WACO—Nearly every fair weather day of the week, grassy soccer fields see an abundance of size three, cleat wearing little leaguers running back and forth while parents and siblings cheer from the sidelines.
Texas Baptists, in partnership with the Waco Regional Baptist Association and the Central Texas Hispanic Ministers Alliance, hosted a City Reach event called the Fiesta Familiar soccer tournament and festival on Sept. 27 as an effort to reach a community that admires soccer.
City Reach is conducted annually as an evangelism event in the host city for Texas Baptists' Annual Meeting. This year's meeting, themed "Live the Difference," will take place at the Waco Convention Center on Nov. 16-18.
At the soccer tournament, six teams comprised of children ages 6 to 11 competed for medals and trophies from 10:00 in the morning to 5:00 at night. As family members rallied together in the evening to celebrate their children's achievements at the trophy ceremony, Rolando Rodriguez, director of Hispanic ministry for Texas Baptists, took the opportunity to share the Gospel by comparing the game of soccer to the game of life.
"You connect it with something they already know," Rodriguez said. "You only have five minutes. We have to understand they came for soccer. In five minutes you have the opportunity to make a big impact on their lives."
He explained to the soccer players and their families that just as a rulebook gives rules for the sport, similarly the Bible gives guidelines for life. And just as a creator designed the soccer ball to be used for a specific reason, so also a Creator made each person for a unique purpose. Over 40 people made professions of faith afterward.
The ministry touches Rodriguez personally as he and his family were saved through soccer. He used to play the sport religiously, even on Sunday mornings. When one gentleman took the time to meet him on the field and share the Gospel, Rodriguez accepted Christ as his Lord and has used the world's most popular sport as an outreach tool ever since.
"In order for us to reach these thousands and thousands of people, we have to go and meet them where they are. And sometimes that is called the soccer field," he said.
After the tournament, the surrounding community was invited for a free family festival with music, food and more. An evangelism team, made up of about 35 local church leaders, greeted each individual after they registered. Around 700 people attended the event.
"Before they even went into the event, we had the opportunity to witness to them," Rodriguez explained. "We had a great number of professions of faith during the event as well."
The Fiesta Familiar soccer tournament and festival also provided an opportunity to invite the community to the Hispanic Rally on Sunday, Nov. 16 at Truett Seminary in Waco as a part of the Annual Meeting. Rodriguez said they anticipate a full crowd at the event.
Rodriguez encourages churches to examine interests within their communities and find creative ministries that can meet people where they are. In a city like Waco, where a large part of the population can be found on the grassy fields all days of the week, he said hosting a soccer tournament has proven to be an effective outreach method.
"This is a hands-on ministry. This is something that you can do with the community in a way that they don't feel threatened," he said. "It's going to attract a lot of people because you're doing something that most Hispanics are really connected with—soccer."