Play and Witness

By: Rev. Dario Richards

A few summers ago, a team of young missionaries set out for a field in Jamaica to assist a local congregation to plant a new church. They had arrived with a plan: some would lead a Vacation Bible School, others would engage in sports ministry, and still others would reach out to people seated “on the fringes.” However, when they arrived at the field, it was empty.

Immediately, the young missionaries decided to attract people to the field using a simple yet effective strategy. One team member stood in the goal while the others started kicking the ball towards him. Within three minutes, the field was flooded with children who seemed to come out of nowhere; moments later teenagers and young adults joined in. As the day cooled down some of the older members of the community came out to watch what was happening. With the power of God (and one football), the team was able to attract and minister to multiple age groups within this community during the following days. We called this strategy, “Play and Witness (P&W).”

 Play and Witness is an effective strategy for missions for multiple reasons. Four stand out to me:

1.-Attracts a unique demographic of young believers. Through P&W we were able to see individuals get involved in cross-cultural missions who didn’t believe there was space for them on the mission field before. P&W helped to reshape the idea that you can only be a missionary if you preach or build something. This also has huge implications for local churches.

2.-Sports is a universal language. As a result, P&W can open up spaces and places which would be otherwise difficult to access. As we travelled throughout Jamaica, we saw sports gather more people than many traditional approaches like evangelistic crusades. As people gathered to play, we maximized the opportunity to share the gospel with them.

3.-Offers a unique model for church planting. I have heard many stories of churches that were planted which were initially started as a sports team. The local leader’s follow-up strategy included starting an actual sports club which became a space for regular discipleship to take place as the players met regularly.

4.-Creates an opportunity for everybody to be involved. Sports ministry covers traditional sports, fun group games, and activities. It reaches all ages and practically all abilities. This is significant: there are few limitations to who we can reach through sport and play. So, through playing and witnessing, we can also serve persons with disabilities, which otherwise can prove extremely challenging.

Play and Witness is a great strategy to discover, develop and deploy new missionaries. Through this vehicle, God is raising up missionaries to go into new places as a part of His global mission.

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