Our friends at Every Neighborhood Partnership (ENP) continue their series on Community Impact by looking at fun and play. They believe recreation is a key way for the Church to build community and resilience in kids and families.
After you’re finished reading this post and are interested in starting a similar fun and play initiative in your city (which we think you’ll be!), get an inside look into how ENP structures Saturday Sports in 32 Fresno neighborhoods in the links at the bottom of this post.
The Story, The Scripture, and The Science of Play and Resilience:
Every Neighborhood Partnership (ENP) started as a ministry that had been highly active at an elementary school. The bedrock on which that activity was built upon was a ministry of fun and play called Saturday Sports. The primary focus of the Saturday Sports ministry was to provide kids living in under-resourced neighborhoods the opportunity to play, have fun and develop meaningful relationships with positive adult role models from local churches throughout the city.
These early ministry leaders began to recognize the difficulties and challenges associated with growing up and living in under-resourced neighborhoods. They learned that adversities like high crime, concentrated poverty, gangs and other adverse childhood experiences made learning for most kids living in these neighborhoods difficult, and sometimes impossible.
ENP and our ministry partners took on the role of learners in our communities and became more intentional about what and how we did ministry in the neighborhoods. Today the Lord has allowed ENP to develop a ministry network of partnerships with churches, nonprofits, businesses, universities and colleges, school districts and several of the departments within the City of Fresno. All of these partners are working together on a weekly basis, all year long, year after year.
All of this work has been built on the simplicity of Fun and Play as a ministry vehicle to building trusting and meaningful relationships not only between caring adult volunteers and children, but also between churches, schools, parents and other stakeholders in the community.
Listen to the volunteers and kids that talk about the long-term impact of Saturday Sports in the video below:
Does the Bible talk about play? Is play important to life? Today Saturday Sports has a Greater Vision for the vital role our ministry partners have in the well-being of children, families, schools, and neighborhoods throughout the city of Fresno. This is a vision inspired from the writings of the Prophet Zechariah:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.” (Zech. 8:4-5 NASB)
The biblical word used for play in Zechariah 8:4-5 means “to laugh, play, to sport, to jest”; it includes the ideas of playing instrumental music, singing and dancing. This Greater Vision takes the Theology of Place framework and sees the local neighborhood school as a vital asset and center of the community. The school is seen as an asset where a culturally diverse group of people come into relational proximity and through the ministry of fun and play build a multi-generational community that is deeply relational.
Play is the workhorse of human development and has an important role in helping children to learn and develop important life skills like resiliency. Resilience is a set of skills, abilities, and capacities that enable children and adults alike to adapt, cope and gain mastery over difficulties and challenges in life (see the links below for some short videos on the science of resilience).
Often, we mistakenly think of children as either having resilience or not. But science and research have shown us is that resilience is something that has a unique starting point in an individual, and from that starting point can be built and developed through the interactions between the individual, their environment, and their relationships. Here is where the ministry of fun and play can have a profound impact on the Kingdom work that Jesus has commissioned His church to do.
The core building block of resilience in children are healthy, trusting relationships with adults who are consistently present in their lives and care for them. These relationships are not limited to family. Research has shown that relationships with caring adults like teachers, coaches, mentors and yes, even Saturday Sports church volunteer are also effective in helping kids to build and develop the abilities to overcome and conquer tremendous obstacles in life.
I leave you with one of my favorite scriptures in the Bible that illustrates this quality of resilience that is rooted in a trusting and loving relationship.
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom 8:32 NKJV)
Blessing to you all,
Here are some of my favorite resources on resilience:
Want to start a fun and play initiative in your city? Get an inside look into how ENP structures Saturday Sports in 32 Fresno neighborhoods. Click the link below. You’ll be able to see:
- A volunteer application
- Saturday Sports schedule
- Interactive map of Saturday Sports sites
- Advice for volunteers on cross-cultural engagement
- Access it all here.
If you missed ENP’s previous posts on City Gospel Movements, check them out here: