Growing student faith through sports leadership

A love for sport can be used as a vehicle for engaging students with a God who lives in the space of their passion and where they can explore what it means to be a growing leader and to follow in faith.This experiri profile is from Term 4 2013 and was contributed by Jim Dayhew, who was Director of Christian Education at Thomas Hassall Anglican College.

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What was the need or challenge being addressed?

Sports Serve initially captured the desire of student sports leaders and key staff to address the overall sports culture of the College by increasing both participation levels and performance outcomes. More so, the Sports Serve initiative invites students to be hopeful about how God can use them for his purposes in the area of sport, transforming and renewing society as agents of the creation mandate. We wanted students to engage with a God who lives in the space of their passion for sport and where they could explore what it means to be a growing leader and to follow Him.

What was the response to the need?

Sports Serve’s vision is ‘to nurture and grow students in sports, leadership and faith so they can serve God and others in the College, community and the world’. The Sports Serve Leadership Team meets fortnightly. This includes College Sports Captains, House Captains and interested others, all in Years 10-12. They explore and solve challenges, shaped by the gospel and kingdom values. Leadership of sports houses and experiential service-learning coaching programs have featured. Other initiatives include a mission focus each two years around either the Soccer World Cup (The Ultimate Goal) or the Summer Olympics (More than Gold).

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What was the impact?

Our new College Captain had previously commenced a before school Swim Squad as an act of service to the College. At other times, the group will serve our After School Hours Care program by organising and coaching sports and sharing what they have been learning in our regular meetings. We are planning for a holiday sports service and outreach mission next year. A number of other schools have also been to training we have held this year, and are to commence their own Sports Serve groups with potential for a broad movement to grow.

What were the greatest challenges?

The greatest challenge is to remain authentic in this approach to whole-life discipleship. This is a sport group, not another lunchtime Christian group. Faith is explored in a learning community that genuinely engages in the medium of sport; it is not simply a ‘bait and switch’ approach to ministry. The initial process of finding space for this initiative for a busy school and busy students was a challenge but the initiative is now well established in the leadership development and broader ministry program of the College.

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