The local church Sports Minister inquired:
“Do you know any church that is looking for a Sports Minister? My church has decided to eliminate the Sports Outreach program.”
Further conversation revealed the church was experiencing financial difficulties and wanted to be “better stewards” of dwindling resources. Stewardship is certainly a right motive, but getting rid of a Sports Outreach program is definitely a wrong decision…well, maybe not…?
In this case a whole lot of money and effort was going into supporting an “outreach” that, quite honestly, wasn’t effectively bringing anyone into the church. The sad fact is, this situation is repeated more and more these days. So is this the right decision? A bit of perspective will help.
The decade of the 1990’s was a time in which the most frequently added church staff position had one of the following words in it: Sport, Recreation, Activity or Family Life. In addition, the church facility most frequently added to the physical plant of a local church was a Family Life Center, Sports Hall, Gym or Recreation Center. Furthermore, it was rare to find a new church building that didn’t include athletic and recreational space.
The decade beginning in 2000 was a time of explosive growth in the numbers of people flocking to local church sports and recreation programs. The athletic buildings built from 1980-2000 were bursting with new activity and Pastoral Staff Members and Church Leaders were raving about the excitement. Two things occurred however, that caused a re-evaluation to occur. First, as the athletic programs grew, so did the budgetary needs. Second, the American economy went into its worst depression of the previous 70 years and churches began to scrutinize all programs.
Questions began to surface…
Do we really need all those Sports Ministers?
Why don’t we see “those people” (those who come to the gym) on Sunday morning?
What’s more important…keeping our Associate Pastor; Youth Minister; Teaching Pastor; Pastor of Visitation; etc. etc. or our Sports Minister?
After all, it was reasoned, we can run the sports without a staff person better than we can afford to lose the staff who visit us in the hospital and officiate at our funerals.
Local Church Sports Outreach will not survive into the future if the current state of affairs continues. While certain churches are using sports and recreation in relevant ways, the truth of the matter is, most are not nearly so effective as they could be. There are three major causal factors for why church Sports Outreach is underutilized and many times, ineffective. Over the next several weeks, this blog will outline things which must happen in order for churches to truly reap the benefits of the best outreach strategy for outreach the church has: Sports and Recreation. The following topics will be addressed…
1. Understanding and eliminating the “Disconnect” between the gym and the sanctuary
2. Analyzing the depth of commitment needed to do the hard work of “evangelism”
3. Maximizing your church’s Sports Outreach Opportunities
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.