‘Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.’ Nelson Mandela Over recent years Scripture Union (SU) has been trialling, growing and replicating an effective Mission through Sport initiative in England and Wales, in rural, urban and inner-city contexts.
SU always work with local churches to connect and share faith with children and young people who are far outside of the churches current reach. At its simplest level this is about providing opportunities for the language of sport and the language of faith to collide naturally. It has been thrilling to see Mission through Sport not only grow through our own movement but also spread to many other international movements across different continents.
In north west England one church ran a SU Sports’ project in a church, located in a deprived neighbourhood in the centre of Widnes. Two years ago, only a couple of children were regularly
attending Sunday services. Then, with the minister’s help, church volunteers launched a table tennis session on a Sunday afternoon, and invited all the children in the neighbourhood to come
along. It’s all very informal and casual – there are no leagues or divisions, and no obligation to be there every week.
Immediately after the session, there just happens to be a church service, but there is absolutely no pressure for any of the children and young people to attend. They can stay or go home; it’s their choice. The extraordinary thing is that 90% of them do choose to stay on and attend church. The number of young people and children coming along to church on a Sunday increased tenfold, to around 30 a week, and made up over half of the congregation.
Most of them were aged 10-15, the very age group that many churches struggle to attract. ‘M’, aged 11, has been coming along to the sessions since they started. Often ‘M’ would stay on for
church. As he got to know the church better, he would ask lots of questions about spiritual things. Eventually ‘M’ invited Jesus to be his Lord. He and his family now attend the church regularly. He brings his mates along to a midweek sports’ club and many of them have started coming to church too.
Source: Evangelical Magazine
Bible Study: Ecclesiastes 11:9
APRIL: Pray WIDER for the Holy Spirit to prompt many more volunteers and churches to find inspirational ways to teach young people about commitment and fellowship.