I remember my DTS outreach days of old (I’m in my thirties so not that old!), the days consisted of doing our ‘ministry’ – street preaching, dance, skits and so on – and at the end of day, when we had a bit of free time, we were allowed to go and get a football and have a kick around with some of the locals.

For years this frustrated me. I was thinking, “sport is my passion and what I’m good at and I’m awful at acting, yet I’m trying to reach people with something that I am no good at and have to put what I am good at on the back burner because this is "how we do mission and reach people" right?”

Well, finally that is changing. It is amazing to see how DTS’ in particular has become creative and uses student’s gifts to accomplish mission, rather than trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

This brings up a few things we need to consider as mission trainers.

First of all – that sport in mission is growing at an incredible rate, especially within YWAM.

Cricket Sports TrainingAt our campus here in the UK, we recently had a Rwandan guy on our Event Management school who runs a football project which is reaching out to 400 children. A Brazilian leader also came through who works with 250 children in sports activities on their YWAM campus. Here in Harpenden, in addition to football tournaments organized to serve the local Muslim community, we just launched a local Dodgeball Club which has people from our local community joining in. (As an aside, dodgeball is growing in popularity in the UK because it is such an inclusive sport, played by people who hate sport, are not fit, or are socially excluded. Why is this? It’s simple – you get to throw a ball at someone else’s head!!)

The second point here is – how do we make sport in mission purposeful?

At the centre of sport is fun and therefore this makes sport the perfect tool to build bridges, bring peace and reconciliation, educate, build friendship and develop communities. This is also where excellence comes into play. Anyone who works in sports ministry with our team attends coaching courses to become qualified in their chosen sport. This is crucial, not just to learn how to coach and to improve communication skills, but ultimately to gain credibility within the sport. Sport ministry staff are then able to adapt their coaching knowledge into the sessions and communicate life lessons and Biblical values through the games they coach.

One of YWAM’s greatest strengths is in mentoring and discipleship. Sport provides an incredible platform for inputting into peoples lives, training them, communicating values and developing life skills, all simply through providing a space for people to play sport and have fun.

During the World Cup in South Africa last year I led a Sports DTS to a town an hour outside of Cape Town called Grabouw. We were there for 8 weeks working in schools and running weekly sports sessions for children who live in absolute poverty. It was an incredible experience for the students because during the lecture phase each of them also gained their level 1 coaching certificate in football and dodgeball. We knew that a school would hand over 400 children to us and we were going to have to coach soccer, basketball and cricket to them. So, the DTS were prepared and at the end of each session they would sit their group down and talk about a particular Bible verse that was connected to the games they had been playing. Over 8 weeks they were able to build relationships and become role models.

YWAM is making big strides in using sport as a tool for mission – not just as an added extra, but really understanding the power of sport and how to use it effectively.

How can you take your sports ministry to the next level?

  1. If you are involved in Sports Ministry, get coaching qualifications and begin coaching in a local context in whatever sport you love – it really will improve you.
  2. Take an outreach team with a sports focus to a frontier location and see how big a difference you can make.
  3. Connect into YWAM’s College of Arts and Sports (CAS) and use it as a resource – there is a whole group of YWAMers who are trained and ready to help YWAMers develop their sports ministry. The CAS is also developing sports ministry training courses so hopefully in the not too distant future something will be run at a location near to you. Contact them at: www.ywamcas.org