Local Church Sports Outreach Ministry Syndromes
This set of blogs revisits and updates a series of articles that address common obstacles faced by many Local Church Sports & Recreation Ministers. The articles first appeared in CSRM’s Journal “The Sports Minister” and were excerpts from Dr. Linville’s Manual: “Initiating A Sports Ministry in the Local Church.” The end goal of the series is to help identify, define and explain various “syndromes” that can short circuit a successful and effective Sports Outreach in a Local Church.
The “All They Do Is Play Syndrome”
While all Local Church Sports and Recreation Ministry “Syndromes” have cross over similarities the “All they do is Play Syndrome” has some inherently distinct and unique applications. If not addressed, this syndrome can have a significant adverse impact on the effectiveness of the ministry.
Its More Than Play with a Prayer
What appears to the untrained eye is a congregation’s Sports Outreach Director is always “playing.” The accompanying question often becomes: “Why are we paying someone to play sports?” A quick look below the surface is necessary
What often goes unseen and, if even seen, is greatly underappreciated is the great sacrifice most Sports Outreach Ministers make in order to make the ministry function, let alone be strategically-relevant and efficiently-effective. Most Sports Outreach Ministers are in the ministry because of their love for Christ, their commitment to lead a congregation’s evangelistic-disciplemaking endeavors and of course their enjoyment of sports and recreation. Yes, they love to compete themselves, but are often hampered in that due to their responsibility as a servant leader. What is not always observed is how many games, innings, or matches the Sports Minister does not get to participate in because they forfeit their playing time so others can participate. Moreover, they most often cannont enjoy their athletic endeavors because of their need to organize, supervise, control, strategize and in general lead the activity. It is similar to Pastors and Music Ministers who cannont fully enjoy or appreciate Sunday worship services, because it is their responsibility to serve others. Therefore Sports ministers do far more than play, and quite often, are very frustrated by their own lack of athletic involvement.
In addition, Sports Ministers put in many “hidden” hours prior to, during and after each and every recreational or sporting activity. While most people participating just show up at the event, Sports Ministers arrive early, work the entire time and are the last ones home. It may all look fun, and certainly it has an element of enjoyment, but Sports Ministers put in huge amounts of work that is never seen and often not appreciated.
Another aspect never seen by the casual observer is what happens behind closed doors when Sports Ministers have to take the brunt of an angry “soccer mom” whose son is “not being treated fairly by his coach,” or the “baseball dad” who is certain “the umpires cheat!” No one envies the 28 year old Sports Minister who has to lovingly explain to a 48 year old man he should consider “competing” in the “veterans” league rather than the younger-aged “open” league. For every moment on a field or court that brings enjoyment to the Sports Minister, there are moments spent wading through hyuman dynamics associated with competition.
Being able to work through difficult situations begins to address another dilemma most Sports Ministers encounter. In order for a Sports Minister to be successful, he/she has to have a personality and temperment that is able to handle confrontation, diagreements and angry people. They must have the ability to be “hard nosed” and pointed without totally alienating those they are confronting. They must be leaders who can lovingly “take charge” and be able to not only handle unpleasant and even volatile situations but moreso, be able to turn these into “redeemable opportunities.” Yet it is often this very character quality that makes them difficult for many in the church to relate to them. Church leaders stand and smile appreciatively on the sidelines of a hotly competed basketball game watching their “mighty midget” command the respect of two giants about to “duke it out” on the court, yet these same leaders greatly resent the same midget when he stands between their heated exchange at an elders meetings and tells them to “go sit down until you’ve cooled off!” Generally speaking, people who attend church are often offended by strong personailities who are direct in their interpersonal relationships. This combination can present great difficulties for Sports Ministers who use these abilities very effectively and successfully during a game but find they are resented in church meetings.
Successful Sports Ministers learn they must be aware of these potential pratfalls and work hard in developing warm interpersonal relationships, while the church leaders must appreciate the gifts of their Sports Ministers and recognize those traits are the very ones that make he/she successful.
What’s a Sports Minister To Do?
Next week’s blog will discuss the first Local Church Sports Outreach Ministry Syndrome – “The King of the Hill Syndrome”
This blog is an excerpt from Dr. Linville's yet to be released book. All rights reserved. For any reproduction right, including copying, computer reproduction, etc. contact:
Dr. Greg Linville at CSRM International C/O The World Outreach Center 5350 Broadmoor Circle N. W. Canton, Ohio – USA 44709 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Other blogs and articles on Local Church Sports, sports theology and ethics written by Dr. Greg Linville are archived at: www.csrm.org
Dr. Greg Linville was one of the founding members of CSRM and has served as the Executive Director since 2000. He served for 15 years as a local church sports and recreation minister and coached over 30 years at the junior high, high school and collegiate levels as well as 30 years in rec. leagues. Dr. Linville has consulted with churches from Australia, Africa, Asia, Australia, Caribbean, Europe, New Zealand and North America. He was awarded the world's first honorary Doctorate in Sports Ministry and holds an earned Doctorate as well. He is the author of Christmanship: The Theology of Competition & Sport. Dr. Greg has been married for over 35 years, is the father of two married children and the grandfather of a growing number of grandchildren.