“Food Courts, Rock Climbing and Jesus”

The ABC News website features an interesting article on the growing number of churches with “Food Courts, Rock Climbing and Jesus” … and basketball courts.  Mega-churches or not, many new construction or renovated churches are including multi-purpose rooms featuring athletic equipment to build their community through sport.

Upwards Sports, the world’s largest Christian youth sports provider, is an organisation founded around this ever growing trend.  According to their website, more that 500,000 athletes in over 2,000 churches participate in their sports programs.  Bradley Shumaker of Coal City United Methodist (formerly of Faith United Methodist in Champaign, IL) describes how the addition of a multi-purpose space and involvement with Upwards impacted their church community.

“I got involved with Upward Basketball in 2007 when I was approached about hosting the youth league in our building.  We had built and dedicated a multi-purpose space the year before for the purpose of worship, community space and athletics.  In addition to the stage and multi-media for worship, we put in basketball goals and volleyball standards in order to reach out to a younger population.  The first year we hosted open gym events for young adults and college students.  But when the opportunity to host Upward was presented to us, we jumped on it.

This program changed our ministry to serve a larger community.  Upward is designed to educate children in athletics with a weekly Christian teaching about kindness, teamwork, and community.  We started hosting a Saturday morning league with practices three nights a week. Because we had put in top notch equipment that allowed us to raise the basketball goals , we could host boys and girls divisions from age first grade through middle school.   Our program took off from 100 kids to nearly 350 kids in three years and gave us an opportunity to teach the kids a great sport with a wonderful message about life and faith.  Over the course of 7 years I have coached teams, officiated games, led many devotions, and eventually started coordinating the program. I am thankful for a church that found a passion for connecting people of all ages to faith based programs and serving the community we were in, by maximizing the use of our building.”

Churches embarking on this path should understand that choosing athletic equipment that best suits this multi-use space is critical to the new programs success. Advisory board/committee members who want to make most of their parishioner’s gifts should choose equipment with long term warranty and service options, as well as a manufacturer committed to custom designing a solution specifically for their project and building needs. The Aspen Group wrote a great article about adding gymnasiums to churches stating, “… it is imperative that your church leadership team has specific ministries in place or plans ready to be immediately implemented before the shovel ever touches the dirt.”

Whether an addition to a small hometown church or a new style mega-facility, these multi-purpose rooms are providing a unique opportunity for churches and church-goers alike to build relationships and fellowship through sport.

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