I like the word “converge” with its meaning of two or more things coming together and usually something new is discovered as a result. That’s the way J.U.M.P. Sports ministry came into being. Let’s begin with the convergence of a few things.
Our church was originally begun in the 1870s in the middle of farmland outside of the small town of Marietta, Georgia. At that time in a horse and buggy era, Atlanta was a day’s ride away. There are no farms around the church even though many of the senior adults still hold that perspective. Now in the 21st century, Atlanta is a thirty minute drive and surrounded by urban sprawl. Instead of farms there are several large multi-family housing communities; perhaps the most unchurched demographic. Like many similar churches, this congregation has had difficulty connecting to a changing community that is younger and more racially diverse.
In 2005 several men of the church started opening the church gymnasium on Tuesday evenings for pickup basketball games. Once each week an average of twenty young adults played ball for a couple of hours. The only spiritual element was a beginning prayer.
In 2006 I was working on my doctorate and was reading the new book Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. Their book called attention to the crisis of discipleship in the church. They communicated what I had felt for many years and it was a revelation to me and challenged leaders to design disciple-making processes. Simple Discipleship was published in 2009 as a result.
As we were implementing Simple Discipleship, we began to align the existing ministries of the church—including the Tuesday basketball event. The seeds of J.U.M.P. Sports were created.
A SIMPLE DISCIPLESHIP FOUNDATION
In 2010 our church accepted a new vision to reach the immediate community and I sought the Lord’s guidance to develop a ministry that would accomplish the task. On a trip with my wife, Janice, it hit me—Jesus Understands My Problems—J.U.M.P. Sports. As its foundation, participants would hear the gospel of Christ each week and core elements of discipleship would be taught. We use the Simple Evangelism and New Christian Life Coaching card from my book Simple Discipleship. The children, youth, young adults, and other guests who come to watch also connect to the message. The circle-up prayer and half-time Gospel and Gatorade elements are as important to the participants as the sports component.
A SIMPLE SPORTS APPROACH
I am not particularly athletic at 55 years old. I played football in high school but that was the extent of my sports connection. Our approach is simple. We provide just enough structure to make the ministry work. However, we have no referees, and no one keeps score unless the respective teams do it themselves. We do have plenty of volunteers and some designated “coaches” to have a tip-off when players get to an impasse. Depending on the number of players, we choose two or four captains who then form pick-up teams. The teams are designated according to the four colors of the Simple Discipleship logo—red, blue, yellow, and green. We play two fifteen minute periods, stop for half-time, and then play two more periods.
At half-time the players circle up at the top of the key for the lesson that lasts no more than ten minutes. They enjoy their drinks and snacks during the lesson. It is amazing to see the participants warm up to the leaders more each week. We intentionally emphasize Christmanship over sportsmanship and regularly compliment the players when they yield to the smaller and weaker participants. We also emphasize the acronym J.U.M.P. in order to teach the people personal reliance on Jesus Christ. About 90% of the participants are unchurched and we are their only strong spiritual connection. Most of them live in the multi-family housing units close by.
Our volunteers enjoy connecting to parents and friends from the community who come to watch. We have found a way to bring the unchurched to an unthreatening event where they hear the gospel. The ministry has revitalized our church. After only two months of J.U.M.P. Sports we have over 70 players and another 20 spectators from the community. That is almost 100 new unchurched contacts in two months. All of them do not show up each week, but we are making plans to expand to other sports venues such as soccer and volley ball. We have actually had some girls who were not interested in basketball who played badminton. At the designated half-time they gathered for the lesson with others.
We have already had several of the sports ministry participants attend Sunday school and church worship. We hope to celebrate some baptisms soon as the Lord’s fruit of our new ministry. I am working on a detailed guide to provide the detail for starting and maintaining this ministry in other churches. Please let me know of your interest at firstname.lastname@example.org . If interested you should read through chapter five of my book Simple Discipleship, as it forms the core of JUMP Sports. Buy at http://bit.ly/3ILLK5 .
Dr. Tom Cocklereece
Would you benefit from having a ministry coach? I use GoToMeeting for online distance sessions. Coaching sessions and our relationship are confidential but your success will be visible to all. You may choose Simple Discipleship, ministry, or personal development coaching or a combination. Contact me for a complementary session at email@example.com . At he very least we may pray together!
Simple Discipleship: How to Make Disciples in the 21st Century was published and released by Church Smart Resources in November 2009. It is not a self-published book. To learn more about Simple Discipleship and to order the book, follow the link below:
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC
Author “Simple Discipleship,” contributing writer L2L Blogazine
He is a pastor, an author, professional coach, and leadership specialist
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