A hush falls over the gallery of onlookers on the fairway. Scores of loyal fans are watching online. They all hold their breath as their favorite golfer chooses a club and lines up to take another shot.
It’s not a stop on the PGA tour, it’s Tuesday afternoon at Oklahoma City, Emmaus. And the church staff is engaged in another round of hallway miniature golf. It is a workday at the office, but the staff is not just puttering around; they are engaged in serious team-building activity.
Pastor Owen Nease teed up the fun as a way to build unity among ministry leaders at the church.
“One of our staff members mentioned they wanted to find a way for us to strengthen staff relationships throughout the week by doing something fun, outside of our regular ministry areas,” he said. “We landed on putt-putt through the hallways because it was inside, easy to set up and pretty quick to play.”
Nease said hallway golf among Emmaus ministry leaders has been happening for about a year and half.
“We try to play immediately after lunch on Tuesdays,” he said. “We have our staff meeting on Tuesday morning, then grab a quick lunch and come back for golf before getting back to work in the office or making visits. This doesn’t work every week, but we usually play at least twice a month, sometimes three times.”
It’s not always fun and games at Emmaus. Nease said it hasn’t been the easiest of times for church staffs around the state. Many are trying to navigate ministry in the midst of a global pandemic. Nease said he and other ministry leaders have been hard at work.
“During COVID, our staff has worked harder than ever at staying in touch with church members and following up with guests,” he said. “In a surprising way, the challenges of COVID have reinforced the personal nature of ministry—how important it is to connect with people and equip them to minister to one another. The staff members have done an amazing job implementing a strategy for us to restart certain programs while also staying connected with those who aren’t ready to return to gatherings.”
The golf games are a way to blow of a little steam from all the hard work and have a brief time for needed staff fellowship. “Putt-putt has given us a chance to see our competitiveness and personalities shine through, outside of work,” Nease said.
Hallway golf, Nease explained, has helped the church staff to bond and build a level of camaraderie, even trust that may not have been there otherwise.
“At first, I felt like I was encouraging everyone to get involved,” he said, “but now our staff members take the lead rounding up everyone to play after lunch. Every week, I could make an excuse about not having enough time, but every time we play, I’m reminded how much fun we have together.
“Usually, the winner from the previous week designs the next course. Plus, one of our staff members made a trophy that the winner gets to keep in his or her office for the week.”
Who is the best golfer?
“I’m probably the best golfer on the team if we were talking about traditional golf,” Nease said. “But I’m TERRIBLE at hallway putt-putt. Our financial administrator, Jonathan, probably wins the most, but our children’s minister, Courtney, has won her fair share lately.”
And it’s not just the staff who get in the game.
“We try to involve anyone who’s in the building at the time we play, though no one is forced to participate,” Nease explained. “Our church members love watching the games on Facebook and often joke with us on Sunday mornings about who won staff putt-putt the previous week. I think church members enjoy seeing their staff members building relationships and having fun. And a few of them have even jumped into the game if they’re at the office when we’re playing. We were really surprised how many people have watched and commented on the games through Facebook. Plus, it’s been fun to see a couple of other church staffs pick up the idea and use it.”
Last January, the Emmaus staff hosted a church-wide putt-putt challenge. Nease said each staff member designed a golf hole.
“We made scorecards and had a huge turnout of people come through the building to play,” he said. “And many of our members brought neighbors or guests with them. We’re hoping to do this again once we get through COVID.”
So maybe it’s not just “putt-putt for the fun of it.” Oklahoma Baptists can find creative ways to encourage one another while advancing the Gospel together.