Over the past decade, the global church has awakened to the need for serving and involving children and young people. This is dramatically seen in many nations in and through the world of sport. Sport is a ‘universal language’ and transcends culture, language and age.
In recent years, millions of children, in many countries, have been involved in 5-day to 10-week sports and games programmes run across communities and cities. Sport is providing a powerful environment for outreach, discipleship, youth leadership development, church planting, and catalysing partnerships between churches, communities, civil society, governments and businesses.
Across Africa, the rapid spread of sport coaches taking on a greater role of helping young people in holistic development is bearing great fruit. Coaches have become ‘fathers’ and mentors in a Fatherless Continent. This African model has spread to every continent as so many faces the same devastating challenge of fatherlessness or under-fathering.
In one West African nation, it was soccer balls and passionate sports leaders that opened the door to help disarm child soldiers. In other contexts, it provides a positive way to connect and serve people bringing about racial reconciliation. In large and small cities, on islands, in jungles, prisons and schools, sport and games are making a difference to the lives of children and teens, their families and their communities.
Team sports teach a lot about how to serve each other as a body with many parts. Passionate and energetic service, compassion to needs, servant-hearted team-leadership, immediate obedience to the Bible, intentional and reproductive disciple making, building local sustainable partnerships, an attitude of continual learning, persistent prayer, and action leading to transformation are all hallmarks of gospel work in and through sports.
What makes this work even more unusual, is that it is not run by any organization and has no staff. It is simply a powerful vision and simple models developed by leaders across the whole world. It multiplies through partnering and freely shared open-source tools.
As 2012 is a landmark year with global interest tuned toward two Major Sport Events – one in London, and the other shared between Poland and Ukraine.
John Yip is a global sports ministry leader and a missionary from Malaysia.