Striking Out Challenges: Phillies, Faith, and Community Outreach

Posted on Jul 9, 2024

Growing Up with the Phillies and a Grandfather’s Wisdom 

I grew up watching the Philadelphia Phillies with my grandfather, who was also a long-time pastor in our town. The home runs were always fun to watch, but I really enjoyed watching players like Chase Utley on second base! The catch on second, pivot, and throw to first for the out was always thrilling for me. Those guys were so fast in pivoting to get that ball to first base! I always wanted to sit in that area of the field when my grandfather and I went to games.

In the days of watching Utley on the field, I was also running our youth ministry at my church alongside my grandfather as senior pastor. We had an above-average-sized youth group for our church, but we really weren’t reaching non-believing youth in the community. We discussed this in many meetings, praying for innovative ideas to reach out into the community more. A common theme emerged: how could we gain influence in the area public schools? We needed to rally the troops that spring and move quickly to be ready for the new school year that fall. We realized that sometimes, how fast you turn determines whether you make the play, requiring rethinking and re-evaluating what you do—like baseball players pivoting on second base. 

A Divine Connection: The Newsboys Concert 

One night, I received an email that the Newsboys were coming to Reading, PA. As a big fan of theirs and their heart for reaching people with the Gospel, I offered to volunteer and was connected to Life Promotions, which was finding prayer partner coordinators for concerts around the country. Bob Lenz was the speaker on the tour at the time, with a vision for connecting concert attendees with local churches. The idea was for churches to connect with people responding to the Gospel message Bob shared that night and help them with next steps in discipleship. I loved the idea and began coordinating with as many churches in the area as possible. We ended up involving dozens of churches and saw a huge response that night! It was amazing to see the body of Christ come together. Bob’s dream came true in a big way that night, and then came the opportunity we were searching for.

At the end of the concert, Bob and I chatted in the lobby. He mentioned that he goes into schools nationwide to do assemblies on mental health initiatives and then shares the Gospel at evening community outreaches back at the schools. I started laughing, and Bob looked puzzled. I told him how we were praying to impact our area public schools and community. It was a God moment, and I knew this was what we had to do. But again, we had to turn fast to make the play! It was March, and we needed to raise funds, contact schools, and get a team of volunteers together. I didn’t sleep that night, thinking about all the possibilities and impact this could have. I knew it would be out of our church’s comfort zone, but I pointed my church to Jesus’ example. 

Following Jesus’ Example and Overcoming Resistance 

Jesus’ ministry was primarily in the community, not in the temple. He consistently took His ministry to the people, despite not having a modern church to lead and organize like we do. He faced his own pressures but always remained out with the people. After talking with our youth ministry team, I met with the church board to ask for their blessing. The idea didn’t receive much positivity or encouragement. Turning was a new skill for this church; turning “fast” seemed impossible. I knew it would be up to me and the youth ministry team to lead these efforts and climb the hill on our own. Encouragement from my grandfather, who had started one of the state’s largest daycares despite much positivity from his church, was immensely helpful. 

Life Promotions’ Support and the Power of Unity 

Life Promotions was an incredible support to us as we navigated these new waters! Their experience and support fueled what turned into one of the biggest school outreach initiatives in the area. We reached out to the community and local churches for financial support, raising over $20,000 in less than two months! The reluctant church board came around as excitement buzzed in the air. We aimed to reach one school district and do one community outreach night, but God had bigger plans! We ended up doing a full week of school assemblies with five consecutive outreach nights around the county. The same churches that rallied at the Newsboys concert helped connect with people at the evening outreaches. The team of volunteers set up equipment at schools, gave out tickets following assemblies, and greeted hundreds of people each night. We connected many people with local churches, and our youth group doubled in size. We have been doing this for 12 years now in Eastern Pennsylvania, except for that strange year in 2020. We have been to over 100 schools in the area! It has been incredibly fun to watch God move in this way. 

Building Lasting Relationships Between Schools and Churches 

One of the bonus fruits of this initiative was seeing relationships between schools and churches grow. We fulfilled the mental health needs in schools, unifying students and teachers. Schools provided buildings for community events, and when something terrible happened, the administration knew to contact us, the church down the street, for help. We answered the big question once again: would your community miss you if your church no longer existed? We were repeatedly told that the answer would be yes! 

Continuing the Mission with Life Promotions 

I have been on staff at Life Promotions with Bob Lenz for over six years, transitioning from being a full-time staff member at a local church. I help book Bob to speak at schools and events worldwide and work on partner relationships. I recently became the Director of Dignity Revolution, our educational assemblies, teacher trainings, and curriculum work in schools. One of my greatest joys is still working in my hometown with a team of churches to impact hundreds of students and families each year. I would love to partner with you in your town. I can show you how to pivot and impact your community more. The enemy is targeting our youth like never before. We do not have time to wait and be inactive in our communities. We must ask ourselves important questions: are we, as Christian leaders, doing things that matter? Do our actions and investments make an eternal impact outside our church walls? These are significant questions we should have the courage to answer. 

I would love to have that conversation with you today. My email is [email protected], or you can reach me at our office by calling 920-738-558. Let’s have a Dignity Revolution and stand up for every person in our schools. Let’s share the Gospel message in as many communities as possible this coming school year! I pray we continue to find ways to turn together so we can strike the enemy out on first and hit those home runs for the Kingdom in Jesus’ name!

Mitch Racine
Director of Bob Lenz Speaking and Dignity Revolution
[email protected]