If you are talented in athletics, interested in health and fitness, and want to serve God and minister to communities, then a Sports Ministry degree may be the route to a fulfilling career.
Students learn how to plan, initiate, and direct church-based and community recreation programs, and are equipped to use recreation and sports as tools for outreach. Graduates of Sports Ministry programs are prepared to begin full-time ministry careers, or to further their education in a graduate program.
Graduates are qualified to serve in churches as an outreach minister, a camp or retreat coordinator, or a director of a church life center. They also serve in community organizations, such as the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and community athletic leagues. And, of course, they serve in Christian organizations, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Athletes in Action.
Many schools report average starting salaries for holders of a bachelor’s degree in sports ministry at around $30,000.
A bachelor’s degree in Sports Ministry encompasses several fields, and is usually an interdisciplinary education program. Most of the schools offering this degree put a heavy emphasis on students getting a strong background in Biblical knowledge and being able to use scripture effectively in their ministry fields.
Another important component of this degree concerns how to minister—how to use the common language of sports to connect with people as witnesses for Christ. To this end, the programs teach evangelical theology, psychology, foundations of individual and group leadership, managerial skills, and administration and programming.
Of course, sports and recreation courses are a primary component in the Sports Ministry degree. But, these courses take on a different perspective. Some look at the Biblical and ethical bases of sports and competition. Other courses intend to develop a Christian perspective of lifelong wellness habits and practices for the stewardship of the body, such as regular exercise, nutritional habits, and stress management. Still other courses specifically teach the rules and organization of various sports and games.
The following is a list of universities that have developed Sports Ministry programs that educate students to meet the opportunities for outreach and ministry offered through sports and recreation, prepare students for meaningful careers, and develop Christian personhood.
While originating out of different university departments, all of these schools offer an accredited bachelor’s degree in sports ministry. Further, all of these schools are applauded on their courage to branch out with new programs and their attentiveness to the demands of an increasingly competitive job market.
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1. Campbellsville University (Campbellsville, KY) Go Tigers!
Campbellsville University (CU) is a private, liberal arts university located in south-central Kentucky. The university seeks to prepare students to improve society as Christian servant leaders by emphasizing academic excellence, personal growth, and fellowship.
CU enrolls over 3,000 students, is welcoming to students of all denominations, and has a strong international program, encompassing students from 35 countries.
At Campbellsville University, the sports ministry major can be earned as a BA or a BS degree. The program consists of 18 hours of Christian Studies and 25 hours of Sports Ministry required and emphasis courses.
Required courses include The Christian Coach, Introduction to Evangelism, and Sports Ministry Internship. The sports ministry emphasis areas are Fitness/Wellness, Sports Programming, and Aquatic.
Professor Ted Taylor (Ed.D.), who heads the sports ministry degree program, is known as a pioneer in the development of sports ministry degree programming. He has stated that he views a degree program as a ‘natural extension’ of the ‘morphing of sports with religion,” similar to the programs which led to the creation of ministry organizations like Athletes in Action and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Campbellsville University has consistently been ranked in the top 100 Best Colleges of South Regional Universities by U.S. News & World Report. Also, CU has been named a Five-Star Champions of Character Institution by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
Accreditation is through the Southern Association of Colleges and School Commission on Colleges.
2. Azusa Pacific University (Azusa, CA) Go Cougars!
Azusa Pacific University (APU) is a private, evangelical Christian university with more than 100 degree programs. The main campus is situated in a suburb of Los Angeles, which provides a diverse and fertile ministry field, where sports and recreation can be great tools of outreach.
APU—one of the largest Christian universities in the nation, with an enrollment nearing 10,000 students—also maintains seven regional centers throughout southern California.
The Sports Ministry degree at Azusa Pacific University is a concentration of the Christian Ministries major. The program requires 57 units: 12 units from the undergraduate division core, 21 units from the practical theology department, 12 units from Christian ministries, and 12 units from the sports ministry concentration.
Students take courses concerning physical health and functioning, such as Acute Care of Injury and Illness, which also satisfies the requirements for an American Red Cross certification upon completion.
Other course work is aimed at the integration of faith and sports. Character formation, sportsmanship, discipleship, and evangelism are emphasized as key components of this integration. Required internships give students practical experience in ministry to add to their resumes.
