In 1987, John Barnard was skateboarding outside a church in Houston when some adults approached him. He assumed they were going to kick him out. Instead, they invited him in.
“They told me the gym floor was super smooth and that I should skate in there,” says Barnard. “I was experiencing grace before I’d had it explained to me.”
He later joined the church’s youth group and came to love the Lord. Ultimately, he pursued a career in youth ministry and later founded Middleman Ministries with the support of several Texas churches. The ministry strives to support the skateboarding community by helping them realize their identity and purpose in Christ.
Barnard later formed Middleman Skate Park, giving away custom skateboards and inviting kids to skate for free.
“There is no programming or expectations,” says Barnard. “We just give away skateboards and Bibles.”
Because skateboarders typically aren’t involved in sports, they don’t have a coach telling them that they’re doing a good job. Barnard’s ministry strives not only to speak positivity into these kids but also provides them an opportunity to mentor others. Several years ago, the ministry began hosting free skate camps at which seasoned skaters are paired with young kids. “If I can get that rad 17-year-old skater to feel the tremendous positivity of what it means to just feed into a little kid who looks up to them because they give them skate lessons, and then that kid is hearing me talk about the gospel, there are multiple levels of ministry taking place,” says Barnard. “When that kid makes a decision for Christ, he’s really thought about it.
“Ministry should never be one-way,” he adds. “It’s just as much about getting ministered to as it is about serving.”
In the last five years, more than 75 kids have come to know the Lord through the skateboarding mentorship program.