Introduction to the Sport & Wellbeing Project

In research commissioned by Sport England and the Diocese of London in 2015, an audit of the stock of places and opportunities for sport provided by churches and church schools within the Diocese concluded that an average weekly throughput attendance at sport and physical activity sessions was between 40,000 and 50,000 people.

This revealed the considerable potential and enthusiasm for the expansion of the sporting offer and the opportunities for churches to engage with new communities, not just in London but nationally too.

There is certainly a growing desire for the Church to better engage with local communities, to create stronger links between church schools, parishes and the local community, and to enhance the spiritual, mental and physical wellbeing of the nation

Through sport, churches could love and serve their communities by helping to tackle a range of social issues including inactivity, loneliness and isolation, mental health, holiday hunger, community integration and youth leadership, whilst also helping to tackle poverty and inequality.

As the Lead Bishop for Sport, the Rt Revd Libby Lane emphasises, “At its best, Sport changes lives for good. So it matters for its own sake, and not just for the evangelist opportunities it offers.”

A team for the task

In 2019, Dave Male, Director of Evangelism and Discipleship for the Church of England, consulted with various individuals and bodies, and from this worked with a small group of people to create a national Sport & Wellbeing project.

The project would explore how to develop sport and wellbeing as a key area for the Church to engage in for mission, ministry and for evangelism. At the same time, Libby Lane, Bishop of Derby, was appointed as lead Bishop for Sport by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In June 2020, Natalie Andrews was appointed to lead the project as part of the Church of England’s Evangelism and Discipleship Team. The small group of people was reconstituted to become the Sport and Wellbeing Project Advisory Group to offer support and strategic advice to the project.

The vision of the Groups is to:

  • Engage the church – To use sport as a conduit for evangelism and mission, connecting with nearly 60% of England’s population, the vast majority of whom are not in church regularly
  • Reach communities – To build local community that points to the invitation that Jesus offers of abundant life with Him
  • Transform the nation – To improve the health and wellbeing of our nation (body, mind, and soul) witnessing to the ​‘more and better life’. This ethos comes out of the Message translation of John 10:10: ​“I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”

Here, Bishop Libby explains why she believes Sport really matters: