“It’s a Kick!” Community Soccer Camp
We decided to begin using a community soccer camp in the summer when our pastor, Jon Jenks, observed the large number of children and parents who were connected to youth soccer in our town. He had been coaching some of his children’s teams and building relationships with the players and parents. The popularity of the sport, coupled with the expense of quality instruction, led us to investigate the possibility of holding our own instructional soccer camp. We contacted a highly skilled Christian coach and communicator, who agreed to come and lead the soccer part of the week-long camp. We have held the camp for two summers and are enjoying the opportunity to help kids hear the gospel, build relationships, and learn how to play soccer.
Our goal is to increasingly gain competency in following up the gospel presentations, in putting more spiritual information into the hands of the kids, and bridging from this event into our other children’s activities. Following the camp, we mailed information to the families and provided personal invitations. Next year we plan on publishing more materials for the children to take home each day and have a specific contact plan to connect the new children to other places in our church where they can learn more of the Word.
We used the following outline in planning for the soccer camp.
1. To provide opportunities for our people to invite children to an event where the gospel is shared. (They’re working on their outreach skills.)
2. To build initial relationships with children and the parents who bring them to the event.
3. To share the gospel with the unsaved children who will be attending.
4. To increase our community’s comfort level with our church’s people and programming.
1. To have at least 64 children participate in the camp.
2. To have at least 22 unsaved children participating in the camp.
3. To provide an opportunity for specific response and follow-up for children who are hearing the gospel.
1. Head coach—Needs to be someone with high level soccer teaching skills and great ability to keep kids of all ages engaged. He designs each day’s schedule, teaches the skills, and motivates. The head coach is really the key to making it a credible skills-building event to the community. (We bring someone in from the outside who is a Christian and a highly skilled soccer coach/teacher.)
2. Volunteer coaches—Need to be willing to serve; don’t need to know soccer (at the younger ages) as long as they listen to the coach and can copy the skills he teaches to kindergartners. They need to be physically mobile and willing to help motivate, encourage, and sometimes rein in kids. (With the older kids, we recruited people who had some familiarity with soccer and soccer skills—not mandatory, but helpful.)
3. Registration personnel—People who will check in and check out kids at the beginning and end of each session. (We make it a priority to have a plan that fits with our child protection policy.)
4. Set-up and tear-down personnel—People who will move soccer goals, food, drink, tables, registration information, soccer balls, etc.
5. Conversation personnel—Church members who just spend time talking to any parents who stay to watch camp. (This can be a valuable way to build bridges of friendship and contact.)
Entrance fee of $10 per camper with a max cost of $30 per family; 8–10 portable soccer goals (3′ x 5′ are ideal); water-soluble paint for marking lines on the fields; painting machine (can often be rented from hardware stores); 5–10 spare soccer balls (well labeled) of various sizes (3, 4, 5) in case children forget theirs; first aid kit; water to drink; healthy snacks (oranges, cheese, freezer pops, etc.); registration table; list of all preregistered and registered children; way to identify children and who should pick them up after camp; 32 pinnys of various colors to make teams; lots of cones; each child should bring their own ball and shin guards; prizes for the end of the week for “hustle award, “sportsmanship,” “most improved,” etc.; anything else the head coach requests to make the camp profitable; honorarium for the head coach; food and lodging for the head coach.
Targeted instruction to children in our church encouraging them to invite children from outside our church (code phrase for unsaved); targeted mailing to community (people with whom we have previous contact), including names and addresses, from other events; posters at whatever public venues available (schools, libraries, places of business); verbal announcements in church beginning five weeks in advance reminding people that it is their responsibility to do outreach and invite; flyers in mailboxes (intrachurch communication method) three weeks in advance; extended explanation in evening service three weeks in advance.
Needs to be a large grassy area that is well maintained and mowed where several smaller fields for teaching skills can be divided from larger fields. Sometimes renting the property is best; an elementary school soccer complex was our choice.
Ideal age range:
Kindergarten through grade 8
(Schedule is for five weekdays; campers’ cost of $10 includes all five days)
1. 9:30–12:00—K–3rd grades; 5:30–8:00 p.m.—4th–8th grades
2. Registration for each session begins a half-hour before camp start
3. 9:30–10:45—soccer activities as directed by head coach (with short breaks as designated by coach)
4. 10:45–11:00—main break with snack and gospel presentation
5. 11:00–12:00—final soccer activities as led by head coach
We hold a one-hour philosophy and practical advice training session for volunteer coaches the Saturday before camp. This includes reminders of how to engage children in conversation and instruction. Each coach simply pays attention to the head coach as he teaches the drills, then they facilitate them.
We are learning each time we facilitate the camp and look forward to what God may do next summer as well.
Steve Barton, pastor of outreach and worship
Calvary Baptist Church
Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
(See Baptist Bulletin for additional article, Florida Church Builds Relationship through Soccer.)