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Shenandoah man looks to start youth-oriented church

By Preston Knight -- Daily Staff Writer

MT. JACKSON -- Justin Franich fell, then climbed, and now is looking to move north.

A joint public hearing of the Mt. Jackson Planning Commission and Town Council is scheduled March 2 at 7 p.m. on a special-use permit for a new church, Freedom Outreach and Worship Center, to operate at 6043 Broad St. Franich, a youth pastor at Calvary Assembly of God in Staunton, will pastor the church.

The worship center will cater to teens and young adults, a demographic that Franich, 23, thinks that he can relate to best. Spending five years addicted to crystal meth, from the ages of 14 to 19, actually got him to this point, he said.

"In my teachings, I try to be as relevant as possible," Franich said. "I've been through a lot in my own life. ... Three or four years ago, I didn't think I'd still be alive today."

With the help of Teen Challenge, a national program designed to meet the needs of people with addictions, he said he saved his life. Franich's father, John, is the executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Teen Challenge, based in Staunton. Justin Franich is the program director.

The local Teen Challenge chapter is covering the starting costs for Freedom Outreach, he said. This will enable the worship center to put additional focus on a younger congregation, he said.

"I have a heart for the younger generation," Franich said. "A lot of churches, they miss it. A lot of youth have been neglected."

The church, if officials approve the special-use permit, would start with Friday night services, perhaps as early as the spring. Franich said the Broad Street building, a former Assembly of God church, has seating for about 100 people. Services will be informal -- tables and chairs will replace pews -- and include contemporary music.

Mayor Joe Williams said Friday that two areas of personal concern he wants to make sure are addressed are how loud the music might be and how much traffic is added to the area.

"Everybody deserves a church, I'm not knocking that," he said. "It all depends what time of day [for the music]."

Franich's wife, Ashley, also will work at the church. She has a degree in children's ministry and is expecting the couple's first child.

When the local district of Assembly of God churches asked Franich to move to Mt. Jackson, he jumped at the opportunity. Franich wants to make Christianity a lifestyle among children and young adults while at the same time welcoming anyone who feels the need to worship.

"We want to do church differently," he said. "People around my age, I've been to a few churches where that's their focus and you've always got 40-, 50-, 60-year-olds who love that energy."

For more information, visit www.freedomoutreach.info.

Contact Preston Knight at pknight@nvdaily.com



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