Red Rocks Taking the Church into Sports

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DENVER -- The Bible calls your body a temple of the Holy Spirit. That's why one sports ministry believes in the importance of being physically and spiritually fit.

Red Rocks Sports Director Scott Russomanno's vision of a full-scale sports ministry began eight years ago at his church in Denver, Colo.

Shortly after approaching his pastor with the idea, a volleyball league was born and the Red Rocks Sports Ministry blossomed from there.

Community through Sports

Russomanno seemed to connect better with people through sports and he thought what better way to reach out to those not interested in going to church.

"We're called to meet people outside the walls of the church and in our community and sports is one of the best ways of connecting with people in a non-threatening way," he said.

Red Rocks now has year-round leagues ranging from dodgeball to baseball and everything in between.

Jenny Vieira played sports in college and after she graduated, she had a hard time maintaining a healthy lifestyle and finding a new church. But the Red Rocks bowling league helped her do both.

"When I found a church that would help me grow in my faith that I could also fellowship with people and find new community with sports, it was like the perfect combination for me," Vieira said.

Volunteer Jeremy Coleman found it helped him connect with other Christians.

"So I was going to Red Rocks Church for close to two years. I sat in the second row in the same spot every time and I never really got to know anyone, Coleman said.

"So when I found out about the bowling league, I knew I needed more Christian community in my life and that was easy for me to meet people in a non-scary, non-evasive way," he said.

Body, Mind, and Spirit

The Red Rocks Sports Ministry in Colorado has really made an impact when it comes to affecting lives for Jesus Christ.

Thousands have signed up to take part in these sports groups because organizers believe it's not just important to make sure you're physically fit, but spiritually fit as well.

"There's so many opportunities to have fun while working out because I think that's the hardest thing nowadays because people don't want that ho-hum, that 35 minutes on a treadmill," Vieira said. "You get bored."

"But this way you meet new people, there's fellowship, you're building community and you're still getting a good workout," she said.

One way these leagues help build community is that people pray after the games and not before.

It helps cut down on unsportsmanlike conduct even though players admit there's nothing wrong with a little healthy competition.

"I just know I've met so many people who have really struggled building a community, who aren't Christians," Vieira said. "I'll invite them to come on the basketball team and they're captivated by the fact we pray afterwards with these people who are our competitors, our opponents we just went to war with in these games."

"And we're able to put that all aside and come back at the end," she added.

"What we do is we try to bring everyone together at the end of the game, hopefully, to humble their hearts a little bit to show appreciation for the fact they're getting to play a sport and kind of lessen those emotions a little bit. We can leave the court or the field being friends again," Russomanno said.

Playing with Friends

Maintaining Christ-like friendships between opposing teams may be one goal, but another is keeping their leagues at a high skill level.

They even hold a draft.

"The goal with that is you're kind of taken out of your comfort zone," Russomanno said. "You have to meet new people, you're forced out of your circle of friends, and then, what we've seen is the culture of our sports community has been great because the following season, now all of a sudden you're drafted onto a new team."

"And now, you're playing against the friends you played with the season before," he continued. "It's created a really nice environment for our players."

Changed Lives

Red Rocks Sports Ministry has grown beyond the church walls into many parts of the community. Russomanno said they are called to fill the void in the hearts of people who need it the most.

"We work with orphanages, we work with homeless people, we work with people with disabilities. We just want to get involved and as a church we want to bless the community," he said.

"It's so many stories we hear where they credit being introduced to church through sports community and being introduced to their new community of friends, and then, ultimately giving their lives to Lord, and beyond that, getting baptized," he said.

Russomanno said he wants to challenge other pastors to believe in what a sports ministry can do and watch your their grow.

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