Article by Eddie becker

Upward as a Bridge to the Community

1 John 4:7, nLT

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.

John 13:35

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

These verses are core to the heart of every believer. Because God loves us, we are to
love others.

This is how people will know we belong to God because of how we love people. It’s easy to love our family and our church. But if you asked people in your community about how your church loves them, what would they say?

Test your church in this way: if you woke up tomorrow and your church no longer existed, would your community miss it? Would your community long for the sense of love and belonging your church gave them? Does your community view your church as a place of life-giving relationships or just another fancy building?

The Need For Relationships

The truth is many churches have a hard time connecting with their community. They offer fun one-day or week-long events, but is that truly effective at connecting unchurched families to the church? It’s almost as if the church and the local community are speaking a different language.

Many churches find connecting with their own members difficult, let alone the community outside the church walls. In a survey done by the Southwestern Baptist Theology Seminary Center for Revitalization, over one-third of believers said they strongly agreed they can “walk with God” without other believers. Nearly another third at least partially agreed they didn’t need others in their relationship with God.

Relationships are an essential part of discipleship within the church. But relationships are also the key tool for reaching those outside of the church. This is the exact method Jesus used for ministering to others. Mark 2 tells us about Jesus calling Matthew to follow him. Jesus then proceeded to have a meal with Matthew and other tax collectors and sinners. When confronted by the Pharisees about hanging out with sinners, Jesus responded simply “Healthy people don’t need a doctor- sick people do.” (Mark 2:17). Jesus didn’t just meet with the sinners, share a snack and a verse, then go on about his way. He spent meals with them. He talked to them, getting to know them while investing in their life.

Connection = Time

You may have heard the saying that love is really spelled T-I-M-E. We show people we love them by spending time with them. We make room in our schedules for them. Jesus spent time with those who needed to be loved most. How does that translate to the way your church connects with your community?

It’s easy to run a program and invite people to your church for a few hours. Events around fall festivals or summer camps are great fun for kids in the community. Unfortunately, these events can turn into drop-off: parents drop their kids off for a few hours, then pick them up. The short amount of time you’ve spent is connecting only with the child, missing out on fully connecting with the family unit.

Upward Sports leagues provide a unique opportunity that goes well beyond a typical church program for young people. We know ministry to children and young people is essential for the church and creating multiple ministry touchpoints is key. Statistics have long shown the majority of those who believe in Jesus do so before the age of 18. According to George Barna’s research, “a person’s worldview is most often in place by the time they reach the age of 13.” Children matter because once they enter adulthood, their chances of coming to faith in Jesus drop dramatically.

Maximizing Ministry

John Henry Jowett, a 19th-century minister from England once said “Ministry that costs nothing, accomplishes nothing.” Running an Upward Sports league requires dedication and hard work. It takes planning, volunteers, and weekly interaction with families, but that is where Upward Sports helps customize your experience for your community. The beauty of an Upward Sports league is the consistency it creates with opportunities for you to minister to your community. You have at least twice a week during the season where families come to your church, and that is outside a typical Sunday morning. The impact you create is long-term connections with those in your community, while maximizing your ministry reach.

Ministry touchpoints exist through a league’s calendar. Consider these ministry moments where you and your team of volunteers can impact your community.



A first impression where you can introduce yourself to parents and establish credibility.



For 8-11 weeks, families will visit your church on an evening where you have the chance to engage in conversation with parents and their children. Don’t forget about the weekly devotions that encourage and pour into each child, while involving the entire family.



For 8 weeks, families will come to join you in cheering on their children as they play and have fun. Families will also hear a half time devotion where someone can speak into their life.


Season Celebration

This event is designed to celebrate the players but also recognize families for taking part in the season. Sharing the Gospel and inviting families to your service is a great way to bridge the gap.

Few other ministry programs within the church will offer such a variety of ministry touchpoints, that reach the entire family unit. This is not about numbers attending the church: this is about reaching families numerous times as you put the Gospel on display, while inviting them to engage in your church. Running an Upward Sports league is the perfect bridge from your church to your community. Will you be the church that stands in the gap for your community?

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