Parents, take the night off
Fun abounds at De Soto youth group’s Friday evening service
It's after dark on a Friday night, and there are only a couple of cars parked in the dimly lit lot behind De Soto United Methodist Church. By the looks of it, there might be one or two people inside, cleaning or working late.
But a closer look reveals a bevy of activity inside. It's just that most of the participants have been dropped off because they're not old enough to drive.
On the second Friday of each month, the church's youth group mans the basement for "Parents' Night Out." For donations toward their summer mission trip, youth group members keep children entertained, well-fed and out of their parents' hair from 6 to 10 p.m.
"We play four-square, ping pong or whatever, really," said 14-year-old youth group member Austin Willhite. "They want to have fun. Anything to keep 'em entertained."
While parents are out to movies or dinner with friends, teens and their younger wards take over the whole basement.
Children can wander where they want, and youth group members divide themselves accordingly, plopping down on the floor and playing dolls or running around the basketball court along with the littler ones.
"Veggie Tales" movies may be showing in the main room, where a craft table is set up in the corner and a ping pong table occupies the space in front.
Through one doorway is a playroom full of dolls, toys and floor pillows for relaxing. Down the hall in the other direction is a room set aside for video games.
A swing set, basketball court and four-square box are outside.
"It's a good time for kids to socialize and interact with each other," said another youth member, Nic Kotschwar. "It's a great time, if you like kids."
The evening also includes plenty of snacks.
"The eating's probably the best part," Austin said.
Group sponsor Brenda Crisco said she and some youth members had occasionally undertaken baking projects for the events. But usually, thanks to donations from Morse's Apple Market and, last week, Pizza Hut, they don't have to worry about it, she said.
"Parents' Night Out" grew from a Valentine's Day service last year to a monthly service this year, said Crisco and co-sponsor Larry Cox.
"We thought it would be a nice community service project and a way for kids to raise money for their trip," Crisco said.
In July, the youth group will head to Garden City for a missions project. They aren't yet sure exactly what they'll be doing, but they know they'll be helping the United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries in the western Kansas town.
"They haven't given us our assignment yet," Crisco said. "But we know it's a work project."
From there, the youth will head to Castle Rock, Colo., for a non-work stint. They plan to meet up with Cox's brother's youth group for camp and some Colorado adventure.
Cox and Crisco said "Parents' Night Out" seemed like a good way to raise money as well as offer a service to the whole community.
Cox said the group was looking for additional opportunities to accomplish the same thing -- congregation-geared bake sales or summer car washes can only stretch so far, he said.
"It's not just a church congregation thing," he said.