Azusa Pacific University is consistently recognized as one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report.
APU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, has 13 professional accreditations, and is a leader in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.
3. Huntington University (Huntington, IN) Go Foresters!
Huntington University (HU) is a private, Christian university with nearly 1,300 students and over 70 programs of study. Occupying 170 acres, Huntington’s campus is located in northeast Indiana.
HU emphasizes developing the whole person and imparting the skills and desire necessary for discipleship and evangelism. Over half of their students volunteer in the community through the John Mertz Center, or else serve abroad.
Huntington University has been ranked #13 in the 2013 U.S. News & World Report edition of Best Colleges in Midwest Regional Colleges.
Students may pursue a degree in Recreation and Sports Ministry through their choice of a BS or BA program. Including Bible studies, the program requires 64 hours from the departments of Ministry and Missions, Kinesiology, and Recreation Management. This degree equips students to plan, implement, and maintain church-based or community sports and recreation programs.
The highlight of this program at Huntington University is the Practical Research and Immersion for Ministry Effectiveness, or PRIME. It is a seven-month, off-campus ministry experience. Students have served in Asian villages in missions, in small town churches, and in inner city community programs.
This is one student’s comment concerning their PRIME experience: “Every class leads up to PRIME and some of the things that are taught really don’t make sense until you actually have to use it in a way that will impact numerous others…”(Huntington University website).
4. Malone University (Canton, OH) Go Pioneers!
Malone University (MU) is a Christian, liberal arts university affiliated with the Evangelical Friends Church. MU is located in Canton, Ohio, and gathers its enrollment of 2,400 students from 35 states, 16 countries, and more than 40 denominations.
Of Malone University’s 112 full-time faculty, 74% have earned doctorates or terminal degrees, and four have been Fulbright scholars.
MU has been ranked among the top colleges and universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges for the past eight consecutive years. Malone is recognized by the prestigious Templeton Foundation as a leader in character development.
The Sports Ministry degree program at Malone University requires 24 credit hours in Bible/Theology courses and 25 hours in Ministry/Sports Ministry courses.
The sports ministry courses include:
- Sports Outreach Ministry Models in the Contemporary Era
- Christmanship—A biblical and ethical basis for sport and competition
- Leadership and Staff Dynamics
- Current Practices in Sports Evangelism
Students are also required to complete a ministry internship.
Malone University offers a special opportunity, called “4+1”, whereby students can earn both their bachelor and a master of arts degree in five years.
5. Dallas Baptist University (Dallas, TX) Go Patriots!
Established in 1898 as Decatur Baptist College, Dallas Baptist University was the first two-year institution of higher education in Texas. Today, the student enrollment is near 5,500, and continues to grow.
DBU has a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1 and average class size is 14 students. Dallas Baptist University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Being located in southwestern Dallas provides a diverse and dynamic mission field. In addition to excellence in academics, Dallas Baptist University is committed to developing disciples: “The goal of teaching servant leadership is to impart the character of Christ into each student so that they will be ready to live and serve the Lord in their chosen vocation.”
The Camp and Sport Ministry degree at Dallas Baptist University has an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines courses from the Colleges of Christian Faith, Education, and Business. It is offered in both BA and BS formats. The program is designed for pursuing careers such as management of camps and retreats, leading outdoor recreations and sports ministries, serving as missionaries, and in other positions of Christian leaders.
Courses, coming from the three different departments, include the following:
- Servant Leadership
- Organization and Administration of Kinesiology and Athletic Programs
- Strategies and Practices of Camp/Sport Ministry
- Practicum in Personal Evangelism
- Principles of Marketing
- Facilities: Safety, Sanitation, and Security in Hospitality
6. Mississippi College (Clinton, MS) Go Choctaws!
Mississippi College was founded in 1826, and is the second oldest Baptist university in the nation. The main campus is just outside of the state capital, in Jackson.
Mississippi College offers over 80 areas of study and 15 graduate programs. The university is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The bachelor’s degree in Sports Ministry is awarded as a Kinesiology major. This degree program consists of the following:
- 50 hours of University Core courses, which includes Bible courses
- 31 hours of Kinesiology Core courses, such as First Aid and CPR
- 49 hours of Sports Ministry courses, which includes a 300-hour internship
The required internship exposes students to an in-depth working knowledge of their chosen field and gives them a jump start on successful careers. Internships have been fulfilled with the Mississippi Braves, the YMCA, the Boxing Commissioner of MS, UMC Cardiac Rehabilitation center, and many other exciting places.
