(Photo: The Christian Post / Michael Gryboski)
VIENNA, Va. – As parties were held across the country in celebration of the forthcoming new year, one megachurch near Washington, D.C., played party host to some 1,500 teens, who rocked out to Christian music, played laser tag and “gladiator joust” – all within the safety of a drug and alcohol free environment.
McLean Bible Church held its annual “New Year’s Aid” party to usher in year 2012, which kicked off at 10 p.m. and lasted all the way to 6:30 a.m.
“We had 1,500 kids last year,” said Kent Husted, assistant director of Student Ministries for McLean Bible Church. According to registration records, there were around 1,500 kids in attendance this year as well.
Husted explained that guests came from many locations in the Washington, D.C. area, including “all of Northern Virginia, including Prince William, Loudoun, and Fairfax counties.”
“We have kids come from as far away as Winchester and other V.A. areas. Also, we draw from Maryland…and parts of D.C. Some out of town guests will also be present that are visiting relatives.”
Over one thousand kids attended the event, many having learned of it because they were members of the church, while others came because of friends. Many seemed determined to stay until the 6:30 a.m. end of the event.
Starting around 10:00 p.m., a program was presented in the auditorium at the second floor of the facility, where people got to hear musical performances by the International Children’s Choir and a local contemporary Christian band called Bandits & Beggars. The featured speaker for the event was missionary Russell Stendal, who in the 1980s was kidnapped by Marxist guerillas while in Colombia and was kept hostage for five months.
After the program, kids got to enjoy numerous activities, including laser tag, a coffee bar, moon bounce, and something called “gladiator joust.”
There was also a girls-only room reserved for “Makeovers and Crafts” as well as a “Sleepover Room” where kids could sleep, which included a sign requesting guests entering the space to be quiet in respect for those catching some shut-eye.
McLean holds several large-scale, youth-oriented events throughout the year, many in connections with holidays or for charities. In September, McLean organized a charity event in which contemporary Christian singer Meredith Andrews was the lead performance.
“Proceeds from the event went to World Help, which in turn used the funds to ship containers of food to the suffering people in Somalia, providing over 500,000 meals,” said Husted. “Throughout the year we have many large events, some drawing upwards of 800+ kids. All our events are alcohol and drug free.”
When asked how the church could afford such a large-scale event for New Year’s, Husted explained that the event pretty much pays for itself.
“Each year, through ticket sales, merchandise sales and donations we have been able not only to cover the costs of the event, but also have money left to donate to our partnering missions organizations,” said Husted.
Proceeds from past New Year’s parties have gone to building orphanages in Gulu, Uganda, and a multipurpose children’s center in the Dominican Republic.
This year, McLean Bible Church will offer part of the proceeds from ticket sales and donations to a charity that helps needy families in the Dominican Republic.
McLean Bible Church has hosted a New Year’s Eve party for teens since 1994.