Fort Worth church sees sports as key to reaching community

Damon Halliday, pastor of The Key Church in Fort Worth, knows one key to reaching a community for Christ is with a court or a ball field. The pastor and his church are ministering to local high school football teams, bringing a Florida sports ministry model to Texas.

Halliday, a lifelong athlete, knew sports ministry makes effective outreach even before planting The Key nine years ago. 

Among the first things he did at his former church in the Stop Six neighborhood of southeast Fort Worth was to erect basketball goals on the parking lot. 

“I never had to look for kids,” Halliday said. “There would be 40-50 on the parking lot playing ball before you knew it.” The 15-person inner-city congregation grew to over 200. 

“Sports is how we did it,” Halliday said, explaining that he coached kids and the church sponsored teams and sports-oriented block parties.

After Halliday discussed sports ministry from the pulpit one Sunday at The Key, member Eric Vance told him about Huddle Touch, a Florida ministry founded by Pastor Jeffrey Singletary that had grown out of Singletary’s three decades of doing chaplain services for high school, college, and professional teams.

Vance, who went to L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, played college football at Vanderbilt and was a player and coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had volunteered with Huddle Touch in the Tampa area. Pre-COVID, Huddle Touch was in about 80 Florida schools, Halliday said.

Halliday accompanied Vance to Florida in 2017 found Huddle Touch to be all he had hoped for and more.

 

“Our goal is to have a football field here. Sports will draw families in and we will introduce them to Jesus.”

“When I saw it, I was in evangelism heaven,” Halliday said. He became a speaker at HT’s annual summer MOV conference, which besides speakers, features concerts and basketball and football tournaments. The Key Church began sending 15-20 local athletes to the conference.

Halliday also brought the HT ministry to The Key. “We pretty much copied their model,” he said.

Five years ago, like Huddle Touch in Florida, The Key started providing pre-game meals to varsity football teams at area schools, serving players at Byron Nelson High School till COVID hit. They added Chisholm Trail High and, in 2021, picked up L.D. Bell.

Church volunteers prepare and transport the food to the schools. Halliday or another speaker gives a short gospel-centered presentation while players and coaches eat. The church also sponsors a special Sunday for the schools, inviting players, parents, and coaches to attend the service.

While post-COVID attendance at The Key of about 750 in-person and online, Halliday admitted that it would be a stretch for the congregation to take on more teams just now, but said he hopes to see Huddle Touch grow in the DFW Metroplex and beyond. He urges pastors or leaders interested in the program to contact him for more information.

As for his congregation, sports will continue to be key.

Champions Elevation Outreach

In 2022, The Key, through its 501c3 nonprofit Champions Elevation Outreach, will sponsor the  inaugural Champions Conference and Tournament on June 10-11, with an award ceremony on June 12. A 7-on-7 flag football tournament involving 12-16 teams will be held at area high schools. Like the HT conferences in Florida, Champions will feature speakers and entertainment.

Halliday welcomes sponsors to help with the tournament.

“We are stepping out in faith to put it on,” he said.

As for the future of sports at The Key, the church built a new facility completed in September 2020 on its 12-acre campus. Plans are to eventually create an athletic complex. The current sanctuary will one day become a gym, its design and 30-foot-high ceilings allowing for the transition.

“Our goal is to have a football field here,” Halliday said. “Sports will draw families in and we will introduce them to Jesus.”

HT has made a difference in the lives of athletes of all races. Halliday described visiting a local car dealership and hearing his name called.

“A young Caucasian kid came running around the building and jumped into my arms,” the pastor said. The player said that the program’s coming to his school had transformed his life. Formerly struggling with drugs, poor grades and a fractured home life, the young man had gotten saved, graduated, and now hoped to move up in the company.

“You have to give people what they want so you can ultimately provide people with what they need: a relationship with God through Jesus,” Halliday said. Sports can provide an opening for gospel goals.

 

To find out more about Huddle Touch, the Champions Conference and Tournament, or to enquire about sponsorships, contact Halliday at 214-403-4408 or visit championselevationoutreach.org.

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