When Rolando Rodriquez was a kid, he breathed soccer, and it changed his life. It's through a game of soccer that he met a missionary kid who shared about the love of Jesus with him. Through this, Rodriquez chose to follow Christ and the gospel flowed to his family as well.
Fast forward to three years ago. Rodriguez was pastoring Cockrell Hill Baptist Church in Dallas. Rodriquez became friends with the coach for the El Salvador national soccer team who was living in the area then. He shared about the hope of Christ with him and it changed his life. Soon after this, the coach approached Rodriquez and wanted to serve in the church. All he knew was soccer so he offered to begin a soccer school at the field outside the church, making it a way for the church to connect to families in the community.
The soccer school grew very quickly where there were 100 children involved on several nights each week and playing games on the field each Saturday. The church decided to host a soccer tournament instead of hold its normal activities one Sunday, allowing more of the families and kids to gather. More than 100 members volunteered to help with the tournament, which drew more than 1,000 people from the community.
"Our normal activities on a Sunday morning were moved to the soccer field, and we did some radical things during that time," said Rodriquez.
The tournament was held from 8 in the morning until 8 at night, and Rodriquez shared a message between each game, sharing the hope of Christ with those from the community who came that day.
But the soccer ministry didn't stop there. The tournament went so well that Rodriquez began to think towards the World Cup soccer tournament that would happen in a few months.
Anyone who loves soccer looks forward to the World Cup and the church wanted to use this to connect with their community. Because many members from the church and community are from Mexico, the church wanted to host a watching party to cheer for the Mexican national soccer team.
The game fell on a Sunday so the church decided hold services in a different way that day, making it where they could invite their friends and family from the community to be part of the church and game.
"The first time when Mexico played, it was at 10 in the morning," Rodriquez said. "We were facing the challenge of having a regular service and maybe even our members were not going to attend. So what we did was promote the game to put it on the big screen at the church. That way our members came with their families and friends. At half time, we had praise and worship and door prizes. And at the end, I preached and had an invitation. It was a great success."
Because the church was willing to move beyond its typical structure and think outside of the box about how to use the empty field it owned next to the building, God blessed the efforts and they say people begin relationships with Him.
"It's part of understating the culture of our Hispanic community. And I know if I want to reach them, I will reach them in their own world. And soccer is big to them. And I want to be in the middle of that," Rodriguez said.
The next World Cup is in June 2014. If you want to learn how to use soccer and the World Cup to reach out to your community, contact Rodriguez at Rolando.firstname.lastname@example.org.