A Genesis of faith through football

Photo credit: Ed Boyden

Genesis Football Medway launched in the Autumn of 2021. As well as connecting previously unreached young men with Christian teaching, prayer and faith-based discussion, the project also received the Project of the Year award at the Kent FA Grassroots Football Awards.

It grew from existing connections that had already been made by a Church Army Evangelist at St John’s Church, Chatham in the Diocese of Rochester. He had been engaging with homeless and vulnerably-housed young men in the area and wanted to strengthen those connections by offering a regular activity where they could meet, talk and share friendship.

Many of the men had an interest in sport, so it was decided to set up a community football team where they could engage in positive activity, exercise and get to know each other better each Thursday morning.

The Revd Luke Bacon, Asociate Minister at John’s, now leads the group and says the simplicity of the project is its strength, as well a working with partners Ambassadors Football GB, Anchorians FC, Medway Sport and Medway Night Shelter. Together they can provide professional coaching, access to grounds, advice on common issues among the participants and of course, gentle, optional ways of incorporating faith in the activity. Since the project started, over 50 footballers have been welcomed there.

Format

The group meets at 10am and after a short warm-up, they do some drills to increase skill and confidence and most weeks they then break into a small friendly game.

After football, a hot lunch together is offered and over lunch, someone will share a short reflection; usually linking faith and football.

Luke says the partner agencies have been very open to the faith element, which has always been optional; there has never been any resistance to this aspect of the group’s activity.

“Participants are usually really open to discussing faith, they ask questions and some of them ask for prayer too. We really value the consistency of being there every week, especially given the inconsistencies in the lives of many who we work with,” said Luke.

Highlights

A few recent highlights have included taking a small group of players to compete in an 8-aside tournament in East London.

“We were playing teams who were much stronger than we were, but it was fantastic to see the group supporting each other, staying positive even in defeat, and interacting so well with the other teams.

“It is also great to see how the team WhatsApp group has become a place of support and encouragement for some of the players who have been going through difficult times,” said Luke.

With grateful thanks to Rev Luke Bacon, St John’s Chatham for sharing his story.