Christian Sports Outreach
Volleyball Outreach Team
This was very frustrating for many of us. For example, I, personally,
was not used to being treated (by people I knew) as an untalented player,
especially since I had been fortunate enough in my volleyball career
to have played on two different teams that competed in the Nationals
Tournament. It seemed like something should be done.
This concept was developed early 1994. This
presentation was first placed on the Internet in June 1999.|
This presentation (and an associated Volleyball Strategy - Practical Power Play
one on Volleyball Strategy describe the efforts of a group of
young Christians in the South and West suburbs of Chicago, beginning
in 1994. Some modern Christian Churches (for example, Willow Creek
Community Church, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago) are inspiring
great interest in young people, partly due to including interesting
and exciting diversions in their Christian efforts. We thought there
might be value in carrying over these ideas more specifically into
a sports venue, where many young people spend a lot of their recreational
These seems to be a common misconception in a lot of people that
Christians are dull, boring people who never have any fun and who
are incapable of physical coordination and sports competitiveness.
We happened to be a group of very talented power volleyball players.
We had occasionally played as teammates, but more often, on different
and often competing teams. In general, at volleyball tournaments,
it was weird whenever one of the Christian players would casually
mention his spirituality. First of all, there was soon a large
empty space around wherever that person was sitting. I guess people
expected that Christian to start handing out leaflets and to get
his little soap box out to start testifying or preaching. There
was also suddenly a noticeable change in how that person was treated.
Rather than being a volleyball player, and being evaluated based on
athletic skills and talent, those thoughts seemed to disappear,
and it was as if a new person was standing there, whose playing
skills were suddenly in question. Very strange!
We believe that the Holy Spirit moved us to begin contacting some
extremely talented Christian volleyball players. We wound up with
two separate teams, at different playing levels, an 'A' team and a
'B' team. The 'A' team included several players who concurrently
or recently played on strong college teams. The 'B' team included
very talented players, but those whose lives didn't necessarily
revolve around (Jesus and) volleyball.
The premise was to enter volleyball tournaments and to submit
the teams in various leagues. Uniforms would indicate in a modest
or light-spirited way that the members of this team were Christians.
At first, many other teams would automatically disrespect the
playing ability of such a team. However, by including strong
Christian players on our teams, and having sufficient practices
so that all of them were used to playing together, we felt we could
be competitive enough to possibly win games, tournaments and leagues.
If and when that would happen, we felt that some of the competing players
might open up their minds a little toward just what Christians actually
were. In addition, if we selected wisely, and had players who
were very competitive but still good-natured (as all Christians are
supposed to be!) then there might be evidence of joy and happiness
among our team. Often, that seems missing in many competitive
volleyball teams. I always have found dark humor in the grim expressions
of many competitors, since they seem to approach the game as a
A brief aside: I happen to be a very, very good blocker. Often, when an
opponent spiker goes through my block or faces me or otherwise makes
a great play, I congratulate him. Generally, this is unexpected,
and often looks of surprise appear. In one high-level tournament,
after having done that early on a match, I happened to get a really
good block on the same guy. A moment later, I heard a quiet
"nice block". When I looked around, he repeated it, again
quietly, and it was like a ventriloquist, where his mouth hardly
moved! That was the high point of the day for me. NOT because I
got the compliment, but, rather, because I realized how hard it had
been for him to offer it to an opponent. I felt like I (or rather,
the Holy Spirit) planted a seed that day!
So, the reason for the team was to sort of be "ambassadors"
for Jesus, in a sports venue. Very importantly, we had an active
team rule, that we would NEVER, NEVER approach ANYONE else regarding
a Christian or otherwise religious subject. We felt that was important,
partly because of the bad impression that extremely aggressive
Christians have sometimes developed in our society. Of course, it
was our hope that some individual might quietly approach one of us,
while we were sitting out waiting for our next match, and in that
case, we could release our enthusiasm! But, even then, not too
publicly. Someone nearby, who was skeptical about Christians and
Christianity, could be frightened away by an intense religious
conversation, and that would defeat one of our main purposes.
If an extended discussion was called for, it could be delayed to
a more appropriate time, maybe after the tournament when we were
all getting food.
