St. Stephen buys historic west Louisville church with hopes of drawing millennial and youth crowd
It's being called the church of the future with flat screens, video games and stained glass windows -- and the congregation hopes it will draw a crowd of people who haven't been coming: Millennials.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A church building with nearly 100 years of history in Louisville is being brought back to life for the city's future generations.
St. Stephen Church, located at the corner of South 15th Street and West Kentucky Streets purchased the old Youngs Chapel A.M.E. building at the corner of 16th and St. Catherine Streets.
"We kind of just rebuilt this entire building," said Jordan Yuodis, 28, of St. Stephen Church. "This will be a multi-function place, from church services one day, to a concert, to a wedding, to a repast."
Workers from St Stephen replaced the ceiling tiles, laid new flooring and carpets and repainted the entire building. Planes are to use the Youngs Chapel campus for millennials and youth services.
"You know, people my age don't go to church," Yuodis said. "So we're hoping with this building, and the technology and media in this building, and the millennial presence in this building, that will bring kids essentially to church."
The building bridges the old and the new -- with stained glass windows lighting the sanctuary -- but you won't find any pews. We're told that the space was designed so that, when it's not being used for a church service, it can serve as a safe location for millennials and youth events.
"Big screens in this walls behind me...they'll be able to play games on there," Yuodis said. "TV's downstairs. They will be able to have movie nights."
It's the kind of fun in faith that Therese Baker remembers from her childhood days at Youngs Chapel.
"Oh my god, it was amazing," Baker said. "You had to get there early to get a seat in the church."
Youngs Chapel merged with St. Paul, and now worship in Ralph Avenue AME church due greatly in part to declining and older membership.
"To go from a 500-plus membership -- it really did something to me, and to see that happening -- it was a sad situation," Baker said.
A study from the Pew Research Center found more than one-third of millennials now say they are unaffiliated with any faith, up 10 percentage points from 2007.
St. Stephen praised its new building's roots, naming the campus the St. Stephen Youngs Chapel Performance Hall.
"I'm glad it was able to be utilized for something in the community," Baker said.
St Stephen has Kentucky's largest black church population in the region, with a membership of more than 10,000. There are six services between three campuses in Louisville, southern Indiana and Hardin County.
The church's senior pastor, Rev. Dr. Kevin W. Cosby, also serves as president of Simmons College of Kentucky.
St. Stephens hopes to complete the renovation and reopen Youngs Chapel in January.
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