God did 'immeasurably more' than expected through conference

The Sport, Faith and Life conference in Nottingham is an event organised in partnership between the Church of England, the Salvation Army and Scripture Union. It aims to inspire, equip and educate anyone who has a heart for mission through sport. Here, a delegate at this year's event, Holly Phipps, shares her experience of how God helped and encouraged her ministry through the event.

"I attended the conference expectant that God would open doors and provide opportunities for growth in the world of sport and faith. Coming away from the conference I can see that God did 'immeasurably more' (Ephesians 3v20) through the time in spot light talks; on prayer walks; playing multi-sports and reading the Bible together.

"As part of the conference, Natalie Andrews facilitated five learning communities where we shared ideas and opportunities in our own contexts, for others to share wisdom or pray about. In my context at St Thomas Crookes Church Sheffield, a group of young adults had been praying about how to spend time in community over the summer while our 7pm church services were on pause.

"We have a heart and vision for sports ministry and how we feel it can build church community as well as as way of inviting people back into church. So the group met to pray and I was encouraged by 1 Thessalonians 2v8 where we're encouraged to delight in sharing 'the gospel of God and our lives as well'. Our vision was to meet on Sundays to continue praying together and playing sport in community.

"We've grown since the Sport, Faith and Life conference to a 60 person Facebook community with a regular meeting of 20 people each Sunday to play a variety of sports and pray together. The message went out to the church for suggestions of all kinds of sporting ideas. So far we've had rounders, pilates, a trail run, climbing, a cycle ride and an outdoor swim suggested! The group aims to be inclusive in uniting people of all ages/abilities to share community together.

"A key part of our vision is also to invite non-Christian friends, family and neighbours to join in with what we're doing. On our first rounders session, a family came over and asked if they could join in. The group welcomed them and a conversation with the Mum afterwards revealed that the group had been an answer to prayer for them because they left the church a few years ago. I invited them to try out our church and they thanked us for making them feel so included in our game.

"It's stories like this that remind and encourage me that sports mission is an open door to inviting people back into church. I was challenged about this while speaking with a group who set up 'Cafe on the Rec' as a post-junior parkrun mission opportunity. They live out the call to 'be the church where people are' so well! There were countless other stories from people at the Sport, Faith and Life conference of lives and the gospel being shared through sports mission across the UK."

If you'd like to be a part of the Sport, Life and Faith confrence in 2023, save the date: 24th and 25th June 2023 at Nottingham University. For more details contact the Sport and Wellbeing Project Lead, Natalie Andrews.