Book Review

Beyond the Gold

What Every Church Needs to Know about Sports Ministry

reviewed by Mary Boland

Authentic, 2011

In his book, Beyond the Gold: What Every Church Needs to Know about Sports Ministry, Bryan Mason emphasizes the relevance of sports ministry, through which churches can discover a new, invigorating avenue for engaging their congregation, as well as garnering more opportunities to spread their mission beyond the church walls. From discussions on how to present your idea for a sports ministry to your pastor and church administration, to concrete tips for specific sporting events, to personal threads  of his own experiences, Mason grants his reader a clear look into the true power of a well-run sports ministry program.

Mason’s tone is conversational, making the read a pleasant and engaging experience. He pulls the reader in with his passion on the subject, and imbues them with his first-hand knowledge of the many forms a sports ministry can take. Beginning with the history of sports ministry, Mason sets a solid foundation with the successful ventures of the past and their influence in the present. His most compelling argument lies within a belief of sport as a powerful tool for human connection: “Sport, like music, is a universal language that transcends barriers of creed, class, and culture.” Sport has the capacity to reach a wide range of audiences, bringing in those who may not have interest in faith life. Men and the youth, he argues, are two groups that are generally missing from the traditional weekly church service, and who would most benefit from the thriving sport ministry. It opens the door for the nonreligious to enter into a conversation about Christianity, in an easy-going, non-threatening environment. Throughout his book, Mason drives this point home with examples from his own career, as well as contemporaries in the field.

After establishing the successful ventures sports ministry has already seen in the past, Mason guides the reader through starting a program in his or her own congregation. In his chapter, “Preparing the Bid,” he lays out a strategy for presenting the idea to the church leadership, shining the light on the positives of sports ministry: it reaches a diverse audience, offers opportunities for leadership, develops strong community outreach initiatives, and even provides financial advantages. From this initial presentation, Mason then takes the time to draw out, from his personal experience, the steps for building a sports ministry from the ground up. An entire chapter is dedicated to this task of making the ministry a reality. The two chapters following list numerous programs of events, ranging from simple receptions to encourage interest in the ministry to forming leagues, tournaments, and even weekend-long events. He offers plans and suggestions for every sized church, always taking into account existing resources a church may have, and encouraging partnerships with the local community for providing anything the church lacks.

While a church’s own sporting events can do wonders to bring in new members and involve the community, taking advantage of major sporting events can also lend an opportunity to engage more people. Mason outlines a number of ways to host an outreach event, but capitalizes on the More Than Gold initiative that began during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. The mission is to provide faith-based outreach, hospitality and service without overstepping any denominational or doctrinal boundaries, through an interface between the sports event’s organizing committee and the churches. While it was built around the Olympic Games, More Than Gold provides four models of ministry that can be used for any major event ministry outreach: Church Service Strategy; Sports Tournament; Outreach Meals; and Big Screen Parties/Community Festivals. The church service will set the stage with sports-related scripture while providing a platform to inform the congregation of the event. A tournament before the major event is one way of engaging people and establishing an air of friendly competition. Outreach meals are another option to accompany or replace a tournament. A guest speaker, maybe a local athlete who is also a member of the church, can speak to the influence of faith and sport in their own life. Finally, a big screen party for the whole community can bring in people from all walks of life into the church for the big event. Providing some Christian content in this event, such as a presentation on the gospel, would be appropriate, although Mason emphasizes that such a large scale free event for the community is sermon enough.

Relationship building, openness, and a continual focus on evangelism through christmanship ethic are the driving forces for Mason’s sports ministry. Sport ministry has the power to reach the young, the old, the involved, folks on the fringes, and just about everyone in between, offering an engaging way to introduce them to the church.

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