Special Contributor - Pastor, Bogata UMC
Church finds that if you build a community softball league, young adults will come
Who would have thought that a church whose members average 72 in age could grow through playing softball?
Well, God did of course!
First UMC Bogata was like many churches in the North Texas Conference, an aging church with a colorful history but a shaky future. But this was one small-town church that was not going to settle for fading into the history books.
Instead, this body of Christ reached out into the community to make a difference. In fall 2010, members began a churchwide conversation that included the question:
What is God asking us to do to accomplish even more?
One of the ideas that emerged was to offer a co-ed softball season for the young adults and families of Bogata and the surrounding areas.
The dream was to play a summer season using the high school field. The church hoped to get at least four teams to coordinate a solid rotation for the small league. Well, the church ended up with eight teams and more than 200 people each Sunday afternoon on the ball field.
Not a bad crowd when you consider that Bogata only has a shade over 1,000 residents.
By the end of that first season, the ministry was expanded and the Bogata Athletics Association was born.
In August 2011, the association held its first meeting and began to dream of a field to be used for year-round games. Once again, this little church moved into action. Under the direction of Duane and Martha Bryson and Kris and Cortney Lawson, an abandoned high school softball field was found, secured, and cleared.
“The Lord could not have talked to Duane or me any more than He has with this softball association. I am just blown out of the ballpark every time I go down there and see what has been accomplished,” said Martha Bryson.
“Yes, we have grown very weary in the chores at times. But oh, my goodness, just look at what is going on in Bogata, Texas, on Sunday afternoons!”
Besides families having fun, the field is bringing the community together. Many of the local churches participate and even pitch in on improvements on the field.
“We have created a little bit of heaven out here,” said Duane Bryson. “If we have created something that our young people can enjoy and they can take this on for themselves, then we have really done something.”
As a result, the young people of Bogata are discovering that God exists not just in historic edifices called sanctuaries but also on the ball field.
The church has attracted more young adults, and they are stepping into leadership roles.
By thinking inside the batter’s box, this little church in Bogata is not so little anymore.