Boy playing table football

Sports ministry: A powerful way to connect with young people

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Sport has huge appeal for most children and young people. Your support has enabled us to develop sports resources and help churches get sports ministry off the ground. Faith Guide Sarah Bowey shares why it’s such an effective means of outreach, and how her church has used sports ministry in their community to introduce young people to Jesus.

Sarah Bowey

As a child, I experienced a period of trauma. Sport played a huge part in my recovery – it boosted my confidence, restored my mental health and made me more resilient. I went on to do a degree in sports and it was at university that I became a Christian.

During the pandemic, I did a 3-month sponsored challenge, doing 24 ‘kickups’ with a football in a different location each day to raise funds for a local mental health charity. Strangers would stop and talk to me about what I was doing and why. I realised then that sport could be a great way for me to connect to young people who didn’t yet know Jesus and share my faith with them.

But I needed some help, so I contacted the SU North team who have been brilliant in mentoring and supporting me. Through them I did some paid ad hoc sports ministry with local churches and later some part-time work in Gateshead at Alive Church, St George’s, organising the sports at their holiday camp. Now I work for the church doing outreach to children and young people. As you might have guessed, sport plays a big part!

"Everyone has their own part to play!"

Each week, we hold football sessions in the local park. Young people can just turn up, and often they have such a good time that they invite their friends too. Everyone is valued, everyone has their own part to play, and it offers an easy way to start talking about how that echoes God’s kingdom and how he values us all too.

Sport can be so powerful. One week a boy was hanging around on the touchline. He was really withdrawn and scared and wore ear defenders because loud noises would trigger him. I crouched down and asked, ‘Do you want to play pass?’ and he nodded. We started passing the ball and with encouragement he gradually got into it and we built up the movement. Suddenly, he tore off his ear defenders and ran off to play with the main group, and he’s never looked back!

Children playing sport

We invite those kids to our midweek club which is sports based but includes more on exploring faith. They can put questions and thoughts in a ‘thought box’ which we then discuss and pray about in small groups. The uncertain times have driven young people to consider the meaning of their lives. Faith is a realm they just never knew was there, but many of them are open to it and sport gives us an amazing opening to help them discover God and how he can help in our wider lives.

Young people really need reassurance, consistency, a safe space and positive role models in their lives. That’s what we give them through our sports ministry. They’re eager to come along and they’re very inquisitive when it comes to faith and ask lots of questions. We’ve heard them say how they now see faith in a different way. They’ve even left singing, ‘God is good!’

Set up your own half-day sports event!

With the Commonwealth Games taking place this summer, sport will be big news and a great basis for connecting with children in your community!

Our new FREE sports resource, Back on Track, makes it really quick and easy to organise a mini event. 

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