General Guidelines and Team Playing Strategy
Our ultimate desire is to interest non-Christians to check out
Christianity. We believe that a valid way to accomplish this is
to present a sports team of Christian "ambassadors" to
demonstrate a positive image of Christian life. It is our hope
that others will see that our team is competitive, organized, and
talented, thereby demonstrating sports ability. We also hope that
others will see that our team members and coaches are happy,
easy-going, pleasant, tolerant, patient people who are enjoyable
to be around. We also hope that some of those others who had had
peculiar opinions about Christians might see this situation and
re-consider those opinions. It is our ultimate hope that some of
those others would get such positive feelings from what we show
that they would choose to explore friendships with one or more of
us, thereby opening the door to future conversations about Jesus
and Christianity. All of this is intended as very low-key. We want
to NEVER bring up the subject of religion. We want to create such
a pleasant, inviting environment that others would want to consider
entering our environment, and that THEY WOULD EVENTUALLY BRING UP
THE SUBJECT OF RELIGION!
This is a variation on the recent movement in many churches toward
"Small Group" Ministry. The two main distinctions here
are (1) the initial sports centering; and (2) the fact that new
members of the "Small Group" would not be recruited, but
rather welcomed at their initiative.
Since this approach relies entirely on the non-Christian choosing
to approach us regarding religious matters, the requirements on us
are substantial. As human beings, we must seldom anger, seldom be
moody, be non-pushy and seldom use questionable language. As sports
enthusiasts, we must bring a competitive spirit to the game; we
must understand and play as part of the team concept; and, at
whatever level we currently play, we must each realize the existence
of and strive for that "next level." As Christians, we must
each feel a strong personal relationship and commitment to Jesus,
and we must each desire to strengthen that relationship.
Note that no reference or requirement was made regarding sports
playing level. We hope to eventually field Outreach teams of all
playing levels. We suspect that the lower (C) level Outreach teams
might someday do the greatest good, since that's the level where most
Industrial League teams play, and those are the teams who are
generally most disorganized and in need of practice and coaching.
No requirement was made as to years of being a Christian or any
other rigid documentation as to depth of our players' beliefs. We
believe that a diversity of experience and background among our
teams' players may be desirable. If one of our newer Christian members
gets approached by a non-Christian (and we HOPE this will happen
often!), then that conversation can be joined by another member
of our team who might be more grounded in apologetics or whatever
other Christian discipline is appropriate. Our team members can
"lean on" each other in such conversations. It is quite
possible that non-Christians might feel most relaxed at approaching
our younger, less-experienced members rather than a member who seems
like he might belong on the Supreme Court bench! The important thing
is that we offer an inviting environment for a non-Christian to
make the first step.
Hopefully, all the members have been invited to be part of this
Outreach project already possess the personal and spiritual attributes
we feel are necessary to the success of this effort. The bulk of
the rest of this presentation will therefore address the sports
aspects of the project. In the event that a member of one of our
Outreach teams acts, speaks or behaves contrary to the goals
described herein, we would like to know about it. An extended
period of Outreach activities by a whole team of players could be
greatly harmed by even a single incident of a team member's emotional
tirade or extended swearing. We ARE all human, and such things
could happen, but we should always try to minimize the chance of
it happening. Similarly, since future Outreach teams will likely
have great autonomy, we have some concern about some future team
being influenced by dark forces and going off on a tangent of their
own, using this Outreach venue for promoting their own ends. We
would want to quickly know about such activity to try to resolve
philosophical and religious differences. This concern is a primary
reason that we see value in diversity in an individual team's makeup.
We would have great concerns about the desired low-key religiosity
of a team whose members were all Jehovah's Witnesses.
We trust that all of the members have a level of physical
coordination appropriate to the level of play desired. This does not
necessarily represent any basic limitation. In fact, it is eventually
hoped that we will be able to field a Physically Challenged
Volleyball Outreach Team.
We feel that there may be some value in entering our team(s) in
Tournaments or Industrial Leagues. However, we believe that there
is even more potential Outreach value in offering a "traveling"
team to scrimmage against during practice sessions. Many teams rent
a gym, do their drills and such, but lack an opponent team to try
their new skills and strategy on. We will go to them!
