football1_inlineSALEM, Oreg.—Now in its seventh year, the Upward Flag Football ministry of Bethany Baptist Church has reached record attendance.

Upward Flag Football is Bethany Baptist’s largest outreach to its community, with a record number of 350 students in kindergarten through eighth grade playing in the league this fall. In anticipation of these numbers, Bethany Baptist recently expanded its front lawn to accommodate a third field.

“Over the seven years, nearly 2,000 people have played flag football at Bethany, and each Saturday we see between 1,000 and 1,500 people on our campus,” says Pastor Tim Baker. “Those numbers have helped the ministry become self-sufficient with over $13,000 in private sponsorships from local businesses.”

Those generous donations from businesses, says Jason Horton, Upward Sports director, have allowed the flag football ministry “to purchase an Upward storage shed, an Upward tablet, field improvements, footballs, field supplies, and so much more,” all without using the church’s funds.

Bethany Baptist’s flag football program is part of Upward Sports, which is designed to develop “total athletes mentally, athletically, spiritually, and socially—producing players who excel both on and off the field.”

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The larger purpose of the program is for students and their families to hear the gospel. Throughout the season, each player in the league will hear the gospel, as will their family members who attend the year-end celebration, which usually has 700–800 people in attendance. Last fall, 60 students made decisions for Christ during the season.

Jason Horton says, “The Lord continues to bless this ministry in ways beyond our comprehension.”