Eclectic lights burn bright over colorful chairs in a lawn that was once empty. There is laughter and conversation. A mid-century church parlor is transformed with the smells of coffee and fresh pastries as people sit at new laptops and sound out unfamiliar words. Across the room, a couple of students are studying for the GED. In these spaces, community is happening and hope is alive.

The Gethsemane campus has taken two existing spaces and transformed them into new gathering areas for young adults in the Sharpstown and Gulfton neighborhoods. Amy Kelley, Gethsemane’s Director of Family Ministries, said they wanted to put the spaces to greater use for the church and community to meet the needs of their young adults, church families and the CONNECT community.

The Café, formerly the parlor, has transformed a formal reception space into a vibrant, modern computer café and will serve as a classroom for adult learners in GED and ESL classes during the week. On Sunday mornings, it will be the new home for a young adult group. The Patio will simply be a hangout spot for the Gethsemane community to gather after worship and—a place where friendships know no language barriers.

Knowing the needs of the community, the decision to design unique gathering spaces was an easy one, especially with the church’s partnership with the Houston Center for Literacy, the organization that coordinates the GED and ESL classes hosted at the Gethsemane campus. This organization was awarded a grant from St. Luke’s that helped purchase the laptop computers placed in Gethsemane’s new café.

“Gethsemane is quickly becoming the hub of hope and love in Southwest Houston,” Amy said. “As we continue to walk with families, children, immigrants, elders, young adults, and students, we became aware that it was crucial that we create great spaces where people would just want to be.”

If there’s one thing Amy knows about the Gethsemane community, it’s that they are people who love to be together. The yearning for fellowship has trickled down to younger generations, and from that desire came The Patio.

“Young adults, contrary to popular belief, actually want to be in a church community that welcomes them unconditionally,” said Rev. David Horton, pastor at the Gethsemane campus. “Through these two spaces, we are trying to remove the barriers that would keep young people from simply being at church. Young people crave community. We hope The Café and The Patio will satisfy that desire.”

This is all a part of Gethsemane’s grand experiment. They turn the church Inside-Out and meet people where they are. As the neighborhood gathers at the Gethsemane table, no matter the need or reason, worship happens. This is the church in action.

“Gethsemane is an experiment in how to do church. We believe church happens whenever people gather in the name of Jesus. While Sunday morning is the most important thing, it is not the only important thing,” David said. “Our GED and ESL classes are an expression of church… Curfew, a new Thursday night ministry sponsored by Gethsemane and Houston: reVision…  is an expression of church. People may not come to Gethsemane for church, but we believe God has led them to come to church. The Café and The Patio are tools in our grand experiment on what church is and can be in southwest Houston.”