SHIRLEY — Looking for something to do this Saturday night? The United Church of Shirley at 4 Lancaster Road is the happening place to be on Feb. 19 from 8 to 10:30, and twice a month thereafter, same time and place.
Kenny Woodward, the parish’s youth minister, is hosting the teen gathering.
The event launches a series of teen parties set for the first and third of every month.
The aim is to offer a safe, welcoming place in town for young people to get together, said Pastor Stephen Nyakairu. “It’s something for them to do.”
Woodward puts in more teen-oriented terms, describing a “teen hangout” with a party atmosphere, “cool party lighting” and loud music.
Admission is free and so is the food, snacks, soft drinks and pizza. The pizza was donated by three local restaurants: The Cottage and Devens Pizza, both in Ayer and Village Pizza in Shirley.
Teens will find plenty to do with a variety of arcade-style games. The inventory includes pool, ping-pong, air hockey, mini-basketball, Wii, Play Station 2 and board games.
Woodward grew up in Shirley. He attended a Christian college in Tennessee, where he pursued pastoral studies. After graduating, he spent a year and a half in Connecticut and recently moved back home, he said. He works for Habitat for Humanity, Lowell region, and is currently working on a project in Groton.
His goal is to reach out to teens, Woodward said, but these gatherings will be less about mission and more about fun, hanging out.
Pastor Stephen gets that. But he is, after all, older than Woodward and a tad more formal. “There will be some teaching,” he said. But mostly the Gateway gathering will be a social affair, complete with lights and music. Woodward organized it himself, décor and all. “I can’t even recognize the hall,” which has been decorated for the event, he said.
Organizers have been getting the word out via fliers posted around town, a banner outside the church and handing out trendy rubber wrist bands. “We’re also selling T-shirts with the Gateway logo on the back, Woodward said.
As the Saturday night teen events continue, he said organizers are always looking for help, donations such as food and games, for example. “We want to make this a community youth thing, not like coming to church,” Woodward said.