Wisconsin-Based Ministry to Launch The Nation’s First Youth Mall

by | Jul 31, 2004 | Charisma Archive

Organizers say the Appleton, Wis., shopping and activity center will help churches reach out to teens in their community
In 1954 Appleton, Wis., opened the nation’s first fully enclosed shopping mall. Now, 50 years later, the Valley Fair Mall is getting a major makeover to become the nation’s first youth mall.


But this isn’t some corporate leech trying to tap into the $90-per-week wad of cash the average teen spends. This is a faith-friendly, community-based effort that sees dollar signs as secondary.


“What good does it do to gain the world and lose your soul?” asks Dave Lehman, founder and executive director of the nonprofit YouthFutures, a faith-based community organization. “This could be very profitable, but that’s not our passion. We want to take that money and invest it in kids.”


The investment begins with the pending purchase of the dying Valley Fair Mall with an Aug. 21 Grand Reopening planned. “Part of the concept behind the mall is that there are 94,000 teens in this four-county region, and like a lot of other communities, there’s not that much for teens to do,” said CEO Greg Books, a former pastor and currently an elder at Evangel Worship Center in Menasha, Wisc.


“Teens really don’t have that much to do, and it’s a breeding ground for trouble,” Books said. “What we want to create is a venue where there’s entertainment choices–a skate park, theater, paintball, stores, food court, places to sit, a comedy house–there’s just a plethora of choices, but none of those choices will get you into trouble.”


An inexpensive theater, skate park, PC gaming venue and hip-hop clothing store already are open, and other attractions should open their doors in time for the Grand Reopening. With an eye toward investing in teens, Books and Lehman describe their concept as a town square. Community involvement is essential and gives the church space beside government and commercial establishments.


“Richard John Newhouse wrote a series of books where he coined the phrase ‘naked public square,'” Books said. “And his concern was that in political debate and in public debate you can be involved no matter your motivation–unless that motivation is religious, and then you’re required to check your beliefs at the door as the price of getting into the square.”


YouthFutures wants its mall to be a place that welcomes faith. The plan calls for a major anchor to be Matt’s House, which will occupy a former Kohl’s department store, and offer a café, climbing wall, inflatable games, a recording studio and practice rooms, and more.


“Matt’s House is really a bridge for the churches into the community,” said Rob Strauss, president of Matt’s House and former pastor at Calvary Bible Church in Neenah, Wis. The name for Matt’s House comes from Matthew the disciple, who Strauss said essentially threw a party for his friends to introduce them to Jesus. Matt’s House isn’t its own church or youth group, but instead it is a point of contact for the 34 local churches involved.


While Matt’s House is a Christian-based tenant, organizers say the mall itself is more of a venue that allows faith to have a voice, distinguishing Valley Fair from other wholly Christian ventures, such as the Concord, N.C., mall owned and operated by First Assembly of God.


The whole idea is the brainchild of Lehman, who’s been mulling the prospect for more than 10 years. Three years ago he resigned from Appleton Community Evangelical Free Church to pursue the project full time. “Dave showed me the concept on the back of an envelope–that’s where all great ideas are birthed,” Books said.


So far Lehman and Books aren’t alone in thinking this is a great idea. At least 13 corporate donors have signed on with substantial gifts. Appleton Mayor Timothy M. Hanna and U.S. Congressman Mark Green are both on the YouthFutures board of advisers. The Chris Farley Foundation plans to open the Chris Farley Comedy House at the mall. Teens have signed up as well, eagerly joining a Teen Advisory Board and committing to raise $250,000 for the mall themselves.


And the youth mall concept doesn’t end in Appleton. Said Books: “There are literally hundreds of cities that have that same combination of a dead or dying mall, a teen population with nothing to do, and a strong, vibrant faith community.”
Kevin D. Hendricks in Appleton, Wis.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

It’s a question I frequently hear. It’s one I’ve asked. And maybe it’s one you’ve asked, too. The question is, “God, why did You give this to me?” This can be any number of issues, from emotional or psychological struggles to symptoms or sicknesses, disabilities or...

