Bat? Check. Glove? Check. Cleats? Check. Batting glove? Check. Belt? Check. Socks? Check. Batting helmet? Check. Water bottle? Check. Are we green or blue jerseys today? Blue. Check. Snacks and games for little sister’s backpack? Check. Sunscreen and bug spray? Check. Directions to the tournament location? Check. Now we are ready to begin.
If you are worn out just reading this checklist, can you imagine doing this multiple times a week? Such is the life of a sports family. Many families within your community have multiple children involved in multiple sports year round. They have several practices during the week in addition to their games and tournaments on the weekends. Years ago, Sundays and Wednesdays were off limits as practice and game days, but that is certainly not the case now. Tournaments are carrying over into Sundays and practices are being held on Wednesdays.
With their hectic schedules, it is becoming less likely that a sports family will be able to simply come to the doors of your church and join you on Sunday mornings. So how can we reach this large group of people? We must go to them.
The phrase “go” should be very familiar to Christians. In the Great Commission, Christ commanded His followers to go. Where do we go to reach sports families? You simply travel right within your own neighborhood. You do not even have to buy a plane ticket to reach this group of people.
With just a short trip around the block you will see crowds gathered at parks, sports complexes, gymnasiums, schools, and community centers. All of these people are gathered together because of sports. Sports cross language, socioeconomic and cultural barriers. You know what else crosses language, socioeconomic and cultural barriers? The gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sports provide a year-round connecting point for churches to reach hundreds of families. Thankfully, you can take advantage of this connecting point even if you do not have an ounce of athleticism in your body. Everyone can connect and share the love of Christ with sports families.
Reaching out and sharing the love of Christ with sports families can occur in numerous ways. Something as simple as handing out bottles of water or sports drinks at an outdoor sporting event can be used by God for something great, just recall the Woman at the Well. A simple request for a drink of water turned into a conversation about Living Water (John 4).
Popsicles, fruit or snacks can go a long way for someone who has been sitting in the bleachers all day, and activity packs can brighten the day for the siblings who are brought along to watch the games. These tangible ways of ministering to these families opens doors to develop relationships with them.
On a slightly larger scale, churches can provide hospitality centers for tournaments that will be held in their area. Tournament schedules can be very hectic for sports families since games can be back to back or hours apart. Churches can offer hospitality centers where families or teams can come and receive quick meals or simply have a place for everyone to relax before the next game.
Team sponsorships also provide another great opportunity to reach out to sports families. A church or even a small group can sponsor or adopt a local team. You can provide t-shirt uniforms for a team, hand out treat bags to the athletes after a game or sponsor an end of the year pizza party or banquet. If you want a little to no cost method, simply serve as a cheering fan club that makes signs and banners and encourages the team at each game (this works very well with local school teams).
The more consistent your presence, the deeper the relationships you will develop. There are so many ways to reach out to these families and athletes that God has placed in your community.
A good starting point is to simply ask questions. Who do you know that is already involved with sports? You might have a little league coach in your small group or several of your youth who play basketball for the local high school. Pursue opportunities with those who you already have relationships.
What athletic events are going on in your community? Contact your local community centers, league directors or school athletic directors and ask for a schedule of events or ways in which you can help meet a need.
How is God calling you to reach sports families? Maybe He is asking you to start a traveling Bible study for the parents of your son’s baseball team or asking you to go and cheer on the local volleyball team.
You most likely drive past sports families every week. Next time you see the crowds gathered or the stadium lights shining bright stop and think how you are sharing Christ’s love with these families that He has brought to your community. He cares for them. Do you?
By Chelsie Kelley, the family and community ministries consultant for the Dallas Baptist Association.