Pastor Stephen Gualberto of the GMA Church of the Nazarene in Cavite, Philippines, has taken incorporating children and youth into his church to a whole new level.
His approach is simple: Involve the youth in a sport with the following plan for each team.
- 1 coach – A young leader that is mature in his/her faith with a love for a specific sport.
- 1 assistant coach – An emerging leader being mentored by the coach.
- 6 players – Individuals who are unchurched, non-Christian, or pre-Christian.
Players are recruited personally by the coaches or referred by other players, and teams are limited to six players so the coaches can follow-up with each player and connect to them on a personal level.
“Every player is a disciple, every coach is a catalyst and every court a church,” Gualberto said.
Teams are encouraged to meet during the week for practice, team building exercises, and fellowship, as well as one-on-one discipleship. Saturdays are reserved for worship, study of the Word, and fellowship along with the games. They call this samba-laro (worship and game).
To be sure that all coaches are equipped to disciple their players, attendance in a weekly discipleship coaching group is a must, which includes the church’s Child Protection Policy training.
Gualberto’s church now has six basketball teams and is planning to start at least two volleyball teams next month with this same model.
In addition to pastoring, Gualberto is the field strategy coordinator for the Philippines and Micronesia. He is putting his “game plan” into practice in his own church and community, as well as encouraging those on his field to do the same. By doing this, he hopes to demonstrate the effectiveness of such an approach while inviting the churches across the field to engage in similar approaches to intentionally involve and disciple children and youth. Gualberto plans to roll this model out through Nazarene Youth International across his field soon.