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

I sense it. And I perceive a growing number of people in massive proportions sense the increasing momentum of power and might worldwide. Something is on the horizon—something more eerie and ominous than what the people of the world have ever before experienced. Even...

Curt Landry: 6 Ways to Open Your Heart and Mind to God’s Voice

Curt Landry: 6 Ways to Open Your Heart and Mind to God’s Voice

We are told that we must listen to God’s voice when we need to make important decisions. What does the Bible say about hearing God’s voice? How do we apply this to our everyday lives? 7 Bible Verses About Hearing God’s Voice “So then faith comes by hearing, and...

Abortion Restrictions Don’t ‘Force Religion’ on Women

Abortion Restrictions Don’t ‘Force Religion’ on Women

After the Supreme Court ruled last week 6-3 that there is no constitutional right to abortion, pro-life supporters cheered while angry pro-choice activists took to the streets to denounce the decision. Abortion advocates carried placards and shouted slogans such as...

Prophetic Word: The Books Are Open and the Scales Have Tipped

Prophetic Word: The Books Are Open and the Scales Have Tipped

As we were coming into the month of June, the halfway point of the year, the Lord began to speak to me that we are at a tipping point. How we position and posture ourselves in this month will set the tone for the next six months. A tipping point is a series of small...

Prophecy: The Spirit of Delusion on America Will Come Crashing Down

Prophecy: The Spirit of Delusion on America Will Come Crashing Down

A lot has transpired in the last few weeks in America. With the reversal of Roe vs. Wade and the decisions on abortion reverting back to the states, many have mistaken abortion as a Constitutional right. The Supreme Court’s ruling is a sign that God is breaking...

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

One of the most amazing facts about the Founding Fathers of our nation is this: The one referred to as the "voice" of the revolution (John Adams) and the one referred to as the "pen" of the revolution (Thomas Jefferson) both died on the same day—July 4, 1826—exactly...

RECENT ARTICLES

Charismatic Christian Spreads Spirit-Filled Hope, Boldness and Truth to the U.S. House of Representatives

One of the most high-profile, outspoken, freedom-fighting and influential conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives is a Spirit-filled, Charismatic Christian. Colorado Rep. Lauren...
Are You Being Trapped by This Wily Scheme of the Enemy?

Are You Being Trapped by This Wily Scheme of the Enemy?

A predator ensnares his prey with a trap meant to weaken and disarm the life so easily enticed by the bait set before it. Once the predator catches his prey, his goal is to steal, kill and destroy. Do you know this is exactly what the enemy is trying to do to you...

3 Things God Can’t Do

3 Things God Can’t Do

 Most people will be surprised and may even gasp at that statement. You mean there are some things God can't do? Yes, it’s true. He can do anything except for these three things. {eoa} Bill and Annette Wiese founded Soul Choice Ministries in 2000 for the purpose of...

What Is the Difference Between Revelation and Understanding?

What Is the Difference Between Revelation and Understanding?

“I got a word from the Lord, but I don’t understand it.” “I’m feeling called in this direction, but I’m waiting for full understanding before I act on it.” These and statements like them are common during that all-too-familiar waiting time between a word being given...

Kingdom Economics: When Things Don’t Go as Expected

Kingdom Economics: When Things Don’t Go as Expected

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Before the invasion, many—probably most—Western analysts expected the war to last from a few days to a few weeks due to Russia’s vastly superior military might. However, the Ukrainians surprised everyone. Due to the bravery...

Why There is Power in Your Song

Why There is Power in Your Song

Do you have a great voice? If so, then sing! Do you have a horrible voice? If so, then sing! There is power in the song. God gave you your vocal cords, voice and ability to sing. There has never been a culture in which music was not part of society. We see music...

How Would an Encounter in Heaven Transform Your Life?

How Would an Encounter in Heaven Transform Your Life?

Have you ever wondered what heaven was like? What does a person see and experience when they are in heaven? Is the arrival in immediate when a believer dies? These are great questions and ones that Rabbi Felix Halpern can answer. A mix-up in medicine brought about a...

Pin It on Pinterest

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]