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Sports Ministry

Influenced by his childhood in inner city Liverpool and the importance of sport, particularly Football, in building community, Danny says he has always had a sense that future ministry for him would involve sport in some way. He credits his Grandad in his approach to ministry, who always told him "When God is navigating you in a particular direction, doors will open.". Danny had indeed found this to be the case, as he was encouraged throughout his discernment process by Bishop Stephen and many others within the Diocese. Training at Ridley Hall, a coffee shop encounter with his mentor Robin Barden, who had previously worked with Romsey Mill, helped Danny to form his ministry further.

Danny and a small group from St. Barnabas in Cambridge moved to join a small existing church - Christ the Redeemer in Barnwell - following a church planting conference in Sheffield that got them thinking what a church plant could look like. Armed with the knowledge that revival in church has mainly happened in low income areas, as the team began to think through the steps that this process may take, within a few minutes realised that this may turn out to be more than an 'exercise' after all. 

After the conference, and praying on it for a few weeks, Danny reached out to the existing Vicar at Barnwell, who was coincidentally planning to retire, and shared his vision with others from St Barnabas, inviting those who felt called to join him. A few already lived in Barnwell ward, and one couple felt so inspired that they sold up and moved across Cambridge, relocating to Barnwell. At the end of his curacy, whilst juggling essays and wedding plans, Danny found the time and energy to apply for an Innovation Funding grant from the Church of England, a Strategic Development Funding scheme running in 2021-22 to support innovation. After returning from his Honeymoon, and within a few hours of starting work as the newly-appointed Vicar at CTR, Danny heard that his funding application had been successful.

Thanks to this funding, Danny and the church graft team from St. Barnabas were joined in their endeavours by stipended staff - youth and children worker Chris, sports minister Ben, and sport and faith minister Rosie, with admin support from Kelly. Rooted in prayer, the team are involved with different things during the week, which enables them to build team relationships. Although each staff member has their own particular focus, regular 'Team Huddles' allow them to have training input, check in with and support each other. To further support their wellbeing, instigated by Ben, the team now also plan in 30 minutes of group exercise to their week.

At the heart of sports ministry is the observation that children and young people all have different ways of learning, and therefore we should have different ways of teaching. Danny was keen to 'start with what's alreasy there', building on the success of 'Trailblazers', an after school group that has been running for 26 years, using activities and exercise to help lively children to hear the Bible stories. Exploring links with local schools proved important, with the team running a faith-based multisports club after school on a Wednesday. They also run a successful summer sports camp in partnership with Kick, with 40 children and 15 young people attending in 2022. Their monthly Friday night open-access youth group, partnering with the Cambridge United Community Trust, integrates both sports and e-sports for young people currently in school years 7-11, as they gather to play, challenge each other at video games and chat over some craft activities. A midweek after school youth group is more intentional in its faith aspect, giving young people a chance to ask questions about faith.

Once a month, the Church invite the children and young people attending their sports clubs, along with their families, to chat about youth work, life in general and build a connection to parents in a more significant way. Danny and the team are always asking "What's the next step? What can you invite people to? Where can faith be shared, or what can you point them to?." "Key to building relationships is inviting people, letting them know where there is more that they can access if they want to."  Meeting the needs of the unique congregation at CTR can be a challenge, as Vicar to the Parish, having to also navigate for those who have no interest in sport! The team have a fantastic long-term ecumenical relationship with the nearby Baptist Church, having worked together for the past 15+ years to minister in the Parish. With around 50% of the 60-strong congregation at CTR being aged under 18, the team are confident that all the growth they have seen over the past few years has been a direct result of what they've been doing in the church. They have wonderfully seen people embark on their faith journey from just one encounter with the church family.

Danny's advice to anyone looking to expand their church's offering to include sports ministry would be firstly to pray! To share the discernment with others and explore together. To reach out to people in your community who have a love for sport, and to forge links with your local school.

Page last updated: Friday 2nd June 2023 3:05 PM
First published on: 2nd June 2023
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