CINCINNATI, Ohio (BP) – Jamie Trascritti, lead pastor of First Baptist Church Newtown, says the construction of a professional-quality soccer field on the church’s property serves as a symbol of its recent revitalization.
Trascritti, a graduate of Boyce College and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has pastored First Baptist for more than three years and told Baptist Press the church has undergone a “shocking” transformation.
“In a meeting with the search committee they admitted they were a ‘dying’ church,” Trascritti said. “When I heard them say that, my heart was drawn to it because it’s not often that you have a group of people that admits their church is in dire need of change.
“We got to work and made an immense amount of changes very quickly, all because of our people guiding the process. We brought in a new worship leader and made massive changes to the cosmetics of the church like renovating the front of the church and other things that haven’t been touched in years.
“Our vision was to bring Christ to the center of our community, and everything we’ve done to change has been in view of that goal.”
Trascritti said the congregation has experienced “slow and steady,” growth since 2019, with attendance now up to 40-50 people on a typical Sunday.
While the COVID-19 pandemic slightly slowed the church’s revitalization process, it also came with an unexpected blessing.
Trascritti was approached by a local businessman seeking to purchase a piece of the church’s property for his business to use. He needed a portion of land toward the back of the property in order to renovate a building to serve as office space.
Trascritti described the piece of land as “useless” for the church, which had used it as a place to store scrap wood.
The man looking to buy it was the CEO of a company that builds professional sports fields around the county and internationally – fields for the NFL, MLS and MLB.
In exchange for the small piece of land he needed, the man offered to build the church a state-of-the-art soccer complex in the remaining portion of the property.
An agreement was reached, and completion of the soccer complex is expected this month. It will contain a full-length natural turf field to play 9 v 9 games, as well as a smaller practice field and “in-play” or enclosed soccer system for younger kids.
Trascritti explained soccer is extremely popular in the community, even going as far as to call it a “soccer village.”
The church was already using the portion of land where the new complex will be to host Upward soccer and even had to put a number cap on registration because it did not have enough volunteers.
The plan is to use the new soccer field to continue to grow the Upward soccer program, while also partnering with other local soccer clubs that may want to use the complex.
The soccer clubs have offered to help with the church’s Upward league by training coaches and assisting with summer camp.
“There is a common drive with us and the clubs to reach the community, only with a different end,” Trascritti said. “They want to reach the community for the sake of soccer, we want to reach it for the sake of Christ. We’ve developed a relationship and they’re willing to help because they see the value in community involvement.
“God has really been using things like this to bring the church back into the center of the community so that we can proclaim Christ. I think this is one big step forward for that. “
Trascritti said both his congregation and the overall community are thrilled about the new complex, and people are constantly asking him for pictures and updates.
The exciting development is just one of the ways God has made things new again for First Baptist Newtown, a church that was nearly dead just three years ago.
“My heart is in this city and I’ve felt called here since I started ministry,” said Trascritti, who has served in the area for 15 years and whose wife is a native. “It would break my heart to see the ministry of this nearly 200-year-old church come to an end.
“When they told me that they were a dying church, it just showed their heart in that they were willing to do anything to see their church glorify God again. How can you say no to that? I think that’s the dream of any missionary or pastor is to have people that want change and want to glorify God.”
He advised churches seeking to revitalize that although things will be different for every church, there are several key things every church can do.
“We’ve spent an enormous amount of time together in prayer, and often gathered to pray just for the Gospel work we were trying to do,” he said. “We also made a commitment together as a church for expository preaching and sharing our faith with people. Not just extending an invitation to the church, but having that Gospel-centered conversation.”