For several years the Sugar Tree Ridge Church of Christ has quietly held summer events for local kids like a Vacation Bible School featuring NFL and NBA players, including one year when 22 kids were baptized, according to church minister Rob Rhodes.
But this year the church decided to go bigger, and with help from several other area churches, has planned the End of Summer Back to School BBQ for 4-8 p.m. (or longer if people linger) Sunday, Aug. 15 at Bright Elementary School.
It will feature entertainment by alt-country band 64 to Grayson, lots of food, games and spiritual messages with the chance for attendees to be baptized on-site.
Rhodes, who has been friends with 64 to Grayson’s Zack Shelton for several years including times when they held home Bible studies together in Northern Kentucky, said this is the Sugar Tree Ridge church’s first attempt at a multi-church event.
”We decided we needed to do something to get guys back involved in the ministry. We just sort of ran with it and then it became about breaking down the walls of every church,” Rhodes said. “We started contacting other churches and were greeted with a great response.”
The event will start with a message from Rhodes explaining what the event is about, followed by food, games and entertainment, then a final “call to Christ” from John Russell with the Russell School of Ministry.
“One of my big passions was that everything is for free,” Rhodes said. “You come and listen to the music and enjoy getting to know your Savior.”
The event is open to anyone. Rhodes said he has no idea how many people will show up, but the hope is that the event will grow each year to include more vendors and more people in attendance.
“I hope we have 1,000 people. I hope it blows our socks off. I hope we run out of food. I hope we run out of water,” Rhodes said.
Churches involved so far include the Sugar Tree Ridge Church of Christ, Mowrystown Church of Christ, Russellville Church of Christ, Union Church of Christ, Sardinia Church of Christ, Living Springs Community Church and Mowrystown Presbyterian Church. Each one kicked in $1,000.
Rhodes said other churches have expressed interest, but he hasn’t had time to get back to everyone.
“I hope we realize we’re one giant family in the Lord,” he said.
Greg Cunningham, the bass player for 64 to Grayson, is the music director at the Sardinia Church of Christ, Rhodes said.
Sugar Tree Ridge Church of Christ member Brandon Barr and his Big B’s Barr-B-Q will be offering barbecue, pulled pork, hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, potatoes, green beans, desserts and more. There will be another vendor or two and Kona Ice will be on hand, according to Rhodes.
The event will be mostly outside with the band playing at tent with seating for 200 people. But Rhodes said there will also be access to the school gym and cafeteria.
“In my heart, I’m an open person and I think the church traditionally has had this hypocritical view of the world,” Rhodes said. “That’s not the way it should be. Church should be fun, positive, welcoming, and we want everyone to come as you are, no matter who you are, and let us show you who Jesus Christ is.”
According to its website, 64 to Grayson was, “Voted one of the Top 20 Most Prospective Groups by Music Connection Magazine. Zack Shelton and 64 to Grayson are no strangers to the stage. Having played over 1,000 events as headliners and sharing the stage with names like The Charlie Daniels Band, The Gaithers, and Josh Turner, Zack and company breathe live music. The group’s means of dousing rhythmic energy, lyrical wit, and connective personality into every event fills crowds with that warm and toasty sugar rush you get from a few too many s’mores… You know what we’re talking about.
“The band’s alt-country sounds blended together during their college years in Grayson, KY, where the only thing they had in common was they each took I-64 to Grayson (a nod to the band’s name). With a hankering to share their faith in God, love for people, and passion for music, Zack Shelton and 64 to Grayson took to the road with a bumper sticker shouting ‘Grayson Found, Nashville Sound, Heaven Bound.’”
“Come and have a good time at Christ’s expense,” Rhodes said. “We want to be a light in this Covid darkness.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.