The contemporary means of sports & ministry
Dr. Thamsing Lamkang
What is Sports Ministry?
While recognizing different points of view, the word “sports” (in conjunction with the word “ministry”) refers to any and all activities within the continuum of simple play to highly organized and competitive sports. It would include games, recreational activities, outdoor activities, fitness activities, team and individual sports, and general participatory contests and/or activities. “Sports” should be gender inclusive, age inclusive, and ability inclusive as well as intensity varied, and activity varied.
The word “ministry” has an Old and New Testament understanding of service or serving; therefore, a Sports Ministry is any activity that lends itself to serving God, the church (building up the believer), or the lost. The church should never consider that it has a Sports Ministry merely because there are activities. It is the combination of taking those activities and consciously planning to glorify God, edify the saint, and reach out to the unsaved that constitutes “Sports Ministry.”
Is it appropriate for a believer to be involved in sports and recreation activities?
If what you mean by appropriate is, does involvement in sports and recreation violate a principle or command of God, the answer is “no.” It violates no command of God. Of course to say that means we need to define the word “sin” and, then, to discover if participation in sports and recreation falls into that definition.
What is SIN? The word “sin” in early Greek was actually an archery term; it literally meant to “miss the mark.” When an archer shoots at a target, he aims at the “bull’s eye” – the center of the target. When the arrow landed anywhere else, the archer “sinned” – he missed the mark. The term began to be used in Christendom when people began to miss the mark – the absolutes of God found in His character or His commands found in Scripture. In other words, when I live my life contrary to the precepts, counsel or commands of God (the center of the target for my life), I have “missed the mark, I have sinned.”
When involved in a sporting or recreational event, it is not the event that will determine whether the participant has sinned . . . sin will be the result of my motivation for participation, my actions within participation, or my attitudes after participation. A game is not intrinsically sinful; however, if one participates in order to achieve self-worth, that person has denied the value God places on him through the sacrifice of His Son. That is sinful. If the participant acts out violently or speaks wrathfully during participation, it is not the game that has sinned; the participant has. If the participant becomes haughty and proud because of victory, or despondent over defeat, again it is not the game that has caused this, but an ungodly response to the outcome of the game. The participant has sinned.
As long as the participant can maintain his or her witness and bring glory to God through the participation Col.3:23, no believer is constrained to avoid sports and recreation.
I thought the Bible said that physical exercise/activity had no value. Is that true?
There are some who incorrectly interpret 1Tim.4:8, stating that this verse indicates we should not be involved in any physical activity – including sports. However, this is not what it says. Paul is writing to Timothy who is pastoring a church in Ephesus; Ephesus is right across the Aegean Sea in close proximity to Greece – a country that revered the body at the expense of the spirit. Paul is trying to help Timothy to understand and teach proper priorities in one’s life. So, he says in verse 7, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.”
The word “discipline” also means ‘train’. In verse 8, Paul does not say that physical exercise has no value; rather he says it has some value. However, of greater value is godliness – which also comes from discipline or training. Therefore, Paul would encourage both types of training to take place, but godliness should always have a higher priority.
It would be inconsistent of Paul to warn someone away from physical activity here and then to challenge us to “run the Christian race” as well as to commit ourselves as an athlete – ultimately that our entire life may glorify God.
Should every church have a Sports Ministry?
No, just as every church should not try to develop every ministry that other churches have. The indicators that a church ought to consider a Sports Ministry is when God places a vision for this sort of ministry in the minds and hearts of the leadership, when God has raised up a leader for this ministry, when God has placed gifted people within the congregation who have an interest in sports and understand how that interest can be used to serve the purposes of God within that church, and when certain circumstances lend themselves to the successful launching and maintaining of a Sports Ministry (e.g. finances, facilities, leadership, congregational “buy-in”).
How does a church start a Sports Ministry?
The previous question identifies a few critical issues as a church considers initiating a Sports Ministry; those, plus others offered here, present a sequential process for starting:
1. Endorsement and embracing of the ministry by church leadership (Pastor, Staff,
2. Find a “Sports Ministry Timothy” that you can build into and transfer the vision to (specific gifts/talents for this person would include a heart for the lost and a desire to see people grow in their faith, a background and/or familiarity with sports and recreation, people skills for the purpose of recruiting, teaching skills in order to train those recruited, and organizational and administrative skills)
3. Enlist a Prayer Coordinator and a Prayer Team. Nothing will be accomplished apart from prayer!
4. Survey the congregation in order to identify areas of interest for participation as well as potential leadership. Consider using The Sports Challenge Event that is discussed in this booklet.
