Pray – Play – Say
Last month I began this blog on Simple and Organic Sports Ministry by sharing the value of employing the bridge of sports to build relationships with lost people. This month I will share the first of three principals that will help your church develop church sports that win!
Principle 1: Develop intentional and specific prayer.
Prayer is critical to any endeavor for which we want to see eternal results – it is even more important when the endeavor is evangelistic in its focus. The Apostle Paul pleaded with the Colossians to devote themselves to prayer for himself and his co-workers because they were sharing the Gospel. He asks them to pray for:
1. An open door to share the message (Colossians 4:3).
2. God to give the clarity when proclaiming the message (4:4).
3. Wisdom when dealing with outsiders (4:5).
4. The blessing of making the most of every opportunity (4:5).
5. Their conversation to be full of grace and seasoned with salt so they know how to answer everyone (4:6).
It is critical that you develop a team of people who will regularly ask God to guide and bless your efforts; and you do this BEFORE you go out and play with lost people. This requires far more than circling up and praying after you play a game or go on a hike. Even in the simplest and most organic sports ministry, prayer is essential to seeing eternal results.
In addition to Paul’s list above, your prayer team could also ask God for:
1. Wisdom to know what sports or activities to play. Think people first – who are you trying to reach? The sport/activity is secondary.
2. Where and when to engage in the activity – this may determine who comes
3. The Holy Spirit to draw those He wants to participate – not just sports all-stars from the church
4. Physical protection from injuries
5. Self-control of those participating – especially the believers playing
6. Protection from the enemy of the God and His work in the world (see Ephesians 6:10-20).
7. Key volunteers. When Jesus was in Jerusalem, He looked over the people of His city with compassion and gave the disciples a task - pray for laborers (Matthew 9:36-38). Employing sports to reach out does not require a lot of volunteers, but they do need to be the right ones - those drawn by God’s Spirit. So ask God for them – like Jesus told us to.
After personally surveying 94 churches that employed sports for ministry purposes, I hired a professional statistician to analyze the survey data. His purpose was to determine which aspect of the churches’ sports ministry (e.g., church size, facilities, paid staff, Senior Pastor support, sports ministry budget, etc.) correlated most closely to families becoming engaged in the life of the church (through the bridge of the sports ministry). Intentional and specific prayer was greater than two times more likely to be correlated to families joining the church than any other aspect!
Don’t overlook the importance and strategic advantage prayer brings to incorporating sports in your church Sports Outreach efforts. You will have to invest time to ask people pray, then give them specifics.