Attracting and Ministering to Older Athletes: Strategies for Engaging Middle and High School Athletes Through Sports Ministry

A Webinar with Jennifer McCraw, Dr. David Pierce, Jay Gordon, & Ko Klaver

Building a thriving sports ministry for older athletes aged 6th grade and up requires a unique approach tailored to their needs and interests. In this insightful webinar titled “Attracting and Ministering to Older Athletes,” experts share valuable strategies for engaging middle and high school athletes through sports ministry.

Understanding the Void for Older Athletes

The Shrinking Opportunities for Community-Based Sports

Dr. David Pierce, Director of Sports Innovation at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis, presents national data highlighting the declining participation rates among 13 to 17-year-olds across various sports. This decline is primarily driven by the rise of travel sports, which forces athletes out of community-based sports participation opportunities at an earlier age.

Filling the Gap with Community-Based Recreation

Upward Sports aims to fill this void by providing a vast array of recreational opportunities for older athletes. By offering a fun, less pressure-packed environment focused on character development and spiritual mentorship, Upward Sports provides a unique alternative to the hyper-competitive travel sports scene.

Tailoring the Experience for Older Athletes

Creating a Relevant Ministry Approach

Veteran League Directors Ko Klaver and Jay Gordon share their experiences in ministering to older athletes. They emphasize the importance of fostering a competitive yet fun environment, allowing for open discussions on relevant topics, and providing spiritual mentorship from coaches who can speak into the lives of these athletes during a pivotal stage of their faith journey.

Modifying Rules and Devotional Content

Joel Flaugher, from the Upward Sports Market Research Department, discusses upcoming changes to better serve older athletes. These include modifying rules and evaluation processes to align with the desired level of competition, as well as developing devotional content that resonates with middle and high school students, fostering meaningful discussions.

Overcoming Concerns and Embracing Opportunities

Addressing Apprehensions About Older Age Groups

While some church leaders may be hesitant about ministering to older athletes due to concerns about language, behavior, or sensitive topics, the webinar speakers emphasize the importance of embracing these opportunities for meaningful impact. By providing a positive environment with strong spiritual mentorship, churches can fill a crucial void in the lives of these athletes.

Exploring Non-Traditional Schedules

To accommodate the busy schedules of older athletes, the webinar encourages exploring non-traditional programming times, such as Sunday evenings or weekends. By meeting athletes where they are available, churches can increase engagement and provide a much-needed outlet for fellowship, competition, and spiritual growth.

The webinar “Attracting and Ministering to Older Athletes” offers invaluable insights for churches seeking to expand their sports ministry to middle and high school athletes. By understanding the unique needs and interests of this age group, tailoring the experience, and embracing opportunities for meaningful impact, churches can create a thriving sports ministry that enriches the lives of older athletes both on and off the field.

Looking to start and plan an Upward Sports Ministry at your church? We are ready to support you!

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