While the mega-churches gain all the media attention, the little churches in America keep reaching, worshipping, and ministering to their congregations and communities. According to the National Congregations Study, 59% of all churches in the United States had an attendance of 99 or less on any given Sunday. Another 35% had between 100 and 499, which means 94% of all churches are not in the mega-church category.
When I consider the number of small churches, the Shakespeare quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, of which I take totally out of context, comes to mind, “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” (Act 3 Scene 2, page 13)
When David was a shepherd boy, he was sent to deliver food and supplies to his older brothers, who were serving in King Saul’s army. When David heard the giant, Goliath, poking fun at the Israelite’s God, he was offended. David proceeded to take on the giant one on one. Saul points out that David is a small boy and can’t fight the giant. Even Goliath says, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with a stick?” (1 Samuel 17:43 NLT)
As you may know, the little guy won that battle, and it vaulted David to be king.
A church may be small, but its influence in a community possesses the incredible strength of God. In this day and age of mega-churches, it’s easy to play a comparison game. Many small churches rule out viable ministries because they don’t consider themselves large enough to do the things other churches can do.
Let’s rethink the model.
Sports, recreation, and fitness ministries seem to find themselves in larger churches with larger ministerial staff pools to lead the efforts. Okay, I’ll grant that point. However, any church, planted in the community where God is working, can have an eternal significance with the people of that community.
In the book, Sports Ministry That Wins, contributing author Joe BW Smith, gives suggestions for smaller churches and how they can still influence their communities. He speaks of churches taking on unique paths to use the cultural enjoyment of sports as mechanisms for sharing Christ and His love. Smith not only gives excellent ideas, but he also crafts the ideas in keeping with the theology and traditions a small church may hold.
One of the visions I have for CSRM is to extend our influence into smaller churches. There we can work with ministry volunteers and offer consultation, resources, and prayer support for their efforts in using sports, recreation, and fitness ministries to reach their community.
Don’t let your size be of any issue in fulfilling God’s mission in your church and community. You will find Sports Ministry That Wins and other great resources in the CSRM store at https://csrm.z2systems.com/np/clients/csrm/giftstore.jsp
 (n.d.). Retrieved from http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/fastfacts/fast_facts.html
 (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sparknotes.com/nofear/shakespeare/msnd/page_108
I write this one week before the Board of Trustees and CSRM staff meet for their annual fall meeting. Having served on the board, I know the time we gather will be great for praying, planning, and relationship building. It will be the first fall meeting that I will lead as Executive Director. An agenda is set, and I think we’ll be able to praise the past while looking forward to the future.
To discuss this move forward, I’d like to share a story from the chapter, “The Reluctant Followers: Thar She Plows” in my first book, Characters of the Bible: Finding My Stories in Their Stories.
My career has, however, given me great insight to teach future recreation leaders about leadership, programming, and facility management. I’m presently in a class that deals with recreation facilities and fields. We look at how to design them and how to maintain them. A few weeks ago, the topic was baseball and softball fields. I remember my days at the First Baptist Church of Natchez, Mississippi, where we had two softball fields on church property. I generally do well to avoid actual work in my jobs. My philosophy of leadership has always been to not do anything that I could find someone else to do for me. It worked well with employees, volunteers, and sometimes with family. Unfortunately, my brothers and sons are all smarter than I am and figured out my system fairly early.
In this particular case, I had a crackerjack team of volunteers that groomed the field, set the bases in place, and laid the chalk foul lines. One particular weekend, during a fundraising tournament, I had to get to the fields and line the baselines myself. I wasn’t worried, as I had watched numerous people do it before. How hard could it be? I mean, really?
I set the frame on home plate and chalked the open areas to create the two batter’s boxes. Then I filled the chalk dispenser and went from the corner of home plate toward first base. About a third of the way up the baseline I turned to make sure I was laying the chalk straight. The problem was, I kept going as I turned to look. There’s a bit of physics involved in this, and I never really understood physics, but I did understand that if I turn my head to the back, my body follows toward that same side. I often make that same mistake in driving an automobile.
