Places to Play: A Pitch for Recreation and Mentorship
Sometimes innovative leaders just need a bit of affirmation that they are going in the right direction. For Pastor David Briggs, that is just what Launch 1.0 did.
The Courageous Leadership Imperative’s Launch 1.0 was a cooperative event with the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ) Foundations and Bishops that occurred in St. Louis last fall. Designed to create a network for dynamic leaders, expand imagination for what’s possible, and embolden courage, this event put 125 of the most creative young leaders in the SCJ in the same room for three days. Not surprisingly, their synergy unearthed some amazing ministry ideas.
As he considered applying to be a participant, he was captivated by the title so much that he decided he wanted to know how Launch 1.0 would take young clergy to the next level in terms of courage and leadership. He applied, was accepted, and headed to St. Louis.
Over the three-day event, participants pitched ideas to their table groups and each group selected one person to pitch on stage to everyone in attendance. David’s pitch was selected, and he wowed his clergy colleagues so much that he made it to the top three, earning his idea a small grant.
“My pitch was to build a recreation field or football field on our church’s property. In East Texas, football is very important, but in our section of town there is no public space designated for children to play ball,” David shared. “I believe we can make a gathering space where police officers play against young boys and build relationships with them. It can be a space where community members who do not normally come together have that opportunity.”
This idea didn’t develop out of thin air at Launch 1.0, of course. It had been percolating in David’s mind for a while, but being surrounded by colleagues who were also dreaming of impactful community projects was the encouragement he needed.
“Even before Launch 1.0, we had several meetings with community stakeholders, like principals, parents, and counselors. We held a local community meeting hosted by the city council and did focus groups, so we could learn the hopes and dreams of our community,” David noted. “We realized they were very concerned about the youth and children of our town. We also learned that there was no strategy in place to address their concerns.”
As they listened to their community, they decided they could meet some of these needs. By building a youth and children’s center first, they could offer mentoring, tutoring, and childcare. This would invest in young people, provide opportunities for nurturing them, and give space for discipling as well. Since the church has 10 acres, they are planning to add on a wing just for this purpose. Then in the long-term plan, they envision a football field where children and youth have a safe space to enjoy their favorite recreational activities. It has been a dream three years in the making, and Launch 1.0 gave David confirmation that this plan was part of their calling.
“I hope Abundant Life UMC in Lufkin is able to create a ministry designed for the community, where we share the compassion of Christ. The church and the community shouldn’t be strangers,” David said passionately. “One of the most meaningful things that happened at Launch 1.0 was standing in front of three impressive church buildings, all on the same corner, that had each closed. They were described as tombstones and reminders of what our future will be if we refuse to be relevant in our own neighborhoods, as they were. My goal for Abundant Life is that our town will feel the impact of the living gospel of Jesus Christ because of our ministry, so we are approaching discipleship with the wisdom of the community in our ear and the courage of the Holy Spirit pushing us forward.”