Beyond Burnout: Summerville Baptist Church's 25-Year Commitment to Sports Ministry and Community Outreach

According to a recent poll by the research group Barna, 38% of pastors in America today have given serious thought to walking away from full-time ministry in the past year. Nearly four in every 10 ministers have considered walking away from the pulpit.

That statistic may or may not shock you. The world has been turned upside-down over the past few years. People are stressed. They’re burned out.

So, when you hear of a church that’s dug its heels in to serve its community through sports for 25 years with no signs of slowing down, it’s a bit of an eye-opener. Such is the case for Summerville Baptist Church in Summerville, South Carolina.

The Need for Sports Ministry

Summerville, a city located 25 miles northwest of Charleston, has exploded in growth over the past 10 years. The city’s population has increased by 25%, creating an even more urgent need for churches committed to reaching communities with the Gospel.

John Lybrand understands this need. He sees the children coming to gamedays each Saturday, and they represent all walks of life. That’s the reason why, as the Upward Basketball League Director at Summerville Baptist, John keeps plugging away, year after year. 

“We have noticed something, just because of our sports ministry, these families are starting to become members and they’re joining the church and getting involved.”
Summerville Baptist’s basketball league has been thriving, celebrating its 25th season in 2022. John admits it hasn’t always been easy. There have been challenging seasons, but the reward of families coming to the gym to hear about Jesus, outweighs all obstacles. During game day Saturdays, the gym doors are open from 7:00 in the morning, until 10:00 at night. This is where the church and the community come together.

One Simple Answer

But if you ask John why he continues to lead out in basketball, he’ll give you a simple answer. “It’s the kids and their families.”

If you’re wondering after 25 years of running a sports ministry if Summerville Baptist is ready to hit the pause button, that answer would be no. In fact, not only is the church’s basketball league running strong, they’re starting an Upward Volleyball League this year to continue to reach families.

Why? The kids. “We had a new couple join the church and they’re heavy into volleyball and they see a need for it, especially girls’ volleyball,” John said.

That desire to serve kids in the Summerville community didn’t start with John Lybrand. He’s simply taken the torch and run with it. “You know, hopefully, some of these kids and parents who have never been to church, feel welcome through basketball. This gets them in the door, and we’ve seen the benefits of this.”

Always Ready to Help

Connecting the community with the local church is the driving force behind sports ministry. Summerville Baptist is living out the service Paul talks about in Romans:

Never be lazy but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. (Romans 12:11-13, NLT)

For two and a half decades, that’s what Summerville Baptist Church has done. Confident in Christ, patient, and eager to be hospitable to the families in the community. For John Lybrand, the reason remains as simple now as it was when he first began: “It’s for the kids.”

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