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Church builds park to serve city

By Chad Woolf

With phase one completed, Cape Christian continues to raise funds to finish the project.

Cape Christian is a large contemporary congregation in a city ranked as one of the top in the nation for foreclosures and unemployment rates. This reality prompted the church to shift its focus – from building a $15 million worship auditorium to building a 100,000-square-foot park for its city. After assessing how loss of jobs and homes was impacting families, Cape Christian launched a campaign to build Fellowship Park.

Open to the public, Fellowship Park will include the city’s first amphitheater, a splash pad, four children’s playgrounds, sports and multipurpose fields, common areas, a zip line, a jogging trail, pavilion and café. It will be funded, built and maintained by the church. In addition, Cape Christian launched the community-wide campaign, “Not in My City,” providing comprehensive resources for children, married couples and people in crisis.

“It’s alarming that 350 children are homeless in our city. Assessing the community’s needs was sobering and led us to turn our attention outside the walls of our church,” says Cape Christian lead pastor Wes Furlong. “Even though we’ve outgrown our facility, we cancelled our plans for a new worship center. Instead, we’re building a park where families can gather, play, attend concerts and community events. We’re also providing resources to help families who’ve lost homes or jobs. We are a church that exists for our city.”

Phase one completed
Phase one of Fellowship Park was completed in only 10 days thanks to an army of nearly 400 volunteers and cooperation from city leaders.

Phase one includes a large sunken fountain, beautifully paved courtyard, a huge seating area underneath crepe myrtle trees, and hundreds of plants, palm trees and other lush vegetation.

“The idea was to create a space where anyone could come and just enjoy the beautiful, natural paradise we live in,” comments founding pastor Dennis Gingerich. He and his wife, Linda, founded the church 25 years ago with a dream of reaching families who wouldn’t normally join a local church. “We’ve always had a heart for the families of Cape Coral; this park is just the latest expression of that passion. We can’t wait until we finish the other two phases and this place is filled with the sounds of young families every day.”

The park will eventually become the city’s premier venue for events, but more than that it will serve as a visible sign of Cape Christian’s commitment to meet the needs of its neighbors as seriously as it meets the needs of its members. “So many people are skeptical of the church’s true motives; we want to do everything we can to demonstrate God’s love in a practical way, not just in the words we speak during sermons and personal conversation,” adds pastor Gingerich.

Externally focused
The largest Mennonite church in the U.S., Cape Christian has doubled its attendance in five years and created more than 20 ministries for the city, including a mentoring program for young mothers and a state-approved character curriculum in public schools. Its “Feeding Cape Coral” program has stocked food pantries with more than 23,000 items. In addition, the church is recruiting volunteers with the goal of logging 1 million volunteer hours within public schools. Cape Christian also plans to launch the Center for Family Life to create resources for parents, married couples, and people with addictions and other life-controlling issues.

Now that phase one has been completed, the church will continue to raise funds to start phase two.  The park will also feature Cape Coral’s first interactive play area that incorporates electronic gaming elements with physical exercise.

Chad Woolf is director of Not In My City, a ministry of Cape Christian Church in Cape Coral, FL. www.capechristian.com

More about Not In My City at www.notinmycity.org.

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Safe, easy online sports registration

When it comes to the tedious task of registering hundreds and sometimes thousands of youth sports league participants, churches can count on SportsSignup to make the process easier. The company specializes in online registrations for youth sports, online fundraising and background checks of volunteers and coaches.

Benefits of putting the registration process online include: fewer man-hours in processing handwritten forms via elimination of data entry; reduced cost of postage paper, ink and postage; increased productivity; reduction of errors; increased responses, attendance and revenues; and an e-mail database that allows easy participant notification.

The process of registering just one child for a sports team or event takes an average of eight sheets of paper, including the registration form itself, a parental/guardian consent form, medical waiver, league information form, special notices, and flyers to advertise the event. Think about how many children are playing recreation sports. According to childstats.gov, there are about 50 million children in the U.S. between the ages of 6 and 17. That’s a lot of paper.

Every aspect of an online registration is paperless and handled electronically. The company estimates it has already saved more than 500 tons of paper since the company’s inception in 2003, and says it will save 100 tons of paper alone in 2012.

Included in that savings are more than 100 parishes and organizations who participate in the Catholic Youth Council (CYC) of St. Louis, MO, which named SportsSignup as its official registration program in February. “We are confident that the process will help move our entire sports program forward by allowing all of our parishes, districts and our main office to share information and streamline the registration process,” says Paul Scovill, CYC St. Louis sports director. “It solves real problems and eases the burden on volunteer administrators.”

— Rich Thomaselli   wwww.sportssignup.com

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