>> by Julie McGowan
OBU News and Media Relations Director

SHAWNEE—Upward Sports, the world’s largest Christian sports league for youth athletics, presented Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) officials a check for $25,000 on Thur., Aug. 1. The gift was donated to enhance OBU’s sports ministry degree program.

“We are thrilled to enter into this partnership with your sports ministry program to further prepare young men and women to serve the Kingdom through the relevant vehicles of sports and recreation,” said Greg Wisecarver, vice president of Upward University. “Thank you for what you are doing to equip the next generation of leaders at OBU. We’re excited to be a part of it.”

Wisecarver said Upward Sports seeks to fulfill three foundational purposes in sports ministry: places to play, players to play and leaders to lead. The gift to OBU helps fulfill the third purpose, he said, as students are prepared for careers in sports ministry. With a reported 90 percent of Americans watching or reading about sports in some way, Wisecarver said churches should have a vision to intentionally utilize sports ministry to draw people to Jesus Christ.

The sports ministry degree program at OBU teaches students to do just that. Dr. Bill Buchanan, associate professor of church recreation, said the donation will be used for the 2013-14 academic year to provide scholarship money for sports ministry majors and also to help fund sports ministry-related mission trips and conferences.

“We are very excited about Upward partnering with us to help provide financial assistance to our students that are preparing to go into sports ministry,” Buchanan said. “Sports Ministry is a growing field. The world of sports provides an avenue through which lost children and youth can be reached as sports ministers are able to integrate their faith within the context of a sport. Upward’s contribution will definitely place Oklahoma Baptist University at the forefront of training the next generation of sports ministers by providing educational assistance, internship opportunities, mission trip experience, and attending the annual ‘RECSPO’ Recreation and Sports Ministry Conference.”

The partnership with Upward Sports provides a brand of Christian leadership sports ministry students will be able to recognize and take into their careers after they graduate, said Stan Norman, provost and executive vice president for campus life.

“This gift helps us to prepare the next generation with strong leadership development,” Norman said. “We really appreciate the partnership with Upward Sports, and we consider it a sacred trust to raise up leaders in sports and recreation ministry.”

Norman said he values Upward Sports’ two-prong approach to ministry: first, the organization engages firsthand in ministry through sports; and second, it develops the leaders who can be actively involved in sports ministry. Through the organization’s reputation, Norman noted, Upward Sports “has a profound ability to reach a community.”

At OBU, the National Sports and Recreation Ministry Center (NSRMC), led by Buchanan, was formed in 2010 to offer an array of resources and a clearinghouse for what is working in ministry efforts across the country. In 2014, NSRMC will partner with Upward Sports to host a national recreation and sports ministry conference called RECSPO14. For more information, contact Buchanan at bill.buchanan@okbu.edu.

The sports ministry degree program at OBU is part of the Division of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies (KALS) in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. To learn more, visit www.okbu.edu/kals.

Established in 1995, Upward Sports includes approximately half a million players who participate in Upward recreation clinics, camps and leagues in 47 U.S. states and 72 countries, hosted by more than 2,500 church partners. For additional information, visit www.upward.org.