Sweaty Church was started by Ian Mayhew and
Jonny Wooldridge at St Paul's, Holgate, in York, in 2009. We've
helped other churches around the country start their own Sweaty
Church, and now there's one in Scotland.
It's aimed at primary-school-aged kids who may
be involved in Sunday-morning sport. Sweaty Church aims to use
games, sport, and activities as a way of teaching biblical values
There are two principles: learn through doing,
and learn as a family.
I got involved through an amazing God-moment. I
was on a gap year with Christians in Sport, and I was praying with
my mates about what each of us would do after we finished. I had no
idea what I was going to do. We finished praying, and my Dad rang
me to tell me that he'd just been chatting to the vicar of the
church that runs Sweaty Church, and they might be open to the
possibility of taking on a sports intern. Without hesitation I said
yes, and the rest fell into place.
Anyone can join in, because it's for all the
family. It can be as sweaty as adults want it to be. The kids more
often than not get sweaty because they're so excited and hyped up.
So I think the question is more like: how willing are adults
prepared to get excited and hyped up with their kids? Little old
ladies and fellas can certainly join, provided they bring a
grandchild along with them - since that is who it's for.
There may be some similarities to 19th-century "muscular
Christianity", but not by design. The key difference is
that in Sweaty Church the physical activities are used as learning
tools. We all learn in different ways, and kids seem to learn well
through doing. So, for example, rather than just telling kids to
help others in need, we design games that they can complete only if
they actually do help each other.
When people, both in and outside of the Church, asked me
what I was doing in York, and I told them my job title was
sports intern, I often got raised eyebrows and a few laughs. "What
on earth is the Church doing having a sports intern? I didn't
realise sport was something the Church was interested in!" That
really surprised me at first, and it made me ask questions about
the way the Church and the wider world views sport.
I'm aware that eight or nine major football clubs
started as church teams. Liverpool and Everton were two.
But where I was, there wasn't much involvement. I wonder if part of
it's to do with the culture we're in. Mainstream football is played
across church-service times, and amateur football, too. It may not
be deliberate, but there's been a slow divide between church and
sport on a Sunday.
I'm a born and bred Scouser from Bootle.
Everything in the family revolves around sport, and, although my
dad's a vicar, he's a Premier League cricket umpire. My mum works
in a busy education department and is the best taxi driver to and
from sport. Our Jack, my brother, is two years younger than me, and
far better at footy than me, playing for Wrexham as a
I love playing footy whenever there's a chance,
but my main sport is athletics. I've competed nationally in the
sprint and 400-metre hurdles.
One of my earliest memories is of our Jack and
me taking a funeral together (aged about three and five) for our
pet worm, Ted. Because I grew up around church, there is often an
assumption that any experience of God was confined to the church
building. But, from a young age, my mum was in and out of hospital
with chronic pain, and so I was frequently asking the question
"Where is God among all this?" That taught me that anyone can
experience God for the first time anywhere.
I was just wrestling with it, really: not
doubting, but asking questions. What is it that God is trying to
teach us as a family or individuals? My mum doesn't grumble or
moan, even when she's in pain; so it's certainly taught me not to
grumble or mumble when I'm in pain, either physically or
Bodies aren't perfect, and they never will be
in this life. If we believe that the Holy Spirit lives in us,
that's an amazing privilege. Committing the body we've got to God,
and saying thank you for another day of health and life, is
important - making the most of the body you've got.
Different people have different bodies and health
restrictions. That helped me when I was injured and not
able to play, and I remembered Mum and how she just got on with it.
God spoke to me in really profound ways, because the time I used to
play sport was taken away and I had to fill it with other things. I
filled it with more praying and more reading.
Being competitive is a good thing. I appreciate
the issues with drugs, cheating, violence - that's a difficult one.
The root of that is human sinfulness; so the question in the sports
world is how to live a life that's radical and different: refusing
to be violent, use foul language, take drugs. To be a light in that
The world of sport is unique and different, and
there's wonderful opportunities to share Jesus and the gospel
across all languages.
We went into a Romany community in Macedonia with a
football, and instantly there were 30 children around us.
They couldn't understand our language, but kicking the football
around brought us together, and then we were able to relate to
them, and share testimonies with them via a translator.
My understanding of God has definitely changed over the
years, for the good. The faith I had when I was younger
was inherited from my parents and not really personal. When I began
to seriously ask questions about faith on a personal level, I
discovered that my childhood abstract experience of God could
actually become deep, real, and intimate. In other words, I went
from mere head knowledge of God to a heartfelt love for
Having finished in York last July, I was
recommended for ordination training, and since September 2014 I've
been at Ridley Hall in Cambridge.
Each week, I head out on my road bike for a few hours at
a time, to get away from whatever it is I'm doing. I
generally see where the road takes me, as this enables me to relax,
observe, and soak in the different locations, significant
landmarks, and even the really obscure and random sights along the
I'd love to experience being in the Kop for a Merseyside
derby, Liverpool versus Everton, or a game against Man.
United. I'd love to be able to compete in the UK championships as
an adult in the 400-metre hurdles, as I did as a
I like the sound of the Scouse accent,
particularly when I've been away from Liverpool for several
I was last angry when a bunch of random
pedestrians thought it wise to stand in the middle of a cycle lane
in Cambridge, and couldn't comprehend that they were in the way of
a lot of cyclists.
This will probably sound really strange to many
people, but I am happiest when I pick myself up off the
floor after a really hard athletics training session on the sand
dunes. To delight in the body God has given me, and to worship him
through exercise, brings a smile to my face.
Dad, Mum, our Jack, and various mentors at Christians in
Sport have had significant influential roles in my life.
Bishop James Jones was the first person, though, who encouraged
Jack and me to use the sporting gifts we've been given - even when
it meant playing sport on a Sunday morning. He encouraged us to go
to evensong; so for two years Mum would take us to nine- o'clock
kick-off, and then we'd all go to evensong at the cathedral
I think the people who've influenced me most are my
athletics coach, Graham, and all my training partners.
They're like my second family. We've all grown up now, so are in
different parts of the UK. Although none of them are presently
Christians, they've taught me an unbelievable amount of stuff -
even how I share my faith with them without using Christian
It's probably best if I say I do pray, since
I'm training for ordination, and my DDO and sponsoring bishop will
no doubt see this. I'm mostly praying that I would continue to
remember God's grace, and keep Jesus at the centre.
I'd like to be locked in a church with Charles
Studd, who played for England. He was one of the Cambridge
Seven, who shared the gospel in China in the late 1880s. He played
in the first Ashes Test in 1882. I'd love to be able to chat to him
about being a top sportsman and a Christian, and how he went about
sharing the gospel in unfamiliar cultures.
Danny Driver was talking to Terence Handley
MacMath. firstname.lastname@example.org www.sweatychurch.wordpress.com