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Sporting chance

22 February 2013

by a staff reporter


A NEW version of Messy Church for children who prefer sport to crafts is spreading under the banner "Sweaty Church". It began at St Paul's, Holgate, in York, where it was found that many families did not attend church because of their children's sports commitments.

The session is held once a month, and offers high-energy games, team games, and skills, such as tight-rope walking, and indoor hockey. It is run by two fathers, one of whom is an associate lay minister at the church. Once a year there is also a "sweaty camp" weekend. Though originally aimed at boys and their fathers, whole families attend.

Many other churches are adopting the idea: there are similar groups elsewhere in Yorkshire, and in Chorleywood. Researchers from the Church Army have studied the set-up of the Sweaty Church as part of their examination of Fresh Expressions.

The researchers said it was not hard to see why it was already drawing numbers, and spreading, since it connected easily with a wide variety of males. "Just as important, Sweaty Church's 'learning by doing' approach reminds us how rare it is that the wider Church caters for kinaesthetic learners.

"Sweaty Church is misunder-stood if it is seen as just a kids' club, or a monthly holiday club, or even a new form of un-uniformed organisation. It is Church with an aim to grow families - not least fathers and sons - as committed followers of Christ. It is different, also, from the camps that were one source in the flow inwards to Sweaty Church. At those camps, varied and interesting activities filled the day, but the trade-off was sitting quietly for the evening talks, or a God spot. Here, the two are integrated, on the principle that people learn a great deal by doing."

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