A dream for one church has turned into a unique community outreach mission.
First Baptist Church of Bossier will dedicate its new sports complex, Freedom Fields, Sunday, Nov. 16. The complex features three collegiate-sized athletic fields that are suited to host football, soccer and lacrosse games.
The idea for a sports complex came from the church’s desire to continue its mission to serve families in the community. Senior Pastor Brad Jurkovich said members of the church came to him with a desire for something new that would reach all ages, generations, single adults and families. That’s when the vision of Freedom Fields came to life.
“The heartbeat of it all is sports,” Jurkovich said. “Sports are something that connects with every generation. This has turned out way better than anyone ever thought.”
The name, Freedom Fields, took on a life of its own before the complex was even built.
“I wanted something that was inspiring so it has a twofold meaning,” Jurkovich explained. “We want people that experience one of our leagues to know that there is freedom and hope in Jesus. There’s the ministry side of it. We also thought it would be cool to have a name that would pay respect and honor the military families in our community. Barksdale [Air Force Base] is a big part of many families in Bossier and to this community as a whole. They are the ones who give us the freedom to do what we are doing.”
The Freedom Fields were built adjacent to the First Bossier campus on a piece of property they already owned. Along with three sports fields, the complex is equipped with a concession stand, restrooms, seating areas and a walking track around the fields.
Construction began earlier this year and the first flag football game of the season kicked off in September. Jarrod Love, recreational pastor for First Bossier, said more than 200 children signed up to participate.
On opening day, Love estimated there were 800 to 1,000 people who showed up to support the league.
“I think people are so excited because it is a completely different atmosphere,” Love said. “From the moment they get here, it’s a family-friendly environment. One of the biggest things we hear is that some sports venues are just not family friendly. We want it to be a place they can feel safe and bring their kids to play because we are showing people Christ-like actions while telling about him as well.”
First Bossier took Freedom Fields to another level by teaching children to just have fun.
“We like to stress that there are no scouts in the stands so remember that we’re here to have fun,” Love said. “[Adults] are here to watch a game and we encourage them to support both sides of the field. A great play is a great play. When a team makes a great play, clap for them and encourage them, especially the younger kids.”
Jurkovich stressed that the sports complex is not just for members of First Baptist Bossier.
“We want this to be something for our city, our parish and this region to enjoy,” Jurkovich added. “I think what took it up a notch is the quality of the product. We wanted it to be a statement that we are committed. We really are committed to reaching kids and families. That’s why we are so excited to put something that looks so sharp out there for the community and something that will be there long-term.”
Since opening, the church has received calls from colleges who are interested in using the fields for summer practice, sports camps and exhibition games in the spring. Jurkovich said the feedback from the community goes way beyond the vision they initially had.
“It’s very, very exciting and it’s great for the city,” he said. “It’s a big step of faith. First Bossier, to their credit, has done some amazing things, but God put this here and said lets make a statement.”
Even beyond the sports league, Jurkovich said Freedom Fields will be a place for church-wide community events, including their annual fall festival, Easter outreach events or concerts and other outdoor events they plan to do in the future.
“The sky is the limit. We’re literally on the front end of this journey,” Jurkovich said. “Just the buzz, the feel and the vision has this community excited. Our church has stepped up and invested in this because we do want to see hope and encouragement in Christ for all of the families in the region. The sky is the limit on that.”
First Baptist Bossier will have a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for Freedom Fields on Sunday, Nov. 16, at 12:30 p.m.
Those interested in learning more about the leagues (through Upward Sports) can stop by the church, located at 2810 East Texas Street in Bossier City, or visit www.firstbossier.com/upward.