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Church Sports/Recreation Ministry
By: By Keith Cote

As today’s Christians are crying out for a safe place to bring their friends to investigate the claims of Christ, we must ask ourselves who it is that will create that place. They look for someone to show them the way, someone to walk with them on their journey. Will there be anybody there? They have hopes and dreams to impact their world; who will lead them?

The answer to these questions too often is that no one is there. In the midst of overwhelming need, it still seems that we cannot find enough leaders to reach our full ministry potential. Church members are often walking their own spiritual journeys. Church leaders spend less time leading and more time directing activities.
This common hurdle that leaders all over the world face is the pressing need to gather more men and women to do kingdom work. It says in the scriptures, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37)

But imagine a sports and recreation ministry where there were enough volunteer leaders not just for where your ministry is today, but also for where you want it to be. A sports and recreation ministry where leaders are:

* There because they want to be, not because they have to be
* Organized around their spiritual gifts
* Developed and equipped for success
* In their own community of growth

It can happen. I believe we are in a time like never before where men and women of all strengths, seasons of life and schedules are needed for the work of lay ministry. No longer can we just focus our energy as leaders on one or two certain groups in the church as the potential volunteers in our ministries. We need to open our eyes, think creatively and put a disproportionate amount of energy to the job of calling men and women of all ages and backgrounds into the work of ministry.

I want to share a simple but effective six-step strategy that I have discovered for calling out men and women to a church sports and recreation ministry and providing a framework for a healthy leadership environment.

1. Pray
I know that it seems simplistic and predictable to start a strategy with prayer, and many will just pass by this step thinking they understand and that in some form they are already doing this. Do we really understand? Do we really have this one covered? Matthew 9:38 says, “Ask the Lord of the Harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” The first action step the scripture says to take is to ask.

Your entire sports ministry has to have a prayer foundation. I am not just talking about a prayer committee who signs up on paper once a year. I am talking about a strategic plan of prayer that will penetrate every area of your ministry. A prayer plan that remembers these four questions:

* Is it simple? Develop a plan that anyone can quickly understand.
* Is it relational? Design it to not be a one-way relationship.
* Is it attainable? Make sure it is doable for them and you.
* Is it relevant? Make it specific and timely.

2. Prepare
Understand clearly where you are going and what you need to get there. Before recruiting new leaders, make sure you have asked and answered the four directional questions:
* The Vision Question: Where are you going?
* The Mission Question: What are you trying to do?
* The Strategy Question: What are the steps in the process?
* The Values Question: What do you believe as essential?

With these questions asked and answered, you are ready to assess your recreation ministry’s condition and needs. One question to ask is, “What roles will it take to accomplish the mission before you?” Take time to think not only of the urgent needs of the ministry but also its non-urgent, but important needs. This type of thinking will eventually minimize urgent needs. Also figure out ways to realign and maximize the resources and leaders you already have, taking time to sift through all the information and ideas. Organize them so that you know clearly what you need and why you need it before moving on to the next step.

3. Promote
You ought to let the need be known first to the prayer team and then to everyone else with whom you come into contact. When you pray, pray for the right person--not just for the position to be filled.

God has a sense of humor. Some of my best leaders have come in the most unusual ways. One of our top leaders came from an unplanned conversation that I had at the health club. I knew her, but we had not talked in years. Our conversation led to her serving on our leadership team, committed to coaching youth leaders from around the world.

Another key volunteer came from a meeting at a coffee shop. I bumped into a woman who had helped around the office administratively before in other ministries and who I had not seen in a while. She proceeded to tell me that there wasn’t any work for her to do at the present time – that she wasn’t needed. She was in working with me the next day and hasn’t had that problem since.

Cast your vision and keep casting it to whoever will listen. You never know who God has ready to join your team.

4. Pursue
You need to be ready to authentically say to people, “I need your help.” And, when someone has interest in joining your team, you need to draw clear lines of commitment. If you beg them to come, you will have to beg them to stay.

Let them know the different roles and varying commitment levels and help guide them based upon their strengths, season of life and schedule into choosing the right position for them. Be careful here because our tendency can be to place the next person that can fog a mirror in the most urgent need, but that is not the way to do it. We need to put the right person in the right place for the right reasons; it is then and there that we will find men and women thriving in ministry. You need to look ahead and make sure a ministry position is a right fit for people who are willing.

Leroy Eims said it this way, “A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others do.” It is our ministry as the leader to mentor people in ministry, not manipulate people for ministry.

5. Provide
Throughout this strategy and most clearly at this point you will need to provide some very important elements to ensure success.

Provide a commitment to a safe environment. It doesn’t matter how urgent the need is or how willing the person is--we need to screen the potential volunteer leaders to make sure that we are not putting our people at risk, especially when they will be working with children. This can be done through a wide variety of ways, including interviews, references checks and background checks with the government. The key principle here is to adopt an appropriate screening system and use it.

Provide significant roles in your sports and recreation ministry to others. Make sure all of the opportunities that you provide are not just the things you don’t want to do. Make sure you are making available different kinds of roles to different kinds of people, all clearly connected to your ministry mission in some way. If you are holding on to some areas of your ministry too tightly, you need to ask yourself the question, “Why?"

Provide clear opportunities of involvement. Simply put, this is a job description. People need to know what they are being asked to do and all that includes before agreeing to the position. I can remember many conversations where I had vision cast to someone on the team and then months later they told me, “I didn’t know how much this would cost me. I don’t think I can keep doing this.”

Some key questions to ask in order to write a job description are:
* What is the definition of success for this role?
* What spiritual gifts are needed?
* What requirements do we have as a church/ministry?
* What skills do they need to have?
* What responsibilities will they have weekly, monthly and yearly?
* What is a clear breakdown of the time commitment?

6. Produce
You must produce an environment that is healthy and safe for men and women who join your team to ensure their ability to stay committed to your mission through experiencing community of growth around a common cause. Three ingredients are crucial in fostering this environment.

* Information: Our volunteer leaders need the correct information, calendars, procedures and purposes. They need this in a timely manner, not after they have had a reason to use it. We need to equip them for success, not set them up for failure.

* Care: Not only do our volunteer leaders need to care about their ministry work, but someone needs to care for our volunteer leaders. The care given to your volunteer leaders cannot be an afterthought; they cannot only receive your leftover time. We need to be walking with our volunteers, ready with support and guidance. No one should stand alone.

* Training: If you are asking for someone to do something in your sports ministry, you need to be ready to train them. There needs to be plan of action on how the whole community of volunteers will be developed, along with a commitment to individual development by the ministry leadership. We must look at the leaders around us and ask, “What does this person need in order to grow? To be effective in their role, what skills will they need? Who will they have to collaborate with? Who are they serving in their role?”

The message of this article is simple: You can’t do it alone. If your sports and recreation ministry is going to reach its full redemptive potential, you will need to enlist the help of others and develop them. You will need to establish more than a team; you will need a leadership community. Look at this as a framework, which you will build upon and change to meet the specific needs of your ministry environment.

Whatever you do, realize the stakes are high. This challenge to get enough kingdom workers will not be easy. We will need to be committed to our mission. We will need to be obsessed with the desire to reach our full ministry potential. We will need to be zealous in all our efforts to call out men and women to the cause of reaching and leading people to Christ and developing them into fully devoted followers. It can happen, and for the sake of the ministries we lead, it must happen.

Keith Cote is the executive director for Sports Outreach Association, www.sportsoutreachusa.com. His primary role is to link together like-minded churches and equip them with the tools needed to build a healthy and effective sports ministry that reaches kids, connects families and equips leaders.

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