Sports ministry – where fun and faith meet
By Poon Pek Ya
THE WORLD IS COMING to our island in the form of SYOG!
From Aug 14 to 26 next year, Singapore will be hosting the first-ever Youth Olympic Games. Some 5,000 athletes and officials from around the globe will be coming, not counting the 500,000 visitors expected. This presents unparalleled opportunities for us to make Jesus known to the world at our very own doorstep. You may think that you are not an athlete or coach or even a sports enthusiast, so this has nothing to do with you. But you can play a part!
Sports ministry has been existing in Singapore, long before the recent focus on SYOG 2010. From soccer games in church leagues to praying for student athletes at chapel, sports ministry is very much alive and growing.
Sports ministry is not that different from other ministries. It simply uses different means of communicating and connecting to make God’s Word come alive to people in their unique context. What makes sports ministry distinctive is that you don’t need special skills to play. You simply need the desire to play. Whether you play recreationally or at world-class level, you are still playing. Yet, there can actually be more going on.
Imagine a coach who may simply be living out his life holding onto values from the Bible. Admired by the young athletes under his care, these values such as integrity, hard work, caring for weaker team-mates and patience are caught rather than taught. God’s word can come alive and become real to this postmodern generation – without necessarily being didactic. These athletes will in turn share the acquired life-lessons in their respective spheres of influence – in or out of training grounds.
How much “ministry” you want to do in sports depends on how intentional you make it. It is not the sports that makes the ministry but the intentionality that makes it.
You can be just jogging or running hard, or you can also make it into an opportunity to know your training partner better and perhaps understand why he is disillusioned with life. You can proceed for a drink and chat after a game. This is intentional dialogue. After some time, you may receive an opportunity to explain (gently) how we are all sinners before God and in need of His love, mercy and purpose; you are now preaching the Gospel. And if you subsequently invite him to a seeker group (e.g. Alpha course) to help him explore and learn more about our faith, you have brought him one step closer to the Kingdom of God.
Francis of Assisi exhorts us to “preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words”. This principle applies aptly when we seek to touch lives through sports and games – where playing and preaching team up on the battleground of passion, skill and character.
Poon Pek Ya is a full-time youth worker in TRAC Youth Ministries (Truthmin). She is also a qualified Sports Ministry trainer.