Children playing sport in Durham

Passion, prayer and perseverance

Joel Ryder, Leonie Klapper and others from King’s Church Durham knew that the young people on the local estate really needed to hear Jesus’ message of hope. But they weren’t sure how to get started. Through your support, SU were able to help them to kick off a regular programme of ‘mission through sport’.


Leonie, who lives as part of a missional community on the estate, says, ‘Each summer our church does a week’s outreach here. In 2022 we included some football and the kids loved it. But that was a one-off, and we wanted to set up some regular sessions.’

‘However, there were lots of barriers,’ says Joel. ‘We were short on volunteers, didn’t know how to put a sports-based programme together, and weren’t sure how to relate to children from very different backgrounds to us. So we contacted Mark Oliver and Sarah Bowey from SU’s Sports team. They were really encouraging, gave us training and ideas, and Sarah helps regularly at the sessions which are on Thursdays after school – about ten kids come regularly now although we’ve connected with over forty.

‘It was really hard to start with – the kids were very unruly and didn’t listen to a word we said! But Sarah said that this showed just how much they needed Jesus and positive role models in their lives. SU’s training and her advice really helped us manage the situation and things started to settle down.'

"I'm so glad we prayed and persevered."

The turning point came when one child quarrelled with another and trudged off, but quickly returned after seeing what they perceived as a threatening figure on the streets. So, after the session, the mission leaders walked every one of the children home.

‘They realised we really cared about them,’ says Leonie. ‘One younger boy who used to get into fights has become much calmer and has a much better relationship with the other kids now. He’s started praying too! And the older kids are asking questions about faith – why we believe in Jesus, whether Jesus came back to life, who made God.’

The importance of prayer


Joel comments, ‘Before each session, our team meets to pray which I think has been vital! Then the kids arrive and we have sports or games – there’s always a scriptural theme, such as God’s grace and acceptance of us, how he loves and welcomes us even when we fail (as Peter did in denying Jesus).

‘One week we asked the young people to write what they thought about God and they were writing things like “God cares about us, God loves us – loves ME.” Whether or not they truly believe it yet, they’ve certainly absorbed some of what we’ve been sharing with them.’ ‘And they’re starting to ask for prayer for some of the challenges their facing in the lives, such as a sick grandparent or tough situations going on at school,’ Leonie says, ‘It’s so encouraging.

Next steps

Leonie, Joel and team

‘We’re just discussing “What next?”’ says Joel. ‘Some of the children are at the point where we believe they’re ready to hear more about Jesus. But the church is some distance away from the estate. We already run a summer holiday club on the estate for some of the church kids, so we might adapt that, or we might need to create something new.

‘It’s great to see the progress that has been made – the positive relationships we now have with the kids and how they’re absorbing spiritual lessons and journeying towards faith. I’m so glad we prayed and persevered. And God’s been faithful throughout.’

children playing sport in Durham

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Find out more about Scripture Union’s Sports team and how they could help you with Mission through Sport!

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