Outside Those Walls
Just imagine, several thousand people milling around at the starting line, music blares through the loudspeakers, all around people are helping each other get their race numbers attached. Decked out in running tights and hi-tech shoes, the serious runners make their way to the front, their faces solemn in anticipation. In the middle of the pack are groups of 3 and 4 and 5, obviously friends, making jokes and laughing, pretending they don’t care who among them beats the other, but knowing full well that they do. Around the outside where there’s room are moms with baby joggers, dads tying their elementary-aged kids’ shoes, and groups of people who are clearly dressed to never exceed a brisk walk. Excitement is all around. “3, 2, 1, go!” the announcer bellows into his microphone and the entire mass of humanity surges across the starting line and down the first stretch.
Sounds like just another 5k, fun run, or 10K happening all across the country? Now imagine that it’s all put on by your church and Christian music is coming through the speakers and your entire town has been talking about the event for months. Wouldn’t that be a great outreach beyond the walls of the church to people who consider Sundays as a day of run not a day of rest? Well that is exactly what could happen, and Connect Ministries’ goal is to make it happen all over the country.
Connect Ministries began informally in 2006 when Ken Thomas and Gabe Norris organized a 3-on-3 basketball tournament and family fun event in their town to try and bring together families in a fun and non-threatening atmosphere and introduce them to their church’s other ministries. The event was a huge success and they knew they were on to something.
Since then, the ministry has grown to include not only 3-on-3 basketball tournaments, but camp experiences and running races as well. Their Winshape Camps will be in 84 communities this summer, over 13,000 people participated in the Connect Race Series last year, and all totaled, their ministry will impact over 100,000 people throughout the year in 2015.
However, these are not outsiders coming into your town putting on some giant event to create a Billy Graham revival type of experience. Connect Ministries purpose is to connect churches and their communities.
“We are simply helping churches get outside their walls and expand their ministries to new people,” said Gabe Norris, co-founder and vice president of Connect Ministries. “We do this by providing fun, engaging events that the entire community can get involved with. Everyone wants to be known and be a part of something. Our vision is to reach those who might not ever come to church in the first place.”
Therein lies the truly unique aspect of this ministry, they do it all through the local church.
As someone who deals directly with event planning for Connect, Brandon Collum highlights the difference between a Connect Race and other races or community events.
“We’re doing these events for one-on-one connections. We give the church an opportunity for them to invite people to something different than the four walls of the church.”
Although they provide the expertise, manpower, equipment, and whatever else is needed to put on a great event, everything is funneled through the local church. So in the end it is a professionally run experience where the local church reaps all the rewards from connections and relationships that form when you meet people where they are at doing things that they love to do.
If your local church is interested in sponsoring a Connect Race or a Connect 3-on-3 Event, go to Connect Ministries and click on their “interested in hosting” link and you can fill out a form to start the process of hosting an awesome event in your local area as you reach out beyond the four walls of the church.
Connect Ministries not only provides one-time events, but offers a continuing relationship when it comes to running and training. The Connect Run Club provides blog articles and podcasts on everything to do with running. It’s a great resource for both the beginner and the ultra-marathoner. You can even subscribe to certified running coach Trey Brush’s podcast through Itunes so that the newest episodes just show up on you i-device.
Trey and his team also know the value of community, so they have begun supporting local Connect Run Clubs around the country. Check out the Connect Run Club website to see if there is one near you, or if there isn’t, then you can start one yourself.