5. Observe the community in order to determine the activities, events, and/or sports to which people gravitate and identify a Target Group.
6. Based on the survey and observation, consider the three major determiners for offering an event, league or activity: Finances, Facilities, and Personnel – Leadership and Participants.
7. Construct a program based on the information.
8. Develop a strategy for evangelism and discipleship for each program initiated.
9. Promote the ministry and the individual programs.
10. Organize and administrate the programs. JUST DO IT!
11. Evaluate and modify as needed.
Potential Ideas for Teams and Sports Ministry
• Competitive Team Sports:
Basketball, baseball/softball, football, volleyball, hockey, other
• Individual Competitive Sports:
Badminton, golf, tennis, table tennis, triathlon/runs, track & field
Sports clinics, 10K or Fun Runs, Kids’ Games, picnics, field days; major sporting events outreach (World Cup, Olympics, club tournaments or games)
• Recreational Activities:
Arts & crafts, board games, drama, music, puppetry
• Wilderness Activities:
Backpacking, camping, fishing, hiking, “Four Wheeling”
• Seniors’ Activities:
Walking/jogging, stretching/exercise programs, swimming
• Wellness Activities:
Aerobics/exercise, nutrition & weight control, weight training
• Outreach Activities:
Leagues, sports clinics, service teams, prison ministry teams
• Social Recreation:
Ballroom dancing, excursions, meals, outings, movie nights
• Special Programs:
Sports Vacation Bible School, programs for the disabled
You are limited only by your own creativity.
Keys to Success;
As you begin there are a few things you should keep in:
1. Prayer! Nothing will be accomplished unless you pray and enlist others to pray too.
2. Start with something that you can do well. Identify your target audience then make a plan. Pick one event/activity/league and do it with excellence. People like to participate in something that looks organized and is professionally done.
3. Start Small. Do not let your grasp exceed your reach.
4. Gradually Expand. As you develop leadership, participants, and a presence in the
Community then moves forward.
5. Stay faithful to your goals. Work to develop people. Create fellowship for the believers and friendship with unbelievers; share your faith, disciple, and assimilate those who respond, but also be willing to prune. If an activity or event is not producing fruit, prune it (cut it out). The purpose of pruning is to produce greater fruitfulness.
As a local congregation attempts to launch sports ministry programs, significant effort will be required to recruit, mobilize, and stimulate people to consider how they might be involved.
A CHALLENGE PRESENTATION
1. A stimulating slide show or video that depicts sports ministry in action
2. A short presentation by the pastor about how sports and recreation fits into the mission and vision of the church
3. A brochure about the ministry that can be given to those in attendance
STEPS TO BUILDING A SPORTS MINISTRY
Building a sports ministry is not difficult, but it does take someone who is dedicated to seeing people reached with the gospel. Other than the steps that are listed below, there are a couple things that cannot be forgotten. First and foremost, you must keep your entire ministry in prayer. Without prayer you will never be able to succeed in developing an effective sports ministry. You must also set specific goals. Goals will enable you to stay consistent and purposeful in all your outreach ideas.
Satan will not like what you are trying to do, so you can be sure their will be opposition. In order for God to bless your efforts, you will need to be consistent in the face of this opposition. With these principles in mind, here are the steps to building a sports ministry:
1. Trust in God-given vision (to see the lost come to Christ).
2. Receive the training (just received).
3. Do an outreach (find some people to help).
4. Build a ministry team (those who will consistently work with you).
5. Gain church support/vision (church backing – must).
6. Develop ministry/program (start expanding and training others).
7. Continued growth for both Physical & Spiritual.
“If you cannot talk to people about Christ, talk to Christ about people, and soon you will be talking to others about Christ”. The best tool/medium to reach people for Christ could be through the universal language of sports ministry – the contemporary means and ways for a change!
The writer is from Sports Resource