For six weeks every summer, the parking lot at Niekerk Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Mich., is commandeered on Monday nights for Hockey Rock—a drop-in children’s program designed to attract youth from grade 3 to high school. And it does just that, with as many as 130 kids coming out weekly in June and July.
What began in 1999 with roller hockey and Christian music now includes just about every activity under the sun: volleyball, basketball, Frisbee golf, and even crafts or unorthodox sports like nine-square and Ga-Ga Pit.
“The beauty of the program is that it’s simple,” said Kim Walters, a member of Niekerk CRC who participates in running Hockey Rock. “Kids can do what they like. It’s not super structured . . . anybody can come.”
The program involves about 20 adults and six youth group volunteers. Niekerk CRC partners with nearby Ebenezer Reformed Church to support Hockey Rock, including transportation for about 45 kids from two community pick-up points.
Every participant—whether present for one night or all six—receives a themed T-shirt, is registered for Christian music CD giveaways, hears from that week’s speaker, shares in a prayer group with an adult volunteer, enjoys a pizza supper, and spends the rest of the time in the activity of his or her choice.
“You’re included in anything that’s going on. So if a kid gets sick of basketball, he’ll just jump to something else,” said Walters.
“Because we’re a country church, we have a large parking lot compared to some,” she said. “So people can park in one [section] and drop off their kids and the kids can safely play in the other.”
Various activities have been added as church members and community partners have donated items from bean-bag toss to ladder ball over the years. The versatility of the program keeps participants coming back while it attracts new ones. Walters said in 2015 there were 72 families returning and 70 new families attending, according to the church’s registration stats.