On youth soccer team, sharing Gospel is the goal
Tony Peterman gets a kick out of two things—youth soccer, and sharing the Gospel. Peterman, a Southwestern Seminary Master of Arts student, and his daughter coach a youth soccer team at their church. The church program formerly was associated with a national youth sports provider, but dropping that affiliation enabled the church to reduce children’s costs to participate to $20 per child. This has allowed more children to join the program, and as a result of broadening their outreach, the church is signing up more unchurched children than ever in its sports programs.
Peterman knows that the camaraderie formed in sports is key to building a bond that can open a window to a child accepting Christ, and that every contact with a child is a chance to share God’s Word. While coaching the children, Peterman shares the Gospel with the young athletes each week in practice and provides them with a chance to respond.
At the end of the season, he and his daughter each present their own personal testimony as well. “I feel waiting until the last practice is best, as by that time we have a good relationship and it is more impactful,” he says. “After the season, I try to visit each family, first to address salvation, and secondly to ensure that they are part of a local church. Many times they already have a church home, and we don’t want to ‘steal’ them, but want to ensure they are engaged and active in their church.”
At an April 28 youth sports awards program, two of the eight children whom Peterman coaches decided to accept Christ. “Out of the eight, there are three who I was unsure about their salvation, and this was two of them,” Peterman says. “Needless to say, we are pumped.”
Peterman has since followed up with one young man and his family, and he intends to talk with each of them further, one on one, to be certain that their questions are addressed. He also plans to visit the other child and her family again. She has a church home, so in addition to verifying her decision, Peterman will be making sure that she is engaged there.
While it is normal for Peterman to see one or two children accept Christ each year, he has requested that next year, he have only children on his team with no church affiliation so that he may broaden his reach to even more unchurched youngsters. “Then, the opportunity is there to help the family engage with a local church,” he says. Even at the end of the semester, Southwestern’s busy students are still actively sharing the Gospel.