Franchise Of Faith Draws Teens

There's an image from the Columbine High School shooting that lingers in our collective memory, a teen gunman asking one of his victims if she believes in God and she says "yes."

It's a story that captures the power of teen-age faith, something The Early Show Reporter Katy Abel traveled to the Bible Belt to explore.
It may come as a surprise to baby boomer parents, as many have rejected their own religious upbringing, but some of today's teens are attracted to what the church has to offer, in a whole new way of worship.

Every Wednesday night Daniel joins more than 1,500 other Tulsa, Okla., teens at a sports and video arcade, which is not at the local mall but at the local church.

Daniel plays, and then he prays. "I came for the girls and basketball," he says. "And then eventually I saw God after it, and I just felt like, man, I'm here for God. This is so much bigger than anything I imagined," he says.

It's the Hard Rock Cafe of the Christian evangelical movement, only this youth-ministry-turned franchise is doing it the name of the Lord.

"We're certainly not in it for the same reason that McDonald's is franchising," notes Pastor Blaine.

The program is called 180 to symbolize the turnaround intended.

"At 14 years old, I was very hard core into drugs," says Daniel. "I did acid and stuff. It's not something that I'm proud of. It took a year and a half for the word of God to hit me. And when it did, it hit me hard."

Almost 100 churches nationwide have paid $5,000 each for the right to use the 180 formula.

"We're not trying to make money on it; we're just trying to spread effective youth ministry across the nation," Pastor Blaine adds.

Each week thousands of teens flock to 180 headquarters, attracted by the free arcade, video games, pool tables, basketball courts and the saving of souls.

Teens say the two-tiered approach works.

"Being in this kind of atmosphere makes me feel like, you know, no one's going to judge me," says Carlisha.

"There are a lot [of] kids that come here today that would not be accepted in a traditional church, because of the way they dress, the type of music they may listen to, the way they act, the way they talk," notes Jason.

"God didn't say: 'Come as you should be,'" Donny points out. "He said, 'Come as you are.'"

Given the search for self among teen-agers, 180's appeal isn't surprising.

"To be part of a community that says unapologetically and unashamedly, 'This is who we are; we are Christians,' that has a clarity that is very helpful in claiming the identity of teen-agers," explains Kenda Dean, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary.

"There is no real right and wrong out there today, and a lot of what Blaine teaches and what Pastor George isÂ…, there's black, white, right and wrong," says Donny.

It's a clear message in a complex wrld, giving some teens a reason to believe.

"I want to ask Christ into my life tonight. I want to be saved. I want to be born again," cries one girl at the altar.

These teens are given another incentive for getting closer to Christ: Bring enough of your friends to 180 and you'll get a cash reward or a ride home from school in a classic car.

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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