He loved them. That’s what we want to do.”
The Missional Community’s ultimate desire is reflective of Preston Taylor’s overarching mission, Bradway adds. The group’s prayer is for these students to know that they are valuable because they’re created in God’s image. They have God-given gifts and abilities. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, they can be an agent of reconciliation within their home, school, community and world.