The Surprising Key to Reaching This Florida Community

November 30, 2017 | Posted by Demian Farnworth

Editor’s Note:

To celebrate the announcement of the 2017 Kaleidoscope Fund grant recipients, we are sharing the 2016 recipient’s stories over the next two months. See all 2016 stories here as they are published.

-LCEF Editorial Team

According to the August 2007 issue of MONEY magazine, Lake Mary, FL, was voted fourth best place to live in America. There is something else you should know about this suburban city in Seminole County.

“Our community loves sports,” said Betty Hoyer, Director of Education at Holy Cross Lutheran Academy. “They like to be connected to sports.”

Of course, there’s no shortage of competitive sports leagues in Lake Mary. Sports leagues full of aggressive, win-at-all-costs mindsets where teams are stacked with the best players.

Not very family friendly.

The origin of the Seminole League

“Pastor Chris Johnson originally came up with the idea of getting a sports league started in our community,” Hoyer said in an email. “His ministry focuses on youth and families. He saw many challenges in connecting with parents of young children as they allowed their family time to be scheduled by sports and other organized activities.”

The truth was that the world was changing. It was harder and harder to attract young families to join Wednesday night Bible study and Sunday services. What the church was currently doing was not working, so Pastor Johnson knew they had to go where the families were going.

“He consulted with our head pastor, Rev. Paul Hoyer, and decided to look for facilities to open up a sports league,” Hoyer said.

This was where the idea for the Seminole League came in.

What is the Seminole League?

The Seminole League is a recreational sports group open to anyone in the community from ages five through twelve. It is skills-based, which means the emphasis is placed on learning how to play the game.

Before each season children are evaluated for their skills and then placed on teams in such a way that a range of skills is represented. In other words, no one team dominates the season. All teams are fairly equal, which makes for fun, wholesome games.

“And when our growing school expanded onto a new campus with 15 acres,” Hoyer said, “we were able to realize the dream of starting the league.”

The league is run through Holy Cross Lutheran School and offers soccer, basketball, flag football and cheerleading. It’s also a faith-based league.

During practice, the coaches run through a devotion with their team. The coaches also pray before and after practice. And at half-time, someone shares a devotion.

But that’s not all.

“Halfway through the season we do a community event,” Hoyer said. “And at the end of the season, we do a big celebration where we bring in entertainment, pizza and recognize the players and coaches. It’s really about building teamwork and being community minded.”

How’s the response?

“Very favorable. People appreciate the non-competitive nature.” The biggest win, Hoyer said, is that a third of the participants don’t have a connection with the church or the school. That’s about a hundred parents and players.

How did the Kaleidoscope Fund help Seminole League?

The school launched the Seminole League three years ago. Since that time the school expanded, including an open field they could use for a playing area.

“The Kaleidoscope Fund gave us the resources to improve the facilities,” said Hoyer. “We got really good movable backboards for basketball, improved the flooring in the gymnasium and did some improvements on the field. And quality equipment like soccer goals and benches. This allowed us to be more competitive with the other leagues.”

The Kaleidoscope Fund also allowed Holy Cross to do more robust marketing. They contracted help to improve the Seminole League website to be more user-friendly. In addition, they engaged a Facebook consultant to improve presence. Then there’s the marketing street team who goes to fairs, community events and sets up booths to let people know about the league.

What are people saying about the Seminole League?

“People are saying they are so glad they found us,” Hoyer said. Plus, the schedule is reasonable for one game and one practice per week.

“One family was so thankful (for the Seminole League) since in other leagues the coaches were yelling with language at the kids. Furthermore, they love the Christian influence, visited the church once and even became more engaged!”

Shining brightly and bringing the gospel to a community like Lake Mary is exactly the kind of ministry the Kaleidoscope Fund was intended to support. Congratulations, Holy Cross!

We are now accepting applications for The Kaleidoscope Fund 2017 grants.

Demian Farnworth
Senior Content Writer for the Lutheran Church Extension Fund.