Other Sports Ministry courses include Church Leadership, Evangelism and Missions, and Adventure Based Counseling.
With a bachelor’s degree in Sports Ministry, graduates are prepared to serve in church-based programs and community organizations as fitness club directors, sports and recreation program coordinators, church program ministers, and community service organizers.
7. Oklahoma Baptist University (Shawnee, OK) Go Bison!
Oklahoma Baptist University is a Christian, liberal arts university near Oklahoma City, with an enrollment of nearly 2,000 students. OBU strives to inculcate in their students an informed and thoughtful Christian worldview.
Because of the small size of OBU, students can actively engage with faculty and have many opportunities for work and study abroad. OBU offers 10 bachelor’s degrees in 85 areas of study.
The Sports Ministry degree at Oklahoma Baptist University is offered as a BA in Leisure Services Management. The program emphasizes experiential learning. Early in the program, students are often placed as “shadows” to practitioners of their desired profession. Later, students serve in internships, which have included serving in church positions, working with the Super Bowl and Final Four Host Committees, and assisting with Upward Basketball planning.
Many of the faculty in this department continue to work in the sports ministry field and bring valuable experience into the classroom. Dr. Bill Buchanan, who helps direct the Sports Ministry program, is one of the leaders and pioneers in this field. Through his continued ministry work, he is able to place OBU students as workers in camps in such places as Ecuador, Brazil, and the Bahamas.
OBU has been listed as Oklahoma’s highest-ranked college in U.S. News & World Report‘s Best Regional Colleges for 19 consecutive years. OBU has been named one of the best colleges and universities in the western United States by Princeton Review for eight consecutive years.
8. LeTourneau University (Longview, TX) Go Yellowjackets!
LeTourneau University (LETU) was founded as a technical institute and still maintains an emphasis on science in its academic offerings. LETU is now a nondenominational Christian university offering more than 80 programs and enrolling 2,843 students.
LETU claims “every workplace in every nation as our mission field”. LeTourneau University is accredited by SACS and ABET.
LeTourneau University offers a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology with a Sports Ministry concentration. The Kinesiology Department integrates ministry coursework so students have a strong foundation in both ministry and physical movement in order to share their faith through sports and recreation.
Students are also provided with a diverse academic format, including lectures, labs, and an internship. Upon completion of the program, students are prepared for careers that include camp directorship, wilderness therapist, church recreation specialist, and sports instructors.
The curriculum for the Sports Ministry concentration at LeTourneau University includes courses in human anatomy and physiology and the care and prevention of sports injuries. In the Lifetime Activities courses, students are taught games, sports, and recreation activities, and learn how to organize and to teach these to others.
Students take Bible and theology courses starting their first semester, freshman year.
9. Baptist Bible College & Seminary (Clarks Summit, PA) Go Defenders!
Located on 131 woodland acres in the foot hills of the Pocono Mountains in eastern Pennsylvania, Baptist Bible College & Seminary (BBCS) is a beautiful setting in which to participate in sports and recreation.
BBCS is a private Christian educational institution, offering nearly 40 undergraduate programs. The school emphasizes the dedication, discipleship, scholarship, and experience of the faculty as a main component to the excellent education they deliver.
BBCS holds accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and The Association for Biblical Higher Education.
The Sports Ministry degree program includes 42 credit hours of Bible and theology classes, and 40 credit hours in sports ministry. Students graduate with the equivalent of a double major in Bible and Sports & Recreational Ministries.
Sports Ministry coursework includes:
- Administration and Organization of Sports Ministry
- Biblical Foundations of Sports Ministry
- Evangelism and Discipleship in Sports Ministry
- History and Philosophy of Sports Ministry
In addition, all students are required to do a Sports Ministry Apprenticeship.
The professors are actively involved in the students’ lives and are devoted to developing global Christian leaders. They strive to relate all academic lessons to real life situations, and to provide many hands-on ministry experiences, such as sports camps, weekend clinics, and mission trips.
10. Belhaven University (Jackson, MS) Go Blazers!
Belhaven University(BU) is a private, Christian liberal arts college located in Jackson, Mississippