How does God’s Church even begin to reach these young people who are living and dying without knowing Jesus Christ?
Young people everywhere love sport. You’ll find them out on a field, gathering with others to play football, cricket, volleyball, basketball, netball. Sport can be a powerful bridge between the church and communities all over the world. All of the barriers of ethnicity, religious background, social status, language or culture seem to disappear on the sports field! Young people from all walks of life unite under the leadership of a coach who is committed to and invested in their growth as disciplined team players.
SIM’s Sports Friends ministry has a clear focus on training and equipping God’s people from the local church to become coaches so that they can make disciples through sports. Sports Friends assists leaders in the local church to establish and run ongoing sports ministry programs in their communities.
Coaches receive practical Bible-based training and ongoing support as they commit to long-term outreach. In some cases, the outreach will be in gospel-resistant areas where football coaches become church planters and are often the first points of contact with unreached people groups. In other cases, coaches may be in refugee communities where they can express hospitality and camaraderie among people who have suffered tremendous loss and displacement. The people find a sense of belonging and hope.
On the ground, these volunteer coaches minister directly to the young people. Typically, coaches start by recruiting the youth to join their teams, then begin meeting with them for an hour or two, up to three times every week. Coaches work intentionally to build personal relationships with each team member, and their families, making a clear statement that this young person is worth their time and attention. They cultivate the youth’s relationship skills towards peers and authorities, facilitating communication, bolstering trust, developing conflict resolution skills and humble interdependence.
But the greatest work is advancing young people’s understanding of who Jesus is and what He says about them! Sometimes coaches are able to openly teach the Scriptures. Sometimes they share more through telling stories and testimonies. Often, they invite their team to church or youth group activities. Other times the approach is much more subtle, and trust is built over time before sharing Jesus directly. Every team member and their families are prayed for regularly. Coaches also reach out in many practical ways, visiting them in their homes, sharing the ups and downs of life, or even delivering food parcels in the wake of a global pandemic!
Ultimately, the goal is for many to encounter the love of God through engaging in life with them. Sports Friends are passionate to see an army of coaches who share the heart of the Apostle Paul shared the gospel and their lives as well.
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