4th and 1. For the football fanatic, it is that ultimate gut-wrenching scenario. Failure is a play away, but yet success seems so close, so attainable, that you dare to consider it a possibility. We’ve all seen our favorite gridiron club line up in that double-tight formation in the waning moments of a game, needing only inches of turf to fill their hearts with hope and provide more promise that victory is attainable. We’ve also clenched our fists and curled up like a helpless child, eyes glued to the screen, knowing that if we fail, hope is all but lost.
4th and 1. This is the way I think of sports ministry these days; and, as in a 4th and 1 situation, it may seem to be standing on a last leg. Look at the facts; the full time sports minister is becoming and increasingly rare commodity for church sports programs. “League in a box” curriculums have simplified the planning and administration of sports leagues, allowing church lay leaders and dual-role staffers to accept the responsibility of running the program. It is also true that many of those same “league in a box” curriculums are seeing sharp declines in participation and local church partnerships in recent years. Additionally, many colleges and universities that once held sports ministry as a staple ministry degree have abandoned it for more “worthwhile” and “productive” academic pursuits. All of this begging the question; “what has happened to sports ministry?”
Many of us can attest to the effectiveness of sports as a venue for ministry. There are few other opportunities as effective at producing the tight bonds and relationships that occur on the playing field. This is one of the big reasons that churches in the 80s and 90s really began to capitalize on this reality, building their churches with gymnasiums and appointing full time staff to lead their congregations in this new frontier of ministry. However, there has been a noticeable slump in the support that is coming from senior leadership in the area of sports ministry. So what’s the issue? Is sports ministry simply ready to take a knee and head off down the tunnel to irrelevancy? Or is there hope in the few inches left between a past full of promise and a future full of grand new frontiers and mountains to be conquered. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to talk about why sports ministry has fallen just short over the last decade and then describe what needs to happen next to move the chains to the future.
Pastor of Sports Ministries
First Friends Church - Canton, OH
Ryan joined the staff at First Friends Church in 2013. A 2010 graduate of Malone University, He has his bachelor's degree in youth and sports ministries. In addition, Ryan was very involved in athletics at Malone, playing football for the Pioneers as well as serving as the Team Captain for the Lacrosse club team. At First Friends, Ryan's duties include overseeing, directing and facilitating the church's youth and adult sports programs, which include the sports of basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball, fitness and dance. His greatest goal is to see families come to a relationship with Christ through intentional outreach and discipleship with these leagues. Previously, Ryan served as the Pastor of Middle School and Sports Ministry at Old North Church, helping to facilitate the growth and maturation of a budding sports ministry. While primarily coaching youth sports, Ryan also enjoys serving as the head coach for Lake High School's Boys varsity lacrosse team. Ryan, his wife Rachel and their son Colton live in Canton, Ohio.