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This is Good News! A Story from Tracy Dunham and Freedom Church

Kids playing outside on a field.


The truth is that our current efforts to engage with our community for Christ have been born out of frustration. We had run events that we heard were successful in other churches like carnivals and movie nights but didn’t see any fruit from the massive effort that these events required from our congregation. We experienced more than a little “holy discontent.” So, about 15 years ago, we started to shift our thinking and our efforts around outreach.

The first shift was to consider engaging with our community in ways which had the potential to build long-term relationships. Instead of events, we started an hour-long Saturday soccer league for kids. Our coaches (members of Freedom) were able to get to know the families over the course of eight weeks. Soccer led to more programs over the next dozen years: basketball clinics, group piano and guitar lessons, sewing school, knitting lessons and soccer camp, while we continued to run a full-day camp throughout the summer. We renovated the old house on our property and called it the Freedom Community Centre.

The major result of all of this was that we created an excellent reputation in our community. When it came time to rezone our property, a city councillor whose children participated in our programs spoke in our favour, saying that our church was “good for the community.” We became known as “the church with the volleyball courts” or “the church where my kids play soccer.”

But we couldn’t deny that it wasn’t enough. We knew that we were called to be more than a community centre. Most of those who knew about our church were still far from God and we knew that as much as they had helped us, great programs and favour in the community weren’t the Great Commission. We needed to find ways to leverage all of this goodwill and present Christ to those who needed Him.

It would be great to tell you that we’ve figured it out. We haven’t. But we know that the Holy Spirit is challenging and changing us. We continually ask ourselves why God has placed us in this neighbourhood at this time. There is a reason and we are committed to being in His plan.

Over the past few years, our connections pastor has built relationships with the program directors of the community associations in our neighbourhood. They have the staff and funding to run great, low-cost programs for families, but very little space. We have lots of space and its our joy to make it available to them for free.

We have also asked ourselves: who has God given us in this church? Our congregation loves to give to people in need and to host others. So, we made some new connections with community organizations and began to find out how we could help in practical ways. We built a pavilion last year and made it available all week long for our neighbours to come and enjoy. The community programs use it extensively and this summer we put a team together to run a tuck shop and engage with families who were waiting during programming.

We are working to find ways to leverage what we have (great people, great location, great property) to do more than be a space for programming but to become a spiritual oasis in this neighbourhood. And while the process of learning and growing can be frustrating, seeing all that God has done and how He has strategically placed us on these 10 acres in southwest Kitchener is very good news.

Tracy Dunham is the lead pastor of Freedom Church in Kitchener, Ont.

Youth playing on a basketball court.


A woman standing with some donated baby supplies.


Photos courtesy Freedom Church.


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