The idea was conceived when Lori Horn and Jonna Harper noticed that students at Kilbourne Methodist Church were united in their love for free pizza and hot dogs. The women asked Pastor Curtis Carroll, “What if we started an after-school program where we fed kids in the community both physically and spiritually?”
So now, every Thursday afternoon 14 boys and girls in and around rural Kilbourne, Louisiana, gather at church for food, fellowship and Bible study. Ranging in age from 10 to 15, the kids play basketball, ride skateboards and do crafts. “It’s often about being a listening ear for them,” says Carroll, who has been the pastor at Kilbourne Methodist Church for five years.
The program is a haven for impoverished children who are desperate for stability and companionship. The youth also like to feel important so they ask to serve. “When you see kids out on church property dragging big limbs across the yard and brushing cobwebs off the drains with a broom, it’s their way of showing appreciation for having a safe place to go,” says Carroll.
With Louisiana having the highest incarceration rate in the nation, Carroll takes this ministry very seriously. “In some ways we’re in the battle front, making sure these kids know that their lives matter,” he says. Carroll acknowledges the challenges to ministering to youth who sometimes have an inconsistent relationship with Christ. They may attend church for a time, but then grow restless, slipping away and perhaps experimenting with other religions. But if they have that foundation to know that Christ is a rock in whom they can trust, they often find their way back.
They’re kind of like puppies, Carroll says. “Puppies will follow you along, then get distracted and go chase a rabbit. But eventually they’ll come back because they need to be fed. Churches are emotional, spiritual feeding stations that nourish the soul.”