In a small Salvation Army corps in England the youth leader, Mark, became frustrated by the lack of relevant youth ministry occurring within the church. Several members of the youth club lived and breathed football, watched every game and read every match report. However as Mark began to chat to the young people he realised they were not actually part of any local teams and never had the opportunity to play. Some had lost confidence and felt they were not good enough to join one and some had been banned for bad behaviour.
Realising that this situation offered the corps a golden opportunity, Mark started a team which now meets every Saturday morning just outside the church building for a ‘kick about’. They are not the most professional team in the world, however the young people spend time together, laugh together, talk about things that are worrying them and discuss their beliefs and what is important to them.
On initial reflection ‘kick about’ is a football team for young people in the local area. However, when you look deeper you realise it is less about sport and more about relationship. Over time the footballers have built healthy relationships, supporting and encouraging each other and experiencing life together. Within this relationship Mark found opportunities to offer pastoral care and share his faith.
As the relationship with the corps itself grew, a number of young people attended an evening service and learnt about the work The Salvation Army is part of overseas. Together they decided to have a fundraiser for children in Malawi. They completed a six hour non-stop football match, encouraging each other along the way whenever someone got tired or it was going badly. These young people had previously lacked the confidence and discipline to join a club, but were able to show how well they could work as a team and support each other.
Starting a sport ministry project rarely means transforming a small group of people into the next Olympic/world cup champions. This group was for people looking for somewhere to belong, and the focus remains on improving them as people more than as footballers.
Despite what many might believe, leading sports ministry is not about being good at sport. It is about pastorally caring, living out Gods word and building relationships in a way that is appealing to people within your local setting.