Field of dreams brings generations together
By Lindsay Peyton
A softball diamond is coming soon to the grounds of Lake Houston UMC, transforming the space to the church’s own field of dreams. The annual Slowpitch Showdown fundraiser pits youth against adult players. The result is not only a homerun for family fun but also a big win towards establishing the church as a fixture in the community.
Pastor Russell Martin said the softball competition has been held for five years now. “The youth have won twice and the adults, twice,” he said. “This is the tie-breaker.”
Last year, the game was one of the first, churchwide events to return in-person. Martin was appointed in December and after a couple of months, he remembers discussions about whether softball could return.
“Everyone was asking, ‘Should we do it?’” the pastor recalled. “I wanted to switch the conversation to, ‘How can we do it?’”
And the congregation found a way to make it happen. After worship, everyone headed to the softball field. Tents were set-up for onlookers, and a concession stand was open.
Income from the event funds summer camp and mission trips. But even more importantly, Martin said, fellowship abounds in all age groups. “It was really fun to see both 8-year olds and 70 year-olds play,” he said. “We had a lot of people who watched and cheered.”
The game was such a success that church leaders started brainstorming other opportunities to appeal to multiple generations. Instead of separating functions by age group, different ministries could sponsor the events.
“It started us thinking ,” Martin said. “We did this. So what else can we do?”
Since the next occasion on the calendar was Easter, the church hosted, in the same spirit, a Trick-or-TrEaster. Instead of an egg hunt, cars lined up with decorated trunks for children to visit with their baskets. Food trucks, a fire engine and a visit from the Easter Bunny himself completed the line-up.
In May, Lake Houston UMC hosted a cornhole tournament – and 15 teams competed. Each time the church hosted an event, the participants’ contact information was collected. This allowed Martin to keep the community apprised of future happenings.
Many families who joined the events became members of the church. “We’ve seen this formula work,” Martin said.
The church realized a value in having events that catered to the entire family, instead of simply involving youth. This allows the entire congregation to come together and grow closer as a church family. “Plus, it doesn’t alienate anyone,” Martin said.
Recently, Lake Houston UMC hosted a Winter Olympics for families. Events included bobsled, ski jumps and luge, all making a new use out of automotive creepers, usually reserved for working under the car.
There was also a biathlon with Nerf guns, skating with wax paper and a figure skating competition, which challenged participants to make a one-minute routine to fit a randomly selected song.
After the Slow Pitch Softball Youth vs Adults game, the church hosts a Color Wars with powder all tints of the rainbow on April 3. Then, an Easterfest is scheduled for April 16 and the
Family Corn Hole Tournament returns May 1.
“Church isn’t just what happens on Sunday mornings for two hours. There are 168 hours in the week,” Martin said.
With fun family events, church happens outside, over laughs and good conversation, the pastor explained. The happenings also allow the community an easy way to step onto campus for the first time, much less intimidating than attending a worship service.
“You come out and make a connection,” Martin said. “That’s what I want to do. How do we make as many connections as possible?”
And as the Lake Houston area continues to grow, maintaining the church’s presence is essential. “We want to create the infrastructure and make sure that we’re not missing an opportunity to bring hope to the community,” Martin said.