For the past ten years, The Heights Baptist Church has enjoyed an on-going partnership in the Park Central Area of North Dallas. This area, as defined by The Heights, is located in the shadows of the Northwest quadrant of the High 5 interchange of I-635 and I-75. In this densely populated area, nearly 17,000 folks live in 40-plus apartment complexes. This area is 93 percent Hispanic and nearly the entire population falls below the poverty line.
The church began with a simple apartment ministry in one apartment complex hosting some kid’s events and giving away some food to some folks who desperately needed it. This ministry flourished as relationships were built and the resident’s physical and spiritual needs were being met.
This ministry faced a significant identity crises when our team learned that the apartment complex in which we were serving was going to be razed to make way for new development. In one conversation, we lost the very thing that we felt God led us to. The leadership team still felt God’s leadership to stay and serve the residents of this community, but the loss of our home base led to some sobering conversation as to the direction of this ministry.
During this time, a decision was made to conduct a formal needs assessment of this community to help us form a strategy to partner with the residents of the community. One of the glaring needs that came out of this survey was the need for organized sports programs. Moreover, soccer was identified as the sport of choice.
Conversations quickly ensue with Richardson East Rotary Club, The YMCA of Richardson and Richardson Independent School District. A partnership was eventually formed with The Heights and these three organizations. As a result, the Park Central Soccer League was created.
The soccer league is the first ever organized sport league in this community and is specifically designed to serve its residents. The YMCA has been incredibly gracious in organizing and leading this effort. Rotary has blessed us with the financial resources to make the league a reality and RISD is allowing us to use their facilities for practices and games.
The Heights has the wonderful opportunity in providing coaches and volunteers for the league. In addition, The Heights hosts a hospitality center for the families and players each game night. This hospitality center gives us an opportunity to meet others in this community and introduce them to The Heights. Conversations about Christ have occurred as a direct result of this league and this hospitality center.
This effort would not be possible without the above organizations coming together. There is no way just one group could make it happen. This league is allowing athletes and their families to be introduced to the gospel of Christ and in a real, tangible and relational way. We are now reaching a different group within this community that we never had an audience with before. God is allowing soccer to be the conduit in which His Kingdom is spread.
By Richard Covington, the Serve pastor at The Heights Baptist Church in Richardson.