Steamboat Springs Ben Deringer didn’t need to pause or look away from the video game he was playing Thursday afternoon in Steamboat Springs as he described how Sk8 Church has changed his life.
“It has helped me get through hurts, habits and hang-ups,” Deringer said about the less-traditional place of worship in Steamboat that includes a 2,000-square-foot skatepark, foosball tables and teen-oriented activities. “I always know the guys here care about me. It’s just a cool place to hang out.”
Deringer was one of about 20 teenagers who came to the church’s 4,800-square-foot facility in west Steamboat on Thursday to skate, mingle and worship. The Steamboat Springs High School graduate first learned about Sk8 Church last year while he was skating at the Bear River Skatepark. He said that since that day, he utilizes the facility about once a week.
“This place gets me away from the whole party scene and alcohol and drugs,” he said before pressing a button on his game controller.
Sk8 Church hasn’t always inhabited a large dedicated space in Steamboat that offers teens a warm, snow-free place to shred and hang out during the winter months.
But two years ago, the church outgrew Buck and Tara Chavarria’s basement in west Steamboat.
Sitting on a modern couch in the facility that largely was paid for by an anonymous donation, the couple said worship at their new facility was a welcome change from previous meetings in bowling alleys, hotel ballrooms and their own home.
Now open for nearly two years, their teen-oriented church in Riverside Plaza has added a skateboard shop and big-screen TVs. But more importantly, it has offered teens a stable and safe place to hang out outside of school, the Chavarrias said Thursday.
“We were limited with what we could offer in our own home,” Buck Chavarria said. “The big thing for us now is how we make this a permanent fixture. This is a place that’s not only a building but also a concept that I hope reaches out into this community in places that really need our help.”
Buck Chavarria said that Sk8 Church has experimented with its programming while offering teens a place to worship and unwind. A middle and high school youth group meets Wednesdays, and the church holds drop-in hours from 2 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays for high school students.
“This is just one avenue for kids to utilize,” he said, adding that although Steamboat’s offerings for teens have increased with the addition of the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs and teen programs run through Steamboat’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department, there’s always a need to expand offerings for young adults.
“This town has always been slim on offerings of safe and sober things for kids ages 15 to 21 to do that are affordable,” he said.
He’s also quick to point out that the church is open to all religious affiliations — as well as those who have never ollied a skateboard and don’t want to.
“This place is open to everyone,” he said. “No matter where you’re at in life, whether you’re rich or poor, whether you’re Hindu or Muslim or Christian or whatever, you’re welcome here.”
By 6 p.m. Thursday, Sk8 Church continued to fill with children. A quieter and more subtle hangout for the Chavarria family and a couple of skaters between 2 to 5 p.m. on most weekdays, the atmosphere quickly changes when students arrive for a weekly worship service or activity night.
At 6:30 p.m., a group of high school students performed kick-flips and grinds to the tunes of Tom Petty while others engaged in a game of foosball on the other side of the church. And although the teens shared the same building, many of them were there for different reasons.
Steamboat Springs Middle School student Madi Appel, who was surfing Facebook with her friend Rachel Schwebke, said the facility was a place to worship, hang out and meet new friends.
“But mainly to worship,” she added.
And as he prepared to drop into the skatepark bowl, Colorado Mountain College student Mason Wooley said he had a simple reason to come to the church every week.
“I’m here to skate and to have fun,” he said.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email ScottFranz@SteamboatToday.com