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OPINION

FIRST-PERSON: Your child's sports team, a mission field

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Ahh, spring! Kids' sports teams are practicing everywhere. It's such fun to encourage and support your child's extracurricular activities. I admit, however, that I occasionally begrudged the multitudinous hours spent in practice, meets, tournaments and games.
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That attitude changed dramatically one day. I was looking around at coaches and players, and their parents, relatives and friends, when I suddenly realized that God had placed me there for a strategic purpose. Here were dozens of people who didn't know Christ, and we would be together in those bleachers for weeks. God had called me to the "bleacher ministry."

What if every Christian child and parent in your church saw their sports season as a mission too? Need a few fresh ideas?

1. Be intentional. Before the season begins, chat as a family about ways God may use you. Ask God to open doors and guide you.

2. Personalize. Work hard to learn names, beginning at the first practice. Study the roster and cheer for players by name. Make a point to introduce yourself to parents, and keep a notebook in your car to help recall. A simple "Hello, Heather" can mean a lot to a lonely mom.

3. Move it. Sit near different people at the games, and get to know them. Carefully avoid being part of a clique.

4. Listen well. There are needs all around you. When problems or crises occur, be ready to act. Send a card. Promise to pray for them.

5. Live it. People are watching to see if God makes a difference in your life. Smile. Have fun. Treasure your child. Let your words, actions and demeanor reflect Christ. Absolutely avoid criticism or bad sportsmanship. Never forget that you are God's ambassador -- his "letter" to those parents who don't know Him. As others observe your relationships, your positive parenting and your Christ-like attitude, they'll be drawn to Him.

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6. Do something extra. Be available. If you're asked to do help, do more than expected. Volunteer your yard for the end-of-season team cookout. Share game photos. Call to check on a sick teammate. Seize every opportunity to show God's love.

7. Carry a few church brochures or invitation cards, and be ready to share them when the opportunity arises. Invite your child's Sunday School teacher or church children's minister to a game, then proudly introduce them to other parents.

Lastly, if your church provides a sports league, such as Upward, build a bleacher ministry into the strategy. Ask Christian parents and other church members to attend games with a ministry purpose.

An estimated 45 million kids play organized sports in the U.S. each year. That's a mission field larger than the population of Canada. God can use you to impact entire families if you'll let Him. A simple kind word. A life of integrity. Has God called you to the bleacher ministry this season?

Diana Davis is author of "Fresh Ideas" (B&H Publishing) and wife of the North American Mission Board vice president for the Midwest region. Visit her website, www.keeponshining.com.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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