|Sports ministries reach church, community|
Tiresa Po'e of Belmont United Methodist Church
(center) plays in a church league game in Nashville, Tenn. UMNS photos
by Mike DuBose.
By Barbara Dunlap-Berg*
2:00 P.M. EST, Feb. 3, 2010
NASHVILLE, TN (UMNS)
This Sunday the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts compete
for the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy. Centuries before the first Super
Bowl, however, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Do you
not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives
the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.”
Churches, big and small, take Paul’s words to heart through sports
and recreation ministries for persons of all ages. The prizes are
physical fitness and healthy competition. Exercise classes,
sports leagues and recreational centers expand opportunities for
congregations to connect with each other and with seekers in the
When Christ United Methodist Church, Mobile, Ala., wanted to start a
sports ministry, leaders conducted research to assess interest and
needs. More than 90 percent of people surveyed said they participate in
or watch some form of sports or recreation weekly. The result was Christ
Center, the hub of the church’s sports and recreation ministry. The
goals are to “strengthen bodies, sharpen minds and introduce people to …
competitive sports, fitness programs, family outings and personal
activities that will become a point of contact with the other ministries
of the church.”
Open to church members and their guests, the center offers
recreational facilities and seasonal sports leagues —autumn soccer,
winter basketball, spring baseball and summer flag football. School-age
students are divided by grade, and all sports except baseball are co-ed.
The church’s detailed Web site offers sign-up information as well as
electronic copies of brochures to print and share.
Keller Hawkins of Belmont United Methodist Church
(34) drives toward the basket during a game in Nashville, Tenn.
In addition to sports teams, Atlanta’s Northside United
Methodist Church’s Sports and Recreation Ministry encompasses such
areas as art, ballet and Chinese-language classes.
Reaching, teaching, serving
In North Carolina, Matthews United Methodist Church sees its sports
and recreation ministries as a way to further its mission of reaching,
teaching and serving. Students choose from a range of aerobics-class
time slots to accommodate diverse schedules. Childcare is provided for
all classes. Fun and fellowship for men comes in the form of a weekly
pick-up basketball in the gym. The pick-up games require little
administrative effort, just someone to open the doors and welcome the
players. The congregation partners with Christ Covenant
Church to offer seasonal sports leagues through SOAR (Sports
Outreach And Recreation) Sports.
Across the United States, congregations with strong sports and
recreation programs encourage community involvement by posting
fliers and signs at community centers such as the YMCA, local park
bulletin boards or school gymnasiums. Some celebrate an annual “Sports
and Recreation Sunday.” They invite participants in the church’s sports
and recreation programs to attend a worship service, wearing their
uniforms. One church hosts a celebration meal after worship to raise
money for sports ministry scholarships.
“My kids aren’t top athletes, but they learn much more than how to
play basketball or exercise. They learn to have fun, play fair and stay
fit in a healthy, nurturing environment,” one parent said. “That’s all
that matters to me.”
*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist
Communications, Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Joey Butler, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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