We will send a team which should be at an appropriate competitive
level to their gym (and probably share the cost of the gym rental.)
In the event that they desire coaching, we would be able to help in
that way as well (See the discussion below under Volleyball Skills.)
After the scrimmage is over, we feel that opportunities for building
personal relationships would be available, with the ultimate goal of
someday helping them learn about the Lord and why we follow His Way.
At NO point would we EVER get our soapbox out and start preaching!!
The premise is that we make it feel safe and comfortable to ask
the important questions. We want them (individually or as a team)
to make the first move.
Our team members should be fervent but not aggressive in their
Christian beliefs. Inasmuch as our teams will sometimes be
made up of individuals from different Christian denominations, we
should always strive for a non-denominational attitudes on any
religious matters. We should NEVER argue among ourselves regarding
Christian beliefs, especially when non-Christians are present.
(a) We should avoid initiating conversations of a specifically
religious nature. Too many non-Christians have been chased away
by well-meaning Christians who have acted over-zealously and over
aggressively in pursuit of their souls. We believe that there is
little value in "getting in someone's face" when trying
to help them find the Lord. Under NO condition should we EVER do
or say anything to make any opponent feel uncomfortable in any
We feel that the first impression we leave with non-Christians
is very important. Our team members must not act "Holier
than thou" or really unusual in any other way. Each of our
players should be highly self-motivated at Volleyball. Each should
be able to play very competitively with good focus WITHOUT ever
losing one's temper. It would be perceived in a disastrous
manner if any of our players would ever swear at or otherwise
"lose one's cool" toward any opponent, official, or
teammate. Our team players should also NOT be prone to moodiness
or arrogance (or perception of such) and should not let one's
concentration wander very often during play. We want to present an
image of competitiveness combined with the Christian characteristics
of gentleness, kindness, humility, helpfulness, compassion, grace, etc.
Effectively, we each and all will be God's Ambassadors and must
behave accordingly. We WANT non-Christians to realize we have a lot
of fun and that (most of us) are just nice people!
(3) Volleyball Skills
We hope to eventually field a variety of teams at various skill
levels. One day, it is hoped that we will field Men's
A (also high BB); B (or maybe low BB); and C; Women's A; B; and C;
and Co-Ed A; B and C teams. Any Christian who carries "the
Spirit" and commonly shows the behavior characteristics
described above should be able to participate on an appropriate
level team. New players should not be recruited indiscriminately.
An individual's volleyball skills should be valued, but only after
considering the Christian and behavior areas first. When we are
invited to scrimmage with a team which is desiring to improve
their Volleyball performance, some (or all??) of our team members
may be "Certified" as instructors in any or all of the
various Volleyball skills. IF THE OTHER TEAM REQUESTS, our team
members could offer individual and/or team guidance as to
skills and strategy. If the opposing team does not want this sort
of help, we will not push it. We must remember that we would be their
guests in their own realm and shouldn't try to "take it over."
(4) Team Prayer
Just before a scrimmage or a match, our team should have a brief
team prayer. It should be brief and follow the style of
dinner-table prayers, without pontification, without including
any "Hallelujahs" and without specifically referring to
our concerns for the eternal souls of any non-Christians present.
Ideally, we should try to find a way to INVITE the opponents to
pray with us WITHOUT making them uncomfortable if they choose not to.
(5) Team Bible Study
Whenever a group of our players live reasonably near each
other, it seems desirable and advantageous to organize (non-volleyball
related) regular Bible study sessions. Most of the benefits of Small
Group Worship should then come about inside our team groups.
On first thought, it might seem desirable to have a team of almost
identical Christians. However, there may be more ultimate value in
having a team made up of a variety of personalities and Christian
backgrounds. A non-Christian might more easily find an individual
on our team to relate to and build a relationship with. Also, the
perception of diversity on our team may help overcome the
"slavish, cultic blind followers" image some non-Christians
believe of us. Finally, the diversity should help to establish that
WE are pretty much just like THEM, that we're not so weird after all.
Volleyball Strategy - Practical Power Play
This concept was first developed early in 1994.
This presentation was first placed on the Internet in June 1999.
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This subject presentation was last updated on - -
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