Reaching Teens’ Hearts Through Their Stomachs

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Food and teenagers seem to go hand-in-hand, so Ripon, Calif., youth leaders decided to reach out to local public high schoolers with a meal.

For more than five years, youth leaders from First Christian Reformed Church, Immanuel CRC, Almond Valley CRC, and other local churches have provided a free hot lunch for students from Ripon High School every Thursday. The lunches are held at nearby Ripon Grace Church.

“We are meeting a felt need by providing lunch for them and a spiritual need by sharing Jesus with them,” said Martin Sisneroz, church planter and youth director for Almond Valley CRC.

Martin Sisneroz speaks to high schoolers after their Thursday lunch.

Heidi Wicker

“Over the past few years we have settled on a menu of four meals that we can make for about $1.50 per student with all the paper supplies. The meals are spaghetti, nachos, chili and cornbread, and mac and cheese and meatballs. We supply salad for all the meals, along with soda and water,” said Matt Householder, associate pastor for Ripon Grace.

Youth leader take turns speaking with the students. “The youth pastor who is scheduled to speak opens with a word of prayer and then shares with the students a message from God's Word. After about 10 minutes [the students are] dismissed with prayer, and they head back to their next class,” said Householder.

Several students call it "Thursday Church," and it may be the only time they are encouraged spiritually, said Householder.

Each week, the pastors serve between 130-140 students, about 50 percent of whom are Christians. “A highlight for me is seeing different churches in the community come together for a common goal,” said Sisneroz.

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