(The Nation) -- On a Sunday morning in July, a stream of cars motors up the scrub-oak-lined roadway that leads to Apopka High School. Passing under a marquee sign with Chick-fil-A: Outstanding Partner in Ed spelled out in black letters, they pull into the parking lot. Single adults, families and groups of teens gather in the school auditorium’s spacious vestibule. Two adolescent boys, one wearing a sports jersey and the other a Confederate-flag T-shirt, linger for a few moments by their truck before making their way inside.
At 10 am, the crowd files into the auditorium to hear the Gospel. Every Sunday, Apopka High School turns into Venue Church. Its motto: “Partnering with schools and communities to serve students and families to gain the privilege of sharing the love of Jesus for eternal impact.”
Venue now operates inside three public schools in Orange County, Florida, including Apopka, and it has no plans to leave. Indeed, the church proudly announces its goal: “To plant a congregation in every Central Florida school zone in the next 10 years.”
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Todd Lamphere, Venue’s co-founder and pastor, is listed as the school football team’s “life coach.” His church organizes numerous “mission trips” for students. “We think about the students here who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior,” Lamphere tells the crowd, “and that’s awesome!”