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Unique Funding Options for Local Church Sports Outreach Ministry
By: Greg Linville

Funding local church sports and recreation leagues may be the easiest of any ministry a church provides. Some churches are considering eliminating their Sports Outreach Ministries.  As church revenues decrease during the current national economic depression, church leaders begin to question the effectiveness of many of their ministries. They are struck when they see huge sports-related budgets and wonder if that money could be more effectively spent. 

Are they right? Perhaps, but a couple clarifying questions need to be entertained before "the plug is pulled." Has the church fully analyzed where Sports Outreach funds come from?

The real question is: Is a Local Church Sports Outreach Ministry financially efficient and cost-effective?  It is not particularly helpful to question how large the budget is, nor is much gained from asking what else this money could be spent on. 

Here are five key unique benefits Sports Outreach Ministries provide for the financial bottom line of a local church.

1. Sports Outreach attracts outside contributors.

Sports ministry has a proven track record of building bridges to the local community. Many people participate in a church's sports programs but do not participate in any other church function. Most of these people are open to periodic pleas to fund special projects the Sports Outreach Ministry needs.  Fund drives to improve the athletic facilities and/or equipment; to provide scholarship funds for families hurt by the economic depression; and even special sports related mission trips are often attractive to non-churched participants.

Yes, replacing aging sports equipment raises the bottom line of the Sports Outreach budget, but much of that expense can be secured from sources outside regular church contributors and budget.  Furthermore, this doesn't adversely impact the bottom line of a local church's annual budget.

2. Sports Outreach produces internal revenues.

Sporting events draws crowds. Hot dusty ball fields create thirst and hot dogs never taste quite as good as when they are smothered with "Stadium Mustard" and eaten in front of a ball game.  Simply put, concessions are a great additional financial "perk" for local church Sports Outreach. 

Here's one specific example of how concessions can boost a Local Church's financial bottom line without increasing church member contributions! A four-field softball complex will attract more than 100 players and as many as 50-200 spectators per hour. If just 25% of 200 people (per hour) were to purchase a $1.00 soft drink, the church garners $50 dollars per hour (after expenses). Most unlit fields play two games per night ($100 per night) and most lit fields play four games per night ($200 per night).  Furthermore, most fields are in use six nights per week ($1,200 per week). 

Keep in mind, these figures are only for soft drinks and don't include any youth leagues or team practices that occur during the day, nor do they reflect revenues from being open all day Saturday!  When these additional times/days are added along with the receipts from the sale of food and snacks, the revenues from a concession-stand are boosted considerably.  Even in a two or three season climate a fully utilized softball complex can net well over $100,000 per year.

3. Sports Outreach opens up a "third pocket."

Faithful church members financially support the general budgets of their church through their tithe.  In addition, they often invest in special projects and missions through sacrificial gifts above their tithe. At this point, most church members believe they have contributed all they can give to the church and for many this may be true. 

However, a unique "third pocket" is a possibility for many parishioners if they can tap into the advertising budgets of their businesses, corporations, schools or social agencies. Businesses regularly "sponsor" local church athletic teams and venues even when they would not be able to sponsor other local church ministries/

4. Sports Outreach produces future "tithers."

One of the most overlooked benefits of an evangelistic Sports Outreach Ministry is its long-term impact on growing the church's financial bottom line by producing "future tithers." This should never be the goal of any evangelistic endeavor, but nonetheless, it must be recognized as an additional benefit of evangelism. Simply put…the church budget mirrors church membership.  When one grows, the other follows, and, thus, Sports Outreach benefits the churches finances by creating an ever-expanding base of financial supporters. 

One caution is necessary, however. The growing number of financial investors does not occur immediately, and churches should never build or remodel athletic facilities with the idea it will immediately bring new investors. A Sports Outreach that is truly reaching the fully secularized non-churched community understands it often takes a number of years before their friends will actually enter into a personal relationship with Christ, and it normally takes a few additional years before these new disciples of Christ will completely participate in tithing to the church.

5. Participation Fees

Rarely does a church ever charge for ministries or services such as Sunday School or Adult Bible Fellowship groups. Occasionally,  a church charges for certain youth ministry activities or for a weekend retreat, but should they ever decide to start requiring Christian Education "participation fees," they can expect significant resistance. 

Sports Outreach Ministries are completely different. They regularly charge fees for leagues and various activities, which often exceed $100 per person! When Sports Outreach Ministry finances are compared with other Local Church Ministries, well…there really is no comparison. Sports Outreach Ministries do far more to funding themselves than any other ministry in the church.

Greg Linville is the executive director of the Association of Church Sports and Recreation Ministers (CSRM), www.csrm.org.

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