Not a problem, I thought to myself. No one else was there, so I kicked dirt around the angled part of the line and set the chalk dispenser back where I first turned. Off I went again. This time I was smart enough to stop walking as I turned to view my work. Now I realized there was a break in the line, with the new line starting about a half inch outside the original line. More dirt was kicked, and the line began once again from the beginning point. I’d worked on the process long enough that I now had an audience. Early arrivals for the tournament were sitting on the bleachers, enjoying my varied attempts to chalk a straight line.
Finally, after several attempts, one of my talented friends took over. He claimed it was so I could be free to deal with the administration of the tournament and minister to the people attending. That may be, but I also know he wanted a straight line between home plate and first base.
Some other people had difficulties with straight lines as well. While Jesus was walking at one time, a man said he wanted to follow Jesus wherever he would go. Jesus let him know He had no place to lay His head. Jesus then offered a couple of invitations to follow Him. One person answered that he wanted to wait for his father’s funeral. I don’t get the idea it was happening soon, or else Jesus wouldn’t have told him to let the dead bury the dead.
Another man was invited, but he wanted to wait in order to say good-bye to family. Jesus pointed out that one who looks back while plowing is not fit for the kingdom of God. Looking back always causes the head to turn in the wrong direction, thus making a straight path much more difficult.
Our main point of concern cannot be where we’ve been, but instead where we are going. I think God would want us to recall, remember, and recite how He has worked in our lives. I don’t think remembrance is what Jesus is referring to in this case. I believe Jesus is trying to keep us grounded in the circumstances of the day and to look at where God is taking us tomorrow.
Chef Gusteau, in Ratatouille, said, “If you focus on what you left behind you will never be able to see what lies ahead.”
Please keep the staff and board in your prayers as we move forward to the future. Pray as well how you might help us with finances or functions of the organization.
Waddell, D. (2015). Characters of the Bible: Finding My Stories in Their Stories. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan
This month’s Executive Director Blog is about a great opportunity all of us can take advantage of in helping future sports, recreation, and fitness ministers gain academic and conference scholarships. The Leedy Scholarship Fund assists students in preparation for sports, recreation, and fitness ministries. In the past, the Association for Church Sports and Recreation Ministers has conducted a golf tournament to fund the scholarship. The 2018 Tournament did not occur due to the transition of leadership in CSRM
This year we are operating a giving campaign to raise funds for students to gain scholarships toward their ministry calling. Many will use these funds toward a Master's Degree in Sports Ministry offered by our very own AGON Institute. Other students may apply for funds toward attending the ReachGathering Workshop for Sports, Recreation, and Fitness ministers.
An anonymous donor has offered a matching fund up to $1,000.00 toward all gifts that are given by September 30, 2019. Furthermore, we will publish the list of donors, unless requested to remain anonymous, under the following categories:
Master's Degree Gifts of $500.00 or more
Bachelor's Degree Gifts of $250.00 to 499.99
Major Courses Gifts of $100.00 to 249.99
Minor Courses Gifts up to $99.99
You may send your tax-deductible gifts by check or money order to CSRM PO Box 9110 Canton, OH 44711.
Please write "Leedy Scholarship" in the memo line. You may also go to www.csrm.org/donate and click on the "Click Here to Support CSRM" button. On the new page, click the arrow for "Campaign" and choose the "Leedy Scholarship."
The Leedy Scholarship was created to honor the legacy of Jim Leedy, who cared deeply about young people and used athletics as a tool through which to share his faith. Jim was a successful husband, father, businessman, leader, and servant of Christ. Jim was passionate about educating, equipping, and inspiring others. This event honors Jim and his legacies. Read more about Jim below.
About Jim Leedy
Love for God, love for family, and love for others was Jim's motto. Beyond that, basketball ruled! While he loved all sports, basketball was his favorite. He was on the high school
team, then the college team. From there he went on to play on church teams for many years. Basketball was in his blood! As he got older, he played to exercise and to minister to young players. He often told his wife, "I'm exercising for you so that I will be a healthy old man." She doesn't think that was his only motivation, and sadly, he didn't get to be that healthy older man.
Jim loved God. He loved helping people whether it was with his time or his money, and he loved playing basketball. Jim was actively involved in sports outreach at his church. He was committed to seeing young men become involved in the local church. That is why he believed
in CSRM. CSRM was where it all came together. Through CSRM, he realized he could do all three: serve God, help others, and play basketball. And that is what this scholarship is about; assisting people in finding God while they have fun playing sports. It seems that God let him leave this world doing what he loved so much: using his skills in basketball while at the same time introducing young men to his Savior. What a way to go!
We honor Jim's memory by offering this scholarship to those people who will carry on this legacy. Thank you for your prayer support and for what God leads you to do financially.
I had always tried to be even-tempered when it came to the referees and officials of sporting events. As the spiritual leader in sports, recreation, and fitness programs, I felt it was important to not lose my witness over a bad call or a missed call in a game.
If one mentions the 2019 NCAA Final Four Basketball tournament to an Auburn fan, they are likely to hear about a foul call or a missed double-dribble call at the end of the game. If you mention the Los Angeles Rams being in last year’s Superbowl, the New Orleans Saints’ fans will scream about a missed pass interference call. Even my beloved Kansas City Royals benefited from an incorrect call at first base in the ninth inning of game six of the 1985 World Series to help them win their first championship.
Again, relying on my leadership of sporting events, I would be quick to talk the angry fan off the ledge. If the official makes the correct call, there’s no guarantee Auburn doesn’t turn the ball over, the Saints score the winning touchdown, or the Cardinals would get the final two outs to claim the title. My attempts receive a loud and resounding, “But.” What follows is speculation, rationalization, and justification of the call and how the remainder of the game could have played out.
I’m good at taking the higher road until it’s my team.
My middle son was playing on one of the church’s high school baseball teams. We competed in the Germantown city league as we did not have enough support to include baseball at that age in our church sports program. The city league, as most youth leagues, had a home plate umpire and one on the bases. I found our participation in the city league to be another and viable use of church sports as we could influence the community with our righteous behavior during games.
My son’s team had not been successful in terms of wins that year. So we were excited when we were only down by one run in the bottom of the last inning in the last game of the season. The first two batters reached first base and second base safely. The next batter pops up a pitch to the shortstop. The umpire, as he should, called the batter out due to the infield fly rule. The runners retreated to their respective bases and stood on top of them.
That’s when things got crazy. The shortstop dropped the fly ball and threw to the second baseman who touched and tagged the runner standing on the base. The umpire then ruled the runner on first out on a force play and the man on second out for not running to third. The team in the field ran off as victors as the umpire ended the game with a triple play.
That’s when I, and remember I’m the “spiritual leader,” leaped to my feet in the bleachers and started screaming that the runners should not be out. The base umpire conferred with the home plate umpire and both agreed the game ended on the play, which only made me scream even louder. As I was having my tirade, my wife at the time and other parents from our church were quietly moving away from me as if to say, “We’re not with him.”
One of the men came to me and was able to settle my extraverted emotions for a moment. I then went on a quiet tirade for him, which included speculation, rationalization, and justification of the act and my subsequent behaviors.
How is it that I can speak of the “high road” in respecting the calls of referees and umpires and with the same mouth scream at them in what I perceived to be total ignorance and sight impairment? James wrote about it in a letter he wrote to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. He said, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10 NIV)
What made it so easy to show my true nature in a heated moment? That, my friends, is one of the reasons we participate in sports, recreation, and fitness ministries. It is in our leisure moments that the real personality comes out in all of us. One of my fellow ministers once told me that the sports, recreation, and fitness ministry gets to deal with people at their lowest level of immaturity. He’s correct, and that’s why we devote ourselves to this calling.
Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17 NIV)
Programs and facilities in sports, recreation, and fitness ministries are created and used to help people know about the love Jesus has for them as well as demonstrating how people can become followers of Jesus. Thankfully, grace extends to someone like me that talks the talk but doesn’t always walk the walk. There are hundreds of “me” in your programs. Give them grace and show them the way to know Jesus personally.
It was my freshman year of college. I sat in the English 101 writing class, never dreaming at that point that I would be the author of three books someday. My writing skills at that point in my life barely got me through high school. The professor asked about previous writing experiences. I told him of mine in high school and said, “The main problem with my writing is that I write like I talk.” After hearing me say a few sentences, I got the idea that the professor agreed with me.
One of the assignments was to write a short story on the meaning of our names. My first and middle name was easy as they are biblical names. James means brotherly, and David means beloved. The last name took some research. One derivation of the name, the source stated was that Waddell came from a mustard plant in Scotland called the “Wadel.” My conclusion to the paper was that James David Waddell meant brotherly and beloved hot stuff. According to the grade assigned by the professor, I got the idea he was even in more agreement with the original summation of my writing skills.
In biblical times names were attributed to personalities. When bad times hit, Naomi (pleasant)
changed her name to Marah, which means bitter. Jacob’s name, which meant deceiver, was
changed to Israel, or “a man who wrestles with God.” This passion for names and meanings claimed one of the chapters of my first book, Characters of the Bible: Finding My Stories in Their Stories. The chapter is titled: “Jacob: Roll Call! What’s in a Name.” I have been intrigued throughout history with great names. My oldest son had a friend in junior high by the name of Justin Case. We had a doctor in Springfield, Missouri by the name of M.D. Bonebrake. A Texas governor with the last name Hogg christened his daughter with the name, Ima. It was this passion for names along with an enjoyment of puns that led me to study the different names of coffee shops in churches.
Here are a few that got my attention:
Holy Grounds Coffee House
When it comes to names for sports, recreation, and fitness centers in churches, I see a different tactic portrayed here. Most call themselves the Recreation Center. The facilities I worked with during my days as a practitioner had the names Activities Building, Family Life Center, Christian Life Center, and the last one I worked in was called the “ROC,” which stood for Recreation Outreach Center. So, what can the name “recreation center” tell us about the churches that house such facilities and ministry programs? Well, recreation comes from the Latin word recreatio, which means refreshes or restores. 1In that mindset, we program activities and events in a refresher center or center of restoration, which is a correct description of what we do. Through sports, recreation, and fitness ministry programs we offer the opportunity for the refreshment of what this life offers through the basics of the cathartic release of stress and the refreshment of our bodies improving in stature.
These ministry programs also serve to provide the hope of restoration through faith in Jesus Christ. Some of my early mentors would spell the word “re-creation.” They would point out the verse in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that states, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” (New Living Translation) In 1993 the organization, Association of Church Sports and Recreation Ministers was created. In the time since that beginning, the name has stood for a group of people sold on serving and assisting the local church in providing leadership and resources for paid staff and volunteers serving Christ and their churches in sports, recreation, and fitness ministries. While some may see us as a “parachurch” organization, our mission has always been to support the local church body, which is why the word, “Church” appears in our name. It was our mission in 1993 and continues to be our mission in 2019. For more information on our vision, mission, and purpose, please visit www.csrm.org/history-and-what-we-believe.html. Please consider joining us in this mission with a gift of your time or a donation toward one of our ministry partners. You may find information on giving at www.csrm.org/donate.
1 McLean, D. D., Hurd, A.R., & Anderson, D.M. (2019). Kraus recreation and leisure in modern society (11 th ed.).
Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning
Professor David Waddell currently teaches at Ole Miss and is CSRM's Executive Director. He had a long tenure as a SR&F Outreach Minister at a local church in Memphis, Tennessee and has authored three books. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
His books can be ordered at: https://csrm.z2systems.com/np/clients/csrm/giftstore.jsp