With 42 years of Christian ministry under my belt, I have read so much on church growth, that finally, Rick Warren as reported in the Christian Post pops up with a realistic comment. I compare it to Australian minor sports trying to get major television coverage.
Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California urged church leaders to focus on be a follower of God’s mission rather than boosting congregation numbers, as “fast growth can be cancer.” The article relates to discouragement.
Now take that issue sideways to Australian minor sports and television coverage. With YouTube channels and other IT opportunities providing live streaming there is hardly a 'minor' sport today that doesn't get some television air-play. The issues is finding it on the one hand, and second, knowing when it's on.
This relates to so many Australian families – it is front and centre - the enthusiasts and family members of those engaged in those sports – are the audience.
But it could be different as Netball found, put it on television every second or third day, publicise it, promote it between normal programs and it soon gets a major following. That's the model.
The question therefore becomes - why are the administrators of some of Australia's largest participation sport sitting on their hands (as it were). Consider hockey, gymnastics, softball and the like – splash the cash, hone the product, sing a song, bang on desks, engender social media and the sky is yours.
The bigger sports
First, there are popular Olympic type sports that get prime time television at championship time. Ponder Track & Field and Swimming as two classic examples.
These 'show and tell' programs are main stream Olympic and Commonwealth sports where two / four years the stars pop up and the events are shouted from the roof tops.
Second there are championship grade 1 type sports that get coverage. These are Tennis, Golf, Surfing, Rodeo, Ice Hockey, Baseball and the like. They are from anywhere in the world. The tennis has so many such Titles – every capital city it seems, similarly the golf from Scotland to Australia and every point in between and the Surfing has its World Championship circuit .
Weekly professional home sports
These are the television mainstays that demand and get the big dollars in advertising – we can name them
Cricket, NRL, AFL, Rugby, Netball, A-League and the English Premier League. Now women playing in many of these demanding similar payouts. Remember the movie “A league of their own” that during WWII the baseball created a women's league.
Ask Foxtell, as one example, how many sport channels might one get - I lost count. Sport on television is big news. The question becomes how to market those seemingly minor sports to a greater level.
It’s not that different to suburban church issues. There are some things that pastors get discouraged about in small churches. Church growth is right up there as Rick Warren laments. At last someone has been realistic. Easter might be a good time to ponder this.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html