An After-School Place for Children with Tough Situations
Grace Kids is a church for children who live in a depressed, high-crime area of Louisville. Many of the children have little supervision, come from challenging situations, and have no support systems. These “Adverse Childhood Experience” (ACE) children are the foundation of Grace Kids.
How it Got Started:
In June 2013 Corey Nelson was appointed as the pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in South Louisville. Over the next four years, he developed a thriving ministry dedicated to “the least, the lost, and the last” called “Heathen Church.” They counted among their charge drug addicts, gang bangers, prostitutes, alcoholics, the homeless, and more children than they knew what to do with.
One Thursday shortly after Pastor Corey arrived, he joined a group of kids sitting in the shade, and he learned that there was nothing for kids to do: the park was unsafe, the Boys and Girls Club had closed, and the pool had been bulldozed. He invited them come to the church the next day for a movie and popcorn. Thirty children showed up and since that day, when there were cars in the parking lot for the adult programs, children filled the church.
In spring 2016 they had a roster of over 200 at-risk children and youth. In the spring of 2017, Pastor Corey “finally worked up the courage to act on what God had been showing me for the previous four years,” he says. “I had toyed with the idea in those early days of what a church devoted to children would look like. Now was the time to act.” He proposed closing Grace and Heathen Church and relaunching as a church devoted to the spiritual needs of children and youth. On September 5, 2017, “Grace Kids! A Church for Children” became a reality, and now they have programs for youth six days a week.
Pastor Corey still talks about the four siblings who came into Grace Kids in 2011, after their oldest sibling had died from a brain aneurysm. At the time, they were totally unruly and spiritually bankrupt. One girl, then 11, was dealing with emotional issues from suffering molestation. She was plagued with learning challenges, was in special education classes, and was regarded as an imbecile. Pastor Corey’s wife helped her with her homework and realized that the girl was actually quite bright, but she had no self confidence. Now 16, she is in regular classes and is on track for the honor roll. Pastor Corey keeps her report card on his refrigerator. Through Grace Kids, this young woman has overcome mountains and now wants to become a pastor.
“The Hangout” is open after school on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, offering a safe space where kids can get something to eat, get help with homework, play video games, and just hang out with the staff, volunteers, and other children.
Grace Kids has a craft room, an activity room, a computer lab, a game room, and a prayer chapel. A room can only be open if there is a volunteer available to staff it. “If we only have three volunteers, we have to choose three rooms that can be open, while the others remain locked.”
Every 1 Reads, on Wednesdays, is a partnership with Norton Hospital to build reading skills.
Disciple/Leadership Academy on Wednesdays battles low self esteem and low sense of value and places high expectations and high accountability on the children.
How You Can Help
Grace Kids needs adult volunteers (background check required), financial donations, and meals on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sunday mornings (see the website for “Meal Train” signup.)
To volunteer, contact Pastor Corey at firstname.lastname@example.org or here.
Extra tidbit: How you can support children who have moved to the United States.