National Sports and Recreation Ministry Center Bolsters Local Ministry Efforts

In a culture where relationships are built electronically and television is saturated with “reality” shows and sports coverage, churches face a growing challenge to offer relevant and attractive events.

But at OBU, Dr. Bill Buchanan sees the challenge as an opportunity. The longtime professor engaged a group of like-minded believers to form a national center to help Christian groups connect to their communities through sports and recreation.

The OBU National Sports and Recreation Ministry Center, led by Buchanan, was formed in 2010 to offer an array of resources and a clearinghouse for what is working in ministry efforts across the country.

“We are providing resources, training and networking to strengthen local ministry efforts,” said Buchanan, associate professor of sports and recreation ministry at OBU. “Lives are changed through local activities where families are brought together, relationships are built, and the claims of Christ are shared.”

NSRMC leaders want to be “iron sharpening iron,” Buchanan explained. The center connects ministry personnel around the world who serve with local churches, schools and colleges, and community organizations. The network reflects the very mission of OBU to integrate faith in all areas of life and engage a diverse world.

In creating the center, sports and recreation ministry leaders worked with LifeWay Christian Resources staff to merge resources and establish a common vision. The NSRMC took over leadership for the annual Rec Lab conference, offered in Orlando, Fla., each January.

“Our 2011 Rec Lab was a great success,” Buchanan said. “We had about 100 ministry leaders from around the country coming to share their insights, gain information on ways to strengthen their existing programs, and, most importantly, to be encouraged in their work.

“The concept of meeting people where they are at in life is not new,” said Buchanan, who has worked in sports and recreation ministry for 25 years. “We have done that in ministry throughout our history. In today’s culture we see people drawn to games, fitness, outdoor sports and athletic competition. That opens a door for relevant, engaging ministry because we are meeting people at their point of interest.”

Along with hosting Rec Lab, the NSRMC will offer an annual facilities and programming seminar. The 2011 event will be Sept. 26-28 on the OBU campus in Shawnee, Okla.

The center’s website, at, includes a growing list of educational resources. Video files from the recent Rec Lab seminars are being added to the site. Ministry leaders are encouraged to submit their own reports on effective programs, using the site as a national database for successful programs.

“We are committed to using our gifts, experiences and abilities for consistent, Christ-centered ministry,” Buchanan said. “LifeWay has helped coordinate the flow of information about what is working best right now in sports and recreation ministry. The NSRMC is continuing that tradition and as more ministry leaders participate in our effort, we will see effectiveness increase for everybody.”

For more information about the center, click here, or call (405) 878-2505.