Philip Bryant | Philip is the Church Health Consultant with the Baptist Churches Western Australia. This article titled ‘Tear down the walls’ was extracted from the WA Advocate | August 2015.
A couple of weeks ago I took my grandson to the local park to play in the late afternoon. This was the first time that I had been to the park at this time of day and I was astonished.
There were hundreds of children, young people and adults training for their football matches. This happens most of the year for different sporting codes at this park.
Recently I visited a pastor who has commenced his ministry in a small country town where he is the only full-time minister. When I asked where he went if he wanted to take his wife and family out for a meal, he said “to the sporting club up the road on Thursday nights”. The town’s sporting facilities were magnificent.
The pastor mentioned that he had been in the town for six months and was looking to find ways to connect himself and the church to the town and district. So I asked him, “Have you ever thought of offering your services to the sports club as their chaplain?”
A cultural shift has occurred. Now people look to the local sporting club to meet their needs for community and support.
We talked about how the ‘town well’ is now the sporting clubs – the place where people gather and find community. In days gone by people found their community in a local church, but today, the church has been replaced by a sporting club. Too often the church bemoans the fact that people play sport. When I was growing up my family did not allow us to play sport on Sundays and some older church members frowned on a person who played sport muttering phrases like, ‘idol worship’.
Sport is a major part of our Australian culture. Remember the outpouring of grief at the deaths of Phillip Hughes (cricket) and Phil Walsh (football). Both these men died tragically. There are many other people each year who die or are injured playing sport. Many people connected with the sporting clubs experience tragedy and difficulty.
A cultural shift has occurred. Now people look to the local sporting club to meet their needs for community and support. But an increasing number of club officials are admitting that they are not equipped to meet those needs.
The church now has a great opportunity to move out from behind their walls and into the sporting community where they can play sport, volunteer and offer their services as chaplains to the clubs. Many sporting clubs are also now approaching Sports Chaplaincy Australia (SCA) requesting a chaplain.
Sports Chaplaincy Australia’s vision is to see a chaplain in every sporting club at every level of sport in the country. To achieve this, SCA provides training and accreditation for chaplains. SCA also aims to assist churches to see that this as a valid ministry in their community.
It is time for the church to move out from ‘behind their walls’ and grasp this ministry of serving the local sports club, offering love and compassion in the name of Jesus.
For further information about sports chaplaincy training and accreditation, contact Ron Hunt WA Sports Chaplaincy Australia Coordinator here.