National Sport and Wellbeing Project leaps forward…

Since Jun 2020, the National Sport and Wellbeing Project has been working with eight pilot dioceses (Birmingham, Blackburn, Ely, Gloucester, Guildford, Norwich, London – Kensington Area and Rochester).

Natalie Andrews has been leading the project within the Church of England’s Vision and Strategy Team, thanks to generous funding from the Laing Trust. The project has been a unique and exciting opportunity to catalyse and develop this ground-breaking project to facilitate the best possible opportunities for sport and wellbeing to become a key component of diocesan plans for becoming younger and more diverse and developing the 'mixed ecology' in close alignment with the Church’s Vision and Strategy.

This also means encouraging all members of churches to see involvement in sport and wellbeing as part of our calling to seek and serve God’s Kingdom in the whole of life as missionary disciples.

The National Sport and Wellbeing Project is now set to move from the Vison and Strategy Team to Sportily, Gloucester Diocese to further this pioneering work.

Dave Male, Co-Director, Vision and Strategy Team says, "It’s great news that Sportily are hosting the project so that the great work Natalie has been doing can be further developed and embedded in the life of the dioceses involved.

"Plus we hope that the learning from these first dioceses can be used to encourage more dioceses to be involved in seeing the key role of sport and wellbeing for the Church’s mission to our nation."

Tim Hastie-Smith, Gloucester Diocesan Missioner for New Worshipping Communities and from the Leadership of Sportily, “It was always our hope that our learning from the development of Sportily could make a valuable contribution to the national sport and wellbeing ministry context, and so we are excited about now hosting the national project to see it fully realise its vision and goals of every diocese being able to reach and connect with people through sports ministry.”

In its first two years the project has:

  • Hosted Learning Community events at Ridley hall, Cambridge – quarterly on line in year one, then three times each year in person, for the pilot dioceses
  • Hosted a monthly online prayer meeting ‘Halftime prayers’
  • Worked closely with all 8 pilot dioceses to support them to develop their sport and wellbeing ministry strategies
  • Supported the delivery of training, workshops and conferences
  • Engaged at a national level to champion and promote sport and wellbeing ministry (see the Sport & Wellbeing pages here on the Church Support Hub)
  • Networked and worked strategically with partners, such as parachurch sports organisations, Salvation Army, Ridley Hall, Theological College, National Church institutions colleagues and other stakeholders
  • Collected data and learning, and commissioned a piece of research to inform next steps for the project and identify impact within pilot dioceses
  • Engaged with the restructuring of the National Church Institutions to support churches in delivering the C of E Vision and Strategy
  • Instigated initial planning for the legacy and ‘spinning off’ of the project.

Bishop Libby Lane, Lead Bishop for Sport, comments, "I give thanks for the work of the National Sport and Wellbeing Project and all involved in the pilot dioceses who have been using sport to connect with more people and offer the gospel in innovative and accessible ways. I know that churches across the country can testify that sports ministry, and sport more widely, contributes positively to community cohesion, individual wellbeing and both physical and mental health.

"As this project moves to a next stage, I pray that more and more people might encounter the Good News of Jesus Christ through sports ministry and that communities and lives might be transformed.."

If you would like to know more about Sport and Wellbeing ministry in the C of E, contact:

Natalie.andrews@cofesport.org.uk