Key church unlocks big outreach
___By Ken Camp
___Texas Baptist Communications
___DALLAS--Christian Stronghold Baptist Church has a simple but ambitious goal. The predominantly African-American church wants to make a serious impact for Christ on its part of east Dallas.
___Accomplishing that goal means the church does much more than meet for Sunday
|SHEILA JOHNSON (right), director of the after-school child care program at Christian Stronghold Baptist Church of Dallas, and Minister of Missions Bill Oliver help children with their homework. (Photo by Ken Camp)
___Christian Stronghold was started four years ago as a mission of Casa View Baptist Church in Dallas. Meeting initially at Casa View, Christian Stronghold later moved to a storefront before purchasing its own facility in January.
___Today, Christian Stronghold is a Texas Baptist "key church" that sponsors three outreach apartment ministries, involving about 60 children and youth in Bible study each week. Congregations in the key church program agree to give priority to missions in terms of the church's budget, staff and goals.
___"There are 30 apartment complexes surrounding us. Our goal is to start Bible studies and kids' clubs in each of them," said Hal Johnson, pastor of Christian Stronghold.
___In addition to targeting the multi-housing communities, Christian Stronghold offers a variety of ministries for at-risk young people and adults who have made bad life choices.
___"Our main thrust is to reach out to the disenfranchised and to low-income residents, especially the kids," said Bill Oliver, minister of missions.
___Texas Baptists help support the ministries of Christian Stronghold Baptist Church through their gifts to the Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions.
___"We would not be able to do what we do without the participation of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and Dallas Baptist Association," Johnson said.
___Christian Stronghold offers a "hoops" program on Friday evenings involving about 75 at-risk male teens from single-parent households. In addition to basketball in the gymnasium at nearby St. Mark Presbyterian Church, the program also includes prayer and Bible study.
___On Saturdays, the church provides young people more opportunities for recreation, but the emphasis is on self-improvement. The Saturday sessions frequently include "pep talks" by motivational speakers from businesses in the community, in addition to Bible studies.
___"Brother-to-brother" and "sister-to-sister" mentoring is a key part of the Saturday schedule. The programs are designed to help young men and women, ages 11 to 18, develop spiritually, culturally, mentally and physically.
___The adults who work with the youth become crucial role models for young men who may have no father at home and to young women with busy single working mothers, Johnson explained. "The mentors help the young people learn how to make informed decisions."
___Oliver is quick to add that a key part of Christian Stronghold's ministry is teaching the at-risk youth how to contribute to society, not just be recipients of assistance. For instance, the church sponsors work days for the young people to walk through the neighborhood picking up and throwing away trash.?
___"We want them to learn how to work. They need to know the importance of giving back to the community," he said.
___During the summer, Christian Stronghold operates a day camp for low-income children from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Children are provided a nutritious breakfast and lunch each day. Activities include Vacation Bible School-style crafts, games and Bible studies, as well as field trips to local attractions.
___This year, about 50 children participated in the day camp. They are among the 300 children for whom the church provided hot meals during the summer, when the school lunch program is not available to them.
___During the school year, the church offers an after-school program of tutoring, Bible study and meals for children age 5 to 14.
___In the near future, the church also wants to open House of Hope as transitional housing for formerly homeless young men who have completed a program to conquer chemical dependency. The nine-bedroom house is next door to the church's main facility.
___"We want to help them make themselves fit for the workplace," Oliver said. "We want them to learn how to be productive to their families and the community."
___The primary goal of House of Hope will be to "get men in 'shape' to be productive citizens" by focusing on key areas: spiritual, health, attitude, purpose and employment, Johnson explained.
___Christian Stronghold also wants to open an Empowerment Center at a 12,000-square-foot building that was deeded to the church. Church leaders hope the building will become a training center where adult literacy and English as a Second Language classes can be offered, along with job training.
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