Physical activity is as good for the body as spiritual activity is for the soul, which is why it’s such a good idea to combine the two. Still, there’s quite a leap between starting such programs and actually fostering their growth. In order to be a successful ministry, church athletic programs must be supported and encouraged. Here are ten ways you can work to ensure the continued success of athletic programs affiliated with your church.
- Form a Ministry – Sports and athletic programs are incredibly effective when it comes to fostering physical health, but they can also be the key to spiritual health when they’re handled appropriately. Rather than treating your athletic program as an afterthought, consider founding a full-time ministry based around team sports and athletes. With a dedicated ministerial staff, your church can better support a healthy and thriving program.
- Keep the Congregation Informed – You can’t expect your sports outreach program to succeed if your congregation is only vaguely aware of your efforts. Reserve room in the weekly bulletin for news and announcements related to your sports teams. Actively encourage congregation members of all ages to get involved, not only as athletes, but also as volunteers and coordinators. Your program is better positioned for success when it’s a community effort grounded in love and enthusiasm.
- Reach Out to the Community – Your church’s athletic program can be a highly effective tool for supporting not only the spiritual health of your existing congregation, but also working towards the Great Commission. Witnessing to community members who might otherwise be out of reach is easier when they’re involved in your sports groups and programs, and these programs can always benefit from more players. As your teams grow, your congregation may very well follow suit.
- Sponsor Local Teams – Smaller churches or those with limited congregation interest in a sports team can still get in on the action by supporting athletic programs on the local level. Reach out to local leagues and team coaches to learn more about sponsoring an existing team; this investment allows you to not only encourage health and fitness in the community, but also strengthen the body of Christ.
- Focus on Serving All Ages – Too often, sports and athletic programs sponsored or run by churches fail simply because their focus is too narrow. Youth programs aren’t the only ones with potential for success; adult leagues can also be a big hit. Don’t put all of your athletic eggs in the kids’ basket; find out if there’s interest among older athletes in your group.
- Partner with Camps and Clinics – Secular clinic and camps aren’t the only option for young athletes who want to improve their skills. By partnering with faith-based organizations in your region, you can help the athletes who participate in your programs to hone their skills in a spiritually fulfilling manner.
- Treat Your Sports Program as More Than an Outreach Mission – Yes, your athletic programs can be an effective way to win souls for Christ. When you focus all of your energy on outreach programs, though, the athletes who already make up part of your congregation can be neglected. Your sports program can be an effective outreach mission, but it can also be so much more than that. Support from the congregation happens when your programs are contributing to the good of the whole, so make an effort to strike the appropriate balance.
- Join a Local League – Unless you’re heading up a massive congregation with several hundred members, you probably won’t be able to support an entire league. This is where local programs can be quite valuable. Gauge the level of interest shown by athletes in your congregation, then find out if there are existing leagues which will allow your team to participate.
- Host Benefits and Sponsorship Drives – Few things bring a community together like a charitable event or sponsorship drive. Your church’s athletic programs and participation will probably cost at least a small amount of money, but fundraising events can be great ways of getting everyone in your congregation involved. Even members who aren’t athletically inclined can lend their efforts to a fundraiser, bringing their own talents to the table to help support the congregation as a whole.
- Turn Athletes into Team Players – The primary beneficiaries of your efforts to organize and support an athletic program will be the athletes themselves, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also be part of the driving force behind the program. Building teamwork and leadership skills are among the greatest benefits of sports participation, so why not give your athletes a chance to put those new skills to the test? Let them work not only to win games and grow in faith, but also to stretch their legs as leaders. Your program, and all who participate in it, will feel the benefits.
Even the smallest congregations can reap the benefits of a sports-focused ministry. In fact, actively working to foster your fledgling sports program can help the congregation as a whole to grow and thrive. Don’t underestimate the power of a sports program; get involved today, and you may be surprised by how soon you’re helping to win souls, regardless of how often you win a game.