The Dream Begins
In 1998, youth from First United Methodist Church and their youth director Ken Dossett had their minds set on creating a place where Christian youth could hang out, invite their friends, and introduce them to a God who loves them and cares for them. They spent a year and a half praying over numerous locations, hoping someone with property would see their vision. One person did: Pat Roark. When Ken Dossett called him about his warehouse on Park Street and explained their dream, Pat said he felt God move. When Ken asked if the youth could use his warehouse and gut the building, he immediately said, “Yes.” On a cold February night that excited group met at 122 S. Park and dreamed of a skate park and a coffee house. Their minds were set on transforming an old warehouse into their dream. When the group met to tour the property, stenciled on the outside brick was a sign that demonstrated they were in the right place – painted in white letters was 122 S. Park, a perfect address for a skate park!
The Work Begins
A week-and-a-half after the tour, Ken Jason Hope was released from First United Methodist Church. God was moving in an unexpected way. A month later in March of 1998, On The Rock Ministries was incorporated as a 501(c)3 organization and laid claim to the building now known as The Rock. Board members, Joe and Sheryl Kaufman, Tuck and Jai Archer, Alan and Rhonda Freeman, Roger and Dixie McClain, Bob and Nancy Farmer, Mark and Theresa Springer, Harris and Judy Moreland, Pat and Louise Roark, and Gordon Banks, signed on to believe in a vision that couldn’t be seen with any physical eyes. Ken Dossett was hired as the full time director and the only employee. The turn-of-the-century warehouse, donated by Pat and Louise Roark, was gutted and demolished on the inside by 50 youth and adults who spent their spring break filling industrial size dumpsters full of debris. Bobby Hindman, local construction company owner, spent the week working side-by-side with amateurs to lead us through some crucial moments of demolition.
The board, determined to be a debt-free ministry, set their sights next on raising funds for renovations. Becca Ambler with Ambler Architecture lent her expertise and found a friendly structural engineer to evaluate the soundness of the building. She walked us through the first few steps of designing the building for ministry. Ambler Architecture would later provide blueprints and David Van Horn signed on as our contractor to see the project through to completion.
The Teen Board Begins
The first official Teen Board meeting was held April 10, 1998. Quan Nguyen, Brent Cameron, Tommy Farmer, Sean Dossett, Laurie Martin, Shelly Kaufman, Jake Franklin, Jeremy Lenertz, Sarah MacIlvaine, Kelly Dossett, Jamie Farmer, Jessica King, and Linda Blackburn were in attendance. They made a list of ideal characteristics that a teen board member should have that included: a sold out Christian, puts God first in their life, has a servant attitude, growing in their relationship with Christ, honors parents, regularly attends church, and shows a loving attitude. Other youth would join the Teen Board that year: Dallas Hindman, Eric Cooper, Nick Buitink, Lori Railsback, Justin Shearer, Rachel Kent, Julie Bullock, Shonna Baragia, Eric and Ryan Starr, Justin and Lauren Milner, Becke and Daniel Walker, Joel Weichbrodt, Kelly Tierney, and Andie Morrison. In May they traveled to Carrollton, Texas, to network with Covenant Church youth to plan Rockfest and ventured to Kansas City to tour coffee houses and gather ideas for The Rock.
The Ministry Begins
The summer of 1998 brought two summer interns: Bryan Hindman and Brad Bandy, and an onslaught of activities in preparation for the first Rockfest. The city delivered bad news as we prepared for the event. We would no longer be allowed in the building because construction was not complete. So how do you put on a major city-wide event without a building, stage, seating, speaker system, or a sizeable budget? Amazingly God provided through the generosity of numerous community members.
First, the event moved outside the building to Park Street. Dave Hammond at Adams Blvd. Church of Christ lent us folding chairs, which eventually they donated and to this day are still used. Chairs don’t sound like a big deal, but when you don’t have any seating, other than a bunch of timbers pulled out of the building during demolition, seating is crucial. Danny Hill, a stranger to the staff and board at The Rock, knocked on the door of the office and wondered if we needed any help with the event and specifically asked if we needed a sound system. Since the staff had just discovered that renting sound was out of the question, this offer was like pure manna from heaven. A projector was the next offer that came from a new found friend, Curtis Meade, who pastored a small church and was looking for a home for a projector.
What is a Christian youth event without music? Geno Walker, his band, and Jarod Elmore provided worship that resonated throughout the streets of Bartlesville that night, and Gordon Banks, former wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys and nationally known pastor and his wife, Derozette, delivered a powerful message that is still remembered. “Don’t despise small beginnings,” Gordon advised the crowd of about 400 the first night of Rockfest. As Banks spoke at OTRM’s first annual youth event held outside the building on Park Street, he compared the story of Gideon and his 300 men that took on an army of thousands to the small group of OTRM supporters and believers that were overcoming mounting doubt and disbelief. In July 1998, The Rock, the 6,600-square-foot brick building still didn’t look like much. Renovations had barely begun. Air-conditioning/heating, bathrooms, and offices were just a thought on paper and many funds were left to be raised.
Inside Construction Begins
Throughout the summer and into October, Summit, a program for high school students, was held outside the building each Thursday night. Miraculously, Thursday night was never rained out, but cold weather was coming. Jason Elmore and Encouraging Word Church offered their facilities for Summit until construction on the building was up to code for occupancy. An office was maintained in the building with a port-a-potty outside. Becke Walker (Rakes) signed on as our first full-time intern for gas money. Every mural in the building is evidence of Becke’s then new-found love of the Lord and her talent. A few months later in November of 1998, a Construction Tour and Thanksgiving Open House was held to show the progress that was taking shape. Framework for offices, bathrooms, and a loft were in place. Board members and supporters prayed for funding so that the ministry could finally occupy the building.
A Skate Board was formed to assist in the planning of the skate park. Parents and youth signed on to help: Rebecca Bush, Karen Nunneley, Cynthia Brammer (Defehr), Jenny Rush, Philip Van De Verg, Todd Stahley, Bruce Sievers, Justin Marshall, Greg Van De Verg, Mike Wheat, Travis Franks, Jerry Goolsbey, Josh Sievers, Daniel Murray, John Nunneley, Josh Nunneley, Joel Howell, Ken Standish, Tommy Nace, Carl Tedrick, Sean Dossett, and Brian Nixon. The four-foot half pipe was built first and placed on a flatbed and transported to Frank Phillips Blvd for a Hot Summer Nights event. Skaters spent a Saturday afternoon testing out the ramp. These initial supporters were instrumental in laying the foundation for the nine-year old park. One of the oldest on-going indoor skate parks in the state of Oklahoma.
Ministry Inside the Building Begins
In February 1999, Summit, moved inside The Rock for the first time. In spring of 1999, the skate park, the first in Bartlesville, opened on Memorial Day weekend to a packed crowd of anxious skaters looking for a home to practice their skills. Jeremy “Toad” Lenertz took over as our first skate park manager followed later by Casey Smith, Kyle Emert, Travis Rakes, and Rodney Williams. Each manager brought a special touch to the ministry. Jeremy tread where no one had gone before, trying to figure out a way to reach skaters that were only interested in one thing – skating. He frequently was asked why we didn’t turn the whole building into a skate park, and he often caught kids attempting to do just that. Casey was known to combine guitar playing barefoot with skate park duties. Kyle was the first full-time skate park manager. He organized several skate competitions, supervised a very successful trip to North Carolina that included a skate demo, and founded the skate shop. Travis juggled several responsibilities in addition to skate park management including office management and bookkeeping.
One year after the skate park’s opening in May 2000, over 600 skaters had registered to skate at The Rock; today, The Rock has over 1,700 skaters registered to skate. The park was originally opened five days a week during the summer and closed on Wednesdays and Sundays for church. It’s now open four days a week for after-school programs, one night a week for skate team practice and on Saturdays for open recreation.
The Coffee House with a small stage opened in the Spring of 2000 thanks to the help of Dennis McKinnley and his son who spent many hours planning and completing the design and carpentry. Shadowalk was one of the first bands to appear in the Coffee House.
And the Ministry Continues
Today over 2,600 youth are registered to participate in programs that take place five days a week and include three after-school programs for third grade through high school age students. Monthly attendance averages around 1,400 and the staff consists of two full-time employees and five part-time staff. The building has been maximized to its fullest potential.
Since those meager beginnings scores of leaders have been developed, nurtured and moved on to other ministries around the world. Some examples follow:
1998 – 2001 Bryan Hindman, an administrator at Grace Community Church in Bartlesville
1998, 2007 Becke Walker Rakes, missionary to Thailand, Camp Rock Director
1999 – 2000 Jeremy Lenertz, youth pastor in Saginaw, Michigan
1999 Mike Copeland, full time missionary to Muslims in Asia
1999 – 2002 Em Kaczinski Johnson volunteer at Outreach Ministry in Kitchener, Ontario
2000 Jessica King, worship leader in Chile for a year
2000 Eric Starr, church planting in Bakersfield, California
2000 Ryan Starr, full-time pastor and Cross Country Coach for Milligan College
2000 Stephanie Bowles Hicks, teacher Fayetteville, Arkansas
2002 Krystal Hamilton, Service Coordinator for people w/ Disabilities South Carolina
2001 Steve Little, YWAM Missions Leader and now Go Ministries Missions Leader
2002 – 2004 Travis Rakes, Church Leader for three years Mannford UMC
Former Volunteers and Alumni
1998 Kelly Dossett White, nurse and short term missionary, Norman, Oklahoma
1998 Jason Miller, worship leader, Fayetteville, Arkansas
1998 Sarah MacIlvaine, outreach worker for homeless shelter, currently mother-to-be London, England
2000 Jamie Farmer, teacher, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
2001 Quan Nguyen, doctor-to-be, Tulsa, Oklahoma
2002 Dana Naegle Kramer, mentor outreach worker Source Ministries, Minnesota
2002 Laura Green, social worker Norman, Oklahoma
2002 Whitney Larkin, missionary to Russian orphanage
2001 Josh and Dominique Baker, missionaries to Brazil
2000 Rodney Williams, Skate Park Manager, On The Rock Ministries
2004 Andy Dossett, Program Director, On The Rock Ministries
2006 Kadilyn Suggs, Camp Rock volunteer and Director, full time student
Along with a host of former interns, hundreds of volunteers have donated money and time in order to touch thousands of youth in the Bartlesville area.
A great deal of credit is due to those who first believed in the ministry when there was nothing tangible to believe in… No building, no bank account, no visible signs of ministry, and yet people believed in the vision, in the hope. Those first believers planted seeds that have taken root and grown into a ministry that we hope will endure far past the founding members of all the boards and all the interns and staff.
A couple of years after we opened, an old friend came by to see how The Rock was developing, the first comment she made was, “Look what God has done because I know you couldn’t do this.” We hope that’s what people will see in The Rock – That God can take our broken lives and our hopeless situations and work miracles. If He can take an old broken down youth director and a bunch of kids with no money and turn that into a ministry that has endured for ten years and that has touched thousands of lives, he can do anything. And the good news is we don’t think God is finished with us yet, and so we continue to press on.