Should Churches Stop Doing Sportsman’s Events?

My feeling about sportsman’s ministry in it’s traditional sense is conflicted…. Here’s why.


Discipleship is work. I’ve heard hopeful stories of enormous sportsman’s events being put on by churches, with the end result being ground down volunteers and little to no disciplining return. This isn’t unique to sportsman’s ministry.

Assuming any program, sportsman’s related or not, will super-cede the value of individual growth and focused, intentional relationship building is to believe in a false economy. Volunteer pools run dry. Affinity popularity ebbs and flows with the trends of society. The New Testament doesn’t give support for mass programming either.

This phenomenon begs the question, should churches stop doing sportsman’s, or other affinity “outreach” events?

I’m not the first to discuss this issue. Thom S. Rainer gives 7 reasons outreach programs tend to fail. and I tend to agree. Our efforts in outreach very often seem incomplete and short lived, especially when we don’t have a clear and simple vision.

My feeling about sportsman’s ministry in it’s traditional sense is conflicted….

I believe the local church should absolutely hold gatherings and events that allow the surrounding community to interact with membership. Kid’s events, fish fry’s, sportsman’s banquets etc. all have a special place in church life. Initial contact with any people group is critical to building the types of relationships needed to disciple.

Additionally, being hospitable to both Christian and non-christian is positive Biblical behavior. (Rom. 12:9-13)  Much opinion about the church is gathered through broad stroke media and personal interaction with individual members outside the corporate context.  Why not provide the chance to “clear the air” and allow the community to see what your church is actually doing?

We are called to reach a culture that exists now. Not one that existed even 20 years ago. It’s new territory. It’s scary for many. Christian Sportsmen can lead the way.

The reason my feeling is divided on this is due to the fact that I rarely hear a complete vision from program planners that is precise and communicable. Often, in the planning stages of outdoor events, the end goal is to “lead people to Jesus.” It’s the noblest of missions. However, when we consider the spiritual condition of those on our planning teams, and those we will be interacting with (or not interacting with) at the specific events, what does “leading people to Jesus” actually look like? Unfortunately, these efforts are set up for a crash before they ever leave the ground. (Why? See the first paragraph.)

“Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.” -Theodore Roosevelt

So I’d like to propose a solution. Christian sportsmen are a unique group in the life of the church. The root of our interests and abilities come from a love for adventure. We are not conventional in our methods. Our perspective differs because of our experiences in wild places.  When we exist in a culture that expects the mundane (often misrepresented) norm of the traditional church, that fresh motivation, unorthodox as it may be, can make an enormous impact on a hyper-cynical culture.

If we are going to lead churches into planning and following through with an outreach event, we need to tap into those passions. While it won’t solve all the challenges of outreach, I believe we can clear up so much of the ongoing struggle with one simple, yet challenging step:

Establish an attainable, communicable, and simple end goal for your event. Then chase it down! 

Saying, “Lead people to Jesus” is a great Sunday school answer for why we’re doing what we’re doing. But consider the actual situation. How long has your church been in your community? Does the community actually know anything about your church or is their perception based on a 50 year old “hand-me-down” model? Is there an existing outreach strategy in place? How does your event align with it? Having a life-changing gospel conversation is ideally where we want to go with what we are doing, but we have to consider these things in order to get to that place.

I recommend making an event like this, especially your first, an “initial contact” event. How many people can you meet at the event to follow up with? To invite to your church? This allows for a much clearer and more simplified goal, especially when communicating it with your planning team.


At the end of the day, I wholeheartedly believe that the local church should not give up on large-scale outreach. It’s part of reaching our local communities with the gospel. I also believe that it’s time to re-tool. We are called to reach a culture that exists now. Not one that existed even 20 years ago. It’s new territory. It’s scary for many. Christian Sportsmen can lead the way.

What Are Your Thoughts? Should Churches get away from an event/program saturated model? Share your comments!


3 comments on “Should Churches Stop Doing Sportsman’s Events?”

  1. 1) How much prayer is there? 2) What is God saying? 3) Is this our will or His? 4) Do you have enough help for the event? 5) Do you have enough help to do the necessary follow up? 6) Why not plan for an ongoing bible study lead by a godly, committed, sold out leader that buys into your vision? 7) Do you have a group of godly leaders that work behind the scenes to keep the train on the spiritual tracks? 8) How much prayer is there? 9) Do you have enough spiritual armor on when satan attacks? 10) How many events? 11) How do you fund the events? 12) Are you looking out an year or two or a one time event? 13) Did I mention prayer?

    1. Prayer is central to all of this, and is the most useful tool in determining the viability of the other factors you mention! Great comment.

  2. I don’t think that programs are the answer to any kind of evangelism or even discipleship. Churches are notorious for putting on events, programs, etc. that fill up calendars and contribute to the fragmentation of the family. What I think churches should be doing is training their members how to blend their faith with their passions – learn how to live out their faith while hunting or fishing.

    Jesus didn’t go to the temple to find his followers. He didn’t plan a huge event, spread the word that he was coming, or market to the neighbors to come to hear him speak. Rather, he went to where the people spent their time – in the community, in the marketplace, in work places, along the streets, in the fields, around town squares. His plan wasn’t about making a big fuss over himself. Rather, it was about the simple things.

    I think that those of us who’ve led in ministry for years (24 for myself) should be focused on teaching people how to share their faith in creative ways, in plain language, in hunter speak… so that when we encounter other hunters, it simply comes naturally to hunt with the mindset that whatever I do, I do it for the glory of God.

    Sure. Those events are fun and might pay off some dividends. But, honestly, I think they should be set up for Christian hunters who want to learn how to share their faith in the field. Then, God will bring the harvest.

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