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Sport & exercise

Sport and exercise aren’t only game changers, but life changers.

Connecting your passion for Jesus with your love of sport can provide you fresh opportunities for mission, which could open new doors and allow you to build new relationships in the lives of people within communities across this country.”

At The Salvation Army, we recognise the transformational ability of sport and exercise emotionally, socially and spiritually. Sport isn’t just about scoring points, but creating teams and friendships within communities. The positive effects on individuals and communities are why we offer a range of exercise and well-being activities in our churches across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland for all ages, backgrounds and abilities. 

What we do

On a weekly basis, many of our churches provide, and partake in, a variety of sport, exercise and well-being activities designed to empower you and bring together communities. Some of what we offer includes:

What are the benefits of sport and exercise?

Most people think that physical workouts are purely a way to keep fit or lose weight. We know it can transform people on greater levels.

The benefits of exercise are not just physical, but can develop someone personally, emotionally and even create or develop communities. It is well-known that regular exercise can improve mental health and confidence through to teaching people essential life skills such as team work and compromise.

Sport brings people together from all different walks of life resulting in creating friendships and support that may not have happened otherwise, helping to tackle isolation, lack of leaders, boredom or community dislocation - in many cases, sport can help address 'the need'.

Studies have found that sport and exercise can be an effective social justice tool by helping to combat criminal behaviour and reoffending by providing people a space to focus and dedicate to. It is also proven that sport can help young people with their studies by improving concentration, discipline and memory. Other benefits of sport and exercise can be:

  • Friendship
  • Support
  • Team work
  • Regain confidence and build self-esteem
  • Build relationships
  • Combats health conditions and diseases
  • Fight depression and anxiety
  • Physical workout
  • Exercise activities

Taking part in challenges such as trekking, cycling or swimming are important ways to fundraise essential funds to help our work at the hearts of communities and fighting social injustices such as modern slavery.

How are we changing lives through sport and exercise?

We make impact daily on lives through the activities we provide across the country by simply having fun, building relationships, boosting confidence or helping people fighting addictions.

Many of our Lifehouses, centres for people experiencing homelessness, have football teams that play an integral role in breaking the cycle of homelessness through developing life skills, forging friendships and providing discipline. We put on a UK-wide football tournament, the Partnership Trophy, which sees teams from our Lifehouses compete in five-a-side games. We have had teams who participate in the Homeless World Cup, bringing together people from 74 nations through the power of football, to challenge perceptions and transform lives.

This year we have been supporting a national initiative, run by Sports Chaplaincy UK, and is an official partner of National Sports Sunday, a day that celebrates the contribution of Christian churches to the community of sport.

Our Manchester Central Corps has embraced sports for the local community and created youth club for the children of the local community with the help of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), a Manchester housing association S4B, and Manchester Young Community Champions.

They identified that a youth group was need through a partnership with GMP. Kay Blues, Manchester Central Corps Officer, says: “It was when we were working with the police that it brought to light the level of anti-social behaviour in the area. There was nothing for children beforehand and I felt it was important to do something to take the kids off the streets; something to stop them from getting themselves into bother."

More than 90 children aged 8–14 years are on the club's register. Up to 40 children attend each week.

“The Lighthouse Club aims to get children into sport but isn't exclusively sport - there's an 80:20 split with other activities including arts and crafts. Activities include litter picking and planting bulbs - anything that can teach life skills and give the children something else to talk about other than TV and video games.

“The club is for all faiths and no faiths. We are run on Christian morals but there is no teaching," says Captain Kay.

“It is for the children of the local community and our partnership with GMP means that the force provides two Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) to attend each week to join in with activities. The idea was to get them mixing with the children of the local community to stop the anti-social behaviour in the area. Although it is not largely carried out by this age group, it will hopefully prevent it in the future as the children grow up and could also stop them being groomed for gangs."

Captain Kay's mission is simple. “It's all about building relationships and letting parents, and children, know that we're here to help, in whatever form; being Christ to the people around. The club's all faith and no faith element is an important factor, from a Christian point of view, because of the tensions between faiths and it helps to break down any barriers that there are.”

It doesn’t matter your ability, your age or your background, sport and exercise transcends this. We would love for you to get involved and show your skills or try something new.

Things to help with sports mission

There is still a need to disciple and connect with people who have ordinary, everyday searching questions about life and we can do this by using sporting stories to explore this in a deeper and meaningful way, which will provide opportunities for people to search, question and join in discussions together as they journey with each other. The Salvation Army continue to produce high quality, engaging and contemporary discipleship videos as a wide-reaching tool for sports mission, which focus on effective ways of transforming communities through sport.

What can you do?

  • Bring along a friend or someone in the community who might be isolated or alone.
  • Offer your skills to help people who are less advantaged in running workshops or training – get in touch with your local Salvation Army to see what you can do.
  • From swimming, trekking or cycling, our fundraising events are a fun and focused way for people of all ages and abilities to get fit while helping raise valuable funds to support our work.
  • It doesn’t matter your ability, your age or your background, sport and exercise transcends this. We would love for you to get involved and show your skills or try something new.
  • Go and make a positive difference in the lives of others through sport, fitness and play!