Involved in ministry at his Cloverdale Baptist Church, Bob Dobson wondered how he might meet those families on their own turf. “For the most part, we were not reaching the unchurched,” he said. Because he understood that soccer—a fairly simple game to teach children—was a key nexus, Dobson launched a pioneering VBS-like soccer camp to foster a setting where the gospel could be clearly and concisely presented.
Today, among the nation’s top sports ministries for children ages 5 to 12, the fun-filled sports program not only helps hundreds of kids accept Jesus each year but also deeply impacts parents, inviting them to meet, snack and mingle in camp hospitality areas.
“What our research always shows is about 70 per- cent of the children who go through these camps are unchurched,” said Corey Wilson, director of High Power Sports at KidzMatter. “That’s usually what every children’s pastor wants to hear. In addition, children’s ministry leaders appreciate a program that includes opportunities to minister to parents, too.”
Rising in Popularity
The weeklong High Power Soccer typically runs for three hours a day, Monday through Friday, and includes everything from ball-handling drills and scrimmages to sing-alongs, high-energy skits and breakout lessons. Directors may choose from one of four soccer camp themes, including the pro- gram’s latest “Shield & Defender.” Although they vary slightly, all four themes focus each day on one aspect of the gospel message—from heaven, sin and Jesus Christ during the first three days to trusting and growing in Christ in the final two. “I think this is what differentiates us from others. We do focus on bringing the gospel home pretty quickly,” Wilson said.
Children’s pastors don’t have to be former athletes or even sports-minded ministry leaders to use the program. Fun sports like soccer tend to attract a large corps of teen volunteers, not to mention that a comprehensive, inexpensive director’s kit comes with plenty of useful tips and drills for practicing simple ball skills. “You don’t even have to know the basics of soccer to implement this program,” he said. “We give you everything you will need to succeed.”
Delivering the gospel outside church walls, High Power Soccer is growing at such a fast pace that some churches are replacing VBS with the soc-
cer camp. “I give a lot of credit to these churches,” Wilson said. “They’re trying something different because they want to have a greater impact in their communities. Going down a different road can be hard sometimes. But I do believe being a visionary sometimes means thinking outside of the box.”
Pastor Dan Cox of Grace Baptist Church in Harlan, IO, said instead of the traditional VBS program, his church wanted to try another approach for reaching their community last summer. He discovered High Power Soccer and his church did the soccer camp again this year. “This camp is an excellent way to share the gospel using a sport that is rising in popular- ity,” Cox said. “It’s fun doing something that no other church is doing in our area.”
Cassie Glover, who ministers to children at Richland Baptist Church in Richardson, TX, said High Power Soccer brought nearly a fourfold increase in attendance from their traditional VBS camp and many salvations.
“A traditional VBS would yield about 20 kids, and most of them were our own church mem- bers,” she said. “Our first year of soccer camp brought 70 kids—plus parents. You could feel God working through the kids, and each night more kids came because their friends were
At Pleasanton Evangelical Free Church in Pleasanton, CA, kids’ ministry leaders reported that while less than 5 children attended the church’s Sunday school on average, more than 100 kids participated in its High Power Soccer camp. The tremendous success led the church to sponsor High Power Soccer at a local military base. Due to the popularity of the camp, atten- dance at the installation chapel skyrocketed and military families got involved like never before.
Josh Carpenter, director of Ignite Kids at Risen Church in Dexter, MO wrote in a denomi- national magazine that High Power Soccer helped address the church’s need for a famil- iar and nonthreatening environment where unchurched families could be introduced to the gospel.
“Jesus had a great method of making the truth of His gospel stick to His listeners,” Carpenter said. “He would often connect His words to everyday objects: fish, coins, crops, birds, flow- ers, bread and wine. Taking His lead, at Risen Church each year we seek to make a similar connection with an object that kids come in contact with on a regular basis: a soccer ball. The goal of this camp is to produce an experi- ence that is so positive in nature and so infused with the gospel that every time one our campers sees a soccer ball for the rest of their lives they will remember Jesus and how much He loves them.”
Although the evangelistic soccer camp is the driving force behind High Power Sports, KidzMatter’s sports ministry also includes a 10-week basketball league. High Power Basket- ball, which has already been used in a handful of churches nationwide, features a Christian sports novel that players read between practices and games to enhance team devotional times throughout the season.
Whether considering soccer, basketball or both, children’s pastors can obtain a director’s kit from KidzMatter for either sport that will take them through the simple steps for setting up a soccer camp or a basketball league. Although directors are typically children’s pastors, direc- tors may also be volunteers from the church who don’t mind putting their shoulders behind the organizational end of a camp or league.
At a church in Sweetser, IN, the children’s pas- tor said he was drawn to the affordability and flexibility of High Power Sports’ comprehensive programs, which is why hundreds of kids to date have participated in his church’s soccer camp and basketball league. We were able to offer quality programming to families at a lower rate than other sports programs, which really helped low-income families in our community,” John Slater, children’s pastor at Liberty Baptist Church said.
“There is something about sports that really breaks down a lot of barriers, both with church members and with visitors,” he added. “Parents love our program because we make a big deal out of their kids; kids love our program because they get to play ball, no matter what their skill level is, and they feel like all-stars.”
Wilson, who coaches High Power Soccer and High Power Basketball at his local church, summed up High Power Sports with a story. He said an 8-year-old boy, whose family had never been to any church before, came to play High Power Basketball. Having never heard the gospel, the boy only joined at the urging of his stepfather, who was a big sports fan. At the end of the season, the boy came forward to accept Christ, followed by his grandmother, mother and stepfather, all of whom now attend a local church.