CHESTERFIELD, NJ (The Baptist Paper) – Whether leading neighborhood kids in a rousing game of balloon basketball, noodle hockey or human foosball, Fellowship CrossPoint Church’s “Sports with a Twist” community outreach ministry is laser focused on intentional evangelism and discipleship.

“Our mission here at CrossPoint is that we connect people to the love of Jesus and then help them live on gospel mission,” explained pastor Brennan Coughlin. The church’s rapidly expanding kids ministry is a prime example of that vision in action.

Sports with a Twist is held each Monday evening throughout the summer at a local park in Chesterfield, New Jersey. The fast-paced evening of games and Bible stories attracts dozens of kids from the surrounding community.

Human foosball was an overwhelming crowd favorite during a recent gathering. The makeshift life-size foosball field featured pool noodles strung on ropes across the “table” with kids holding onto the noodles and shifting from side to side while kicking soccer balls to try to score or block goals.

Shouts of excitement and surprise mixed with laughter throughout the friendly, frenzied competition. After the final match, the kids quickly gathered for an interactive Bible story about the Good Samaritan, complete with a dramatic reenactment and small-group discussion.

“A big part of what we’ve been doing is really engaging our community by engaging the children of our community,” Coughlin said, “and it’s just been a joy to see that.”

Investing in families

Sports with a Twist is just one example of CrossPoint’s ministry strategy. The church also hosts CrossPoint Kids Club every other Sunday night during the school year and recently launched a weeklong summer Kids Adventure Camp as a way to invest even more deeply in the lives of area children and their families.

The rapid growth of CrossPoint’s kids ministry over the last couple of years also has been fueled through a partnership with the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey. BRN has helped fund the church’s summer internship program and leadership development efforts through State Missions Offering gifts.

Buff McNickle, BRN’s director of compassion ministries, describes Pastor Coughlin as “an incredible leader.”

Coughlin’s “focus on identifying and investing in that next generation leader has been the key to the Kingdom movement they are seeing in their church and their community,” McNickle affirmed.

“It’s ministries like this that help other churches see the potential of reaching their community,” he added. “It takes an outside-of-the-box mentality to engage the lost in our community. Creative approaches like ‘Sports with a Twist’ help churches see that trying something new and different can be successful.”

Coughlin is quick to affirm BRN’s ministry partnership as well. As a New Jersey church planted less than a decade ago, “our partnership with the Baptist Resource Network has really been a game changer for us,” he shared. “As we’re investing in our young people, they’re then turning around and investing in children, discipling children.”

Gospel-centered focus

Julianne Albrecht, one of CrossPoint’s summer interns, also is a local elementary school teacher who is spending her summer serving her home church.

“It’s been a really cool opportunity to use my skill set from teaching and then transfer that over very applicably to our church,” Albrecht said.

Leading the Sports with a Twist Bible stories each week, she noted, “We do that through a storying method where it’s a very welcoming, easy-to-follow-along method that we use.”

She said each Bible lesson also includes “some sort of gospel-centered aspect to it as well, giving a child who may not know the Lord a chance to speak up and let a leader know that they’d like to know more.”

Ruth Hueber, CrossPoint’s outreach director, is enthusiastic about the church’s commitment to an effective, engaging kids ministry.

Working with the interns, fellow staff members and volunteers to coordinate the growing ministry effort, Hueber said, “I have the privilege of helping kids understand who Jesus is and how they can be connected to Him.

“I met Jesus when I was young,” she reflected, “and it was really important to me that kids have an opportunity to hear about who Jesus is in a language that they can understand.”

Hueber said one of the church’s ongoing goals is to get more and more kids involved in Kids Club.

“That’s our most formative discipleship program where kids are going to be challenged to memorize Scripture, challenged to live missionally and challenged to be discipled as well as disciple younger kids,” she explained. In the meantime, such programs as Kids Camp and Sports with a Twist will continue to attract area youngsters in safe, inviting settings.

Noting that studies indicate the vast majority of Christians come to faith in Christ before age 18, Hueber emphasized that evangelizing and discipling children and youth is “one of the most fruitful places to be serving in ministry.”

Intentional discipleship

Ben Burlaga, CrossPoint’s ministry resident, leads the church’s youth ministry and connections ministry but also is actively involved in a variety of children’s ministry projects.

“The cool way these things interact is eventually kids ministry becomes youth ministry,” he pointed out. “We’re raising up and giving opportunities for our youth to serve and make an impact in the kids ministry.”

With CrossPoint’s combined focus on intentional discipleship and leadership development, Burlaga said, “I think that intentional discipleship begins from the top down. … I want to be used by God to hopefully bring that same kind of idea to the youth and kids that I’m serving.”

For churches throughout New Jersey and beyond, Pastor Coughlin urged, “You can engage your community. You can begin to do children’s ministry. You can begin to reach out to people.

“Regardless of the size of your church,” he concluded, “we all have an impact to make for the Kingdom” — even if it starts with noodle hockey or human foosball.

By Trennis and Pam Henderson of The Baptist Paper/Special to PA/SJ.