The importance of keeping young people grounded in the faith that they learned about as children has not gone unnoticed by the Warner Robins community.
At First United Methodist Church, a weekly gathering is held for those who have graduated from high school and are starting to make their way in the world.
Called The Space Between, the ministry is designed for those in between the youth department of a church and the adult classes.
Ben Lee, director of student ministries at First Methodist, was attending a youth beach retreat in June 2011 when he had the opportunity to hear Reggie Joiner speak.
Joiner is the founder of Orange, an organization that specializes in childhood-through-college-age ministry.
He got to talking about the terrible job the church as a whole does after high school graduation, Lee said. About 83 percent of high school graduates disengage from a faith life, and of that 83 percent only about 30 percent return -- usually after the birth of their first child.
Those statistics hit Lee hard and he returned to Warner Robins after the retreat determined to launch a college age ministry.
For the beginning of the school year, First Methodist started a Sunday School class for 18-26 year olds but didnt forget about ministering to those who were off at college.
We did care packages for finals, boxes with Post-its, highlighters, candy that included handwritten notes of encouragement from our current seniors. It was just a way to say to them, we havent forgotten you and you dont have to be here for us to support you, Lee said.
In summer 2012, the ministry expanded to include a once a week evening service and combined with other churches in the area.
Held Thursday nights starting at 8:30 in Building D at First Methodist Church, The Space Between has just exploded, Lee said.
Michael Meeks, a 2011 graduate of Warner Robins High School who is currently a student at Georgia College & State University, drives down from Milledgeville for the Thursday night service.
It pretty much gets me through the week, Meeks said. It is stuff that really relates to me.
Because Meeks graduated the year before The Space Between was started, he experienced a year without a group for college kids.
I had gone to every youth event possible. Then all of sudden, come Sunday nights, my parents were youth workers, I would be home alone. It didnt feel the same. I know I wasnt as close to God that year as I would have been if we had the ministry, Meeks said.
The ministry is considered an outreach to the community and is open to anyone.
It doesnt matter if you are Baptist or Methodist or whatever, Michael said.
For more information about The Space Between, contact Ben Lee at 478-923-3737, extension 104.