Church uses football to build relationships

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The new associate pastor at the First United Methodist Church ran across Moulton Field on Lawrence Street with a cooler full of water.

A group of eager children, sweaty and tired from running through drills and playing games during Day Three of the church’s free football and cheer camp eagerly awaited a drink. Caleb LaFond sat the massive jug down and stepped away to give camp participants room to fill their cups. While the children enjoyed their water break, they were also introduced to some ideas from the Bible.

“Right now they are hearing about the virtues from our other coaches and volunteers,” LaFond said. “We have been focusing on honesty, trustworthiness and things of that nature.”

Email newsletter signup

Football and religion to some may seem like an odd match, but to LaFond they go hand-in-hand. After all, the mammoth stadiums are often described as “cathedrals,” last second desperation passes are deemed “Hail Marys,” Franco Harris was on the receiving end of the “immaculate reception,” and on Friday nights around the country many high school games are preceded by prayer.

“The connection to religion and football is easy,” LaFond said. “The two blend together pretty well. It isn’t that hard to make the connection. The thought behind using the connection to benefit the community and the church came from searching for new material at my old church and finding we had a lot of athletes out there who weren’t plugged in. This was a way to tap into them and make it fun. To build that relationship between them and the church.”

The idea of building relationships is something in which LaFond strongly believes.

“That’s the most important thing I think,” he said. “Especially when dealing with young people. You have got to find a way to connect with them and build that relationship. If there isn’t a relationship then nothing else is going to stick and you aren’t going to keep them involved with the church.”

The free football and cheer camp concludes today at 8 p.m. and is part of a nationwide series by MEGA Sports, a Christian outreach organization that uses sports to bring biblical lessons to children.