Most people wouldn’t see any problem with having sports facilities as their church. Think of the many blessings it provides. It creates opportunities for ministry, right? It’s centralized and easier to manage, right? You don’t have to rely on anyone else, you control everything. Sure, it comes with headache–upkeep, hidden costs, pressure, etc. but those headaches are worth dealing with to get all of the benefits.
So, what’s the problem? Having facilities on your church campus will tend to draw other Christians to your sports program.
Of course, this is only a problem if you’re looking to use sports to reach your non-believing community with the gospel. If you’re merely running a program, then this is a positive side-effect.
Geoff Surratt wrote on his blog about how church buildings don’t attract non-believers but other Christians and the same is true for sports ministries and facilities. Having facilities at your church is like having a billboard that says: “We do sports and we talk about God. Come!” For other Christians in the community, this looks like a “safe place” for their child to play. If you do adult sports, you’ll likely draw Christian adults looking to get away from secular leagues and play in a more positive atmosphere.
This problem is solvable but it takes a lot of work. How are you going to get non-believers to come and participate in your ministry? How are you going to get all these other Christians from outside of your church on mission? If you don’t have strategies to address these questions, your program will quickly morph into a Christian country club.
My goal today was NOT to trash churches who have sports facilities but rather to clearly state one of the challenges. Now that the U.S. is moving more fully into a post-Christian worldview, it’s going to prove to be more and more difficult to get non-believers to come to you. More and more, as church sports ministries, we are going to have to go to them.