By Rick Mitchell
Are you looking for space for recreation activities in your church? Want to build a recreation building? Have you thought about using the already existing space your church has or the space that is in the local community just waiting for you to discover and use?
Utilizing existing space is a good way to test the readiness of your church for a recreation ministry and begin to educate your church members to what such a ministry entails and what it will mean to your church.
Recreation ministry is a “lightning rod” ministry. It attracts lots of attention, and that means lots of critics. After all, everybody knows how to do recreation…it’s just “fun, games, and goofing off,” right? Not really.
Recreation is very popular, and it is gaining in popularity every day. This popularity makes churches think that if they could have a recreation ministry, all their outreach problems would be over. Everybody likes recreation, so everyone will beat a path to the church door wanting to recreate, then will become interested enough to go to church on Sunday, and put money in the offering plate.
Not so. A recreation ministry requires lots of work, constant supervision, increased effort from pastor and all staff members, more insurance with several part-time staff to supervise the recreation building along with a full-time or part-time staff member to administer the whole ministry.
Don’t believe me? Case in point: How many people call the church pastor asking him if he can come to the church worship center that afternoon and preach a sermon for him and a few of his friends? It never happens.
However, if the church has a recreation building, how many times do you think a member of the church will call the pastor and ask him if he and a few of his friends can come to the church recreation building that afternoon or night and shoot some basketball?
This happens almost every day unless you have policies as to when the building will be open. Who will be present at all activities in the building? Will all workers be volunteers? Must an official person from the church be present whenever it is open, and on and on. A recreation ministry is lots of work, and it is constant work…but it is worth it. It involves a lot.
Start with building your ministry, not your building. This will give you ample time to decide if you need a building or not. Maybe you can do everything you want to do without a building by just utilizing existing space. If so, great.
However, you will still need a full-time or part-time staff minister to be the recreation minister to lead the church in birthing and growing the ministry. This is much better than trying to start and grow the ministry and build a building at the same time.
Find some committed volunteers who want to use recreation to reach people.
Their enthusiasm will help you get started building the recreation ministry. The building is not the ministry. A building is only the place where some of it will be housed.
Using existing space will keep costs down and allow you to build your ministry from scratch and not be in a hurry. You may also find that you do not need a building, only willing workers.
Building your ministry before you build a building will help you to know what you need in a building if you should ever build one. That way, you will not waste space and money on things you do not need.
Cast a vision for using recreation with your existing space.
Your church may have empty rooms you can use during the week for arts & crafts classes. Maybe a vacant lot, an empty parking lot, or a ballfield can be used for some outdoor activities. A large classroom can be used for exercise classes. Another room with a side room for storage can be used as an exercise room with exercise equipment being stored on Sundays in the side room.
Ask around in the community. There may be area churches with empty gyms that you do not know about. School buildings often have a way for you to use their facilities for free or at a very small cost. It is much cheaper to rent a gym for an evening or even a year than build a recreation building.
You will be surprised how much space lies dormant that you could use for little or no cost. When you spot undeveloped space, do not hesitate to ask about using it. Many organizations have unused space and the money to develop it. It’s just that no one has ever asked about it. Once you ask, they might be willing to build to suit you now that they have someone who will use the space.
In addition, when others in your church see that you need more space, the additional space will come. Many people have money to spend. They just want it to be spent in a God-honoring way. They are looking for someone with a God-given dream.
Understand that your current facilities, or lack thereof, very rarely limits you. Pray, dream, think, ask, and pray again.
Pray and ask God to give you ideas as to what you can do in the existing space you have, indoor or outdoor. Waiting until you have more space is a bad idea. Start now with what you have and grow.
Don’t be limited to only what you can do in a building. Go outside. Trips are a great way to involve the whole family. Get up a group to go to a local museum, professional ballgame, dinner theater, or amusement park. The sky is no limit.
Focus on what matters most—using recreation to build bridges to lost people and seeing their lives transformed by the power of the Gospel.
Never wory about where the money or space will come from. God will lead you and provide for you and your recreational ministry needs.
Ministry is spending time creatively with people. Recreation is a great way to spend time with people, especially lost people. God will bless you and them as you spend time with them and open the Good News about Jesus to them. NOTE: I also like to define ministry as, “Creatively wasting time with people.”
Rick Mitchell has been involved in church recreation for over 45 years. He is the president and founder of Sports & Rec Plus, a world impact Christian Ministry that equips churches, mission organizations and individual Christians to use sports, recreation and all types of leisure-time activities for outreach, evangelism, church planting, and church growth, www.sportsrecplus.org.