Why we should use sports as part of outreach
Mark Balcar explains why sporting activities are a great medium for connecting with our local communities.
There is no part of Christian theology, worship or mission that does not embrace the fullness of human living – physical, relational, intellectual, and spiritual. Scripture, sacraments, theology and history all tell us about the relationship between the divine and the physical or created world. Our bodies are for worship – God made us body and soul: as Paul says in Romans (12:1-2), “we present to God our bodies and souls to be a living sacrifice”.
While as children we just play, as we get older we make up rules for our games and ultimately we create organisations to enforce our play through sporting codes. At whatever level we play sport, they all provide us a way to embrace the fullness of being a created human and use our bodies in worship. Yet as Bishop Philip North argues, sport can do so much more:
- It can build relationships: it is a place of encounter with a common language and a gateway to deeper friendships.
- It can be a model for gospel living: it takes work and determination and requires both body and spirit. It can change people’s lives.
- It can help create leaders: it can help to ‘give back’ headship to disadvantaged communities by offering opportunities for leadership and showcasing talents and weaknesses.
As I have visited parishes around the diocese, I have been in awe of the amazing work youth leaders are doing and how many of you are using sporting activity to engage and change the lives the young people in your communities. This approach when done in the right way can achieve so much more. It can develop character and resilience, help reduce antisocial behaviour and knife crime, bring both church and local communities together and change the life-path of young people and start them on a journey of knowing Christ.
Join the sporting and wellness network
In September, we launched a new sporting and wellness network in London. This is not just about ‘sporty’ people, but sport and wellness for everyone, whatever your ability skill or experience; activity that is inclusive, fun and uplifting. We want to support those who of you who are interested or passionate about using the power of sport to engage young people and change lives.
There are many different ways we can use sporting activity and some of these are very simple to organise. Through the network, we’ll be highlighting resources and opportunities to develop sports ministries and tell you about relevant events including our inaugural network conference in 2020. So whether you’re already using sporting activity or want to know more, sign up and get others you know to join in.
I would also love to hear your sporting stories, aspirations and challenges! Feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Balcar is the Diocesan lead for Sport and Physical Activity Ministry as part of Capital Vision 2020.