What do Summit Bible Church and Crosspointe Church have in common? Besides their beginnings as church plants, both churches have come up with a unique way to minister to their community and ultimately impact people’s lives with the gospel, by building a community park.
Summit Bible Church
Jon Smeltzer is the pastor of Summit Bible Church in the small town of Summit that started as a church plant of the River Bible Church in Mountain Home. As part of the process of planting the church, even before they started meeting in town, Smeltzer and his team began prayer walking the community. They noticed that there was a section of land that had once been designated for a city park but had not yet been developed. “It was something that we noticed, but we just kind of put it in the back of our minds.”
In an effort to get to know the community and determine the best way to minister to the needs of people in Summit, the church set up a table at a local grocery store and surveyed people as they stopped by. One of the questions dealt with what residents considered to be a weakness of their community. A lack of places for families to gather and hang out was one of the weaknesses listed.
“Once again the need for a park kind of was on my mind, but it wasn’t something that I could really wrap my mind around, like where that park would be or whatever,” Smeltzer said.
Smeltzer says that building a park was not something that he had considered before and definitely not something that he had heard of many, if any, churches doing before. As a young church plant, Summit had limited resources with which to undertake such an ambitious project. But they began praying that if God wanted them to build a park, He would provide what they needed.
Through a series of events that only God could orchestrate, Summit was eventually able to purchase some land directly across the street from the church. Smeltzer says they talked to the mayor and offered to donate the land to the city if they would be willing to build a park and work with the church to make it happen.
They requested that the park be named Emanuel Park since it was on Emanuel Street. Smeltzer said this would also provide opportunities in the future to talk to people about how God is with us. They also asked that the city accept responsibility for maintenance and upkeep but allow church members to cut the grass or take care of other issues as they saw a need.
The mayor, who is a Christian, quickly accepted their offer and agreed to work with the church. She also agreed that if the property ever ceased to be used as a park, the land would immediately be returned to the church’s possession. She has already helped the city secure a grant for the park and plans are in the works to begin construction soon.
Smeltzer points to Jeremiah 29:7 as the motivation for what they are doing in Summit. God is speaking to the exiles in Babylon when he says, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
“We’re not in exile, but this is where God planted us. We want to be a blessing in more ways than just being here. We don’t want this to be about building our kingdom, but about building the kingdom of God and seeing His kingdom furthered in Summit,” Smeltzer said.
He knows that it’s just a park and that a park is temporary, but Smelzter believes that lives can be impacted if they use it as a tool to meet people at the park, point them to the church across the street and invite them to become a part of a family that loves Jesus and loves one another. There has been a lot of buy-in from the church. Even though they may be small in number, Smeltzer believes God has big plans for Summit Bible Church. “We’re a small church in a small town. We will probably always be small, but God wants our impact to be big and He can impact a lot of people through a small group,” Smeltzer said.
Ryan Ingold serves as teaching pastor and elder at Crosspointe Church of Bryant. Initially started as a church plant of Geyer Springs First Baptist Church in Little Rock, Crosspointe has been meeting for over six years now. A few years ago, they were able to purchase a building in town right next to the high school and not far from the middle school and junior high school. The purchase also included land across the street with lots of green space.
The church is located in a part of town that is in need of some revitalization. Crosspointe has a heart for reaching their community, so Ingold and other church leaders began praying and looking at ways that they could use the extra land to be a blessing to the community. They wanted it to be a connection point and a place to cultivate and build relationships.
From this time of praying and planning, the idea to build a community park was born. “The more we got into it, the more we could just see the number of different people, the types of people, groups of people that could benefit from it,” Ingold said.
Ingold began to meet with key city leaders, and he says they were on board from the very beginning. This includes the mayor, city council members, superintendent and the Chamber of Commerce. Ingold says in addition to these, the city parks department director has not only given a great endorsement, but has also served as an advisor in helping the church think though the things they need to know in order to build and maintain the park. “Churches don’t do this every day. It’s kind of out of our lane,” Ingold said.
Work has already begun on the park, and elements will be added in phases as resources become available. Ingold says that a playground has already been built and food truck hookups are going in next month. He says there will eventually be a building with bathrooms that will also include a kitchen for a permanent food truck type vendor. There will be some rooftop seating as well as outdoor seating for dining space.
The anchor for the whole thing is a planned amphitheater which will include an L-shaped pavilion. The pavilion will be multi-purpose so when there is not anything happening on stage, there will be dry space for people to eat, congregate and just hang out. “When we do have something onstage, there will be a really nice view because there are stadium steps going down to the lower level of the amphitheater.
Ingold says he envisions a variety of people benefiting from all of this. He said for parents dropping their kids off at school, the park will be a place where they can go get a drink while they let their younger kids play and burn off some energy. He also said the leadership at the school believes that teachers at the school will take advantage of the food trucks that will be there because they will be a quick, easy accessible place for them to grab some lunch. “They don’t have an hour and a half to drive somewhere for lunch. So, this would be handy and quick and it gives them some fresh air and a change of scenery from school.” Ingold said.
Then after school is over, Ingold says that there are always a lot of kids and other pedestrians after school that pass by each day. He imagines that the park will be a big attraction for kids after school. He believes residents from the community will also take advantage of the gathering space that the park will provide.
Ingold also points to Jeremiah 29 as the motivation for what they are trying to do in the community. He points out that the church needs to “set up roots and seek the glory of God being displayed and declared in our city.”
“There are a lot of different people that are going to be able to have access to that park and connection to that park. Hopefully, we are able to create this kind of third space where our church can engage people. That’s one of the things our church does well is hospitality. I mean, when we have guests come, our church is really good about welcoming people, not with stuff, but just personality, you know? We’re hoping to really capitalize on the way that the Lord has gifted us as a body,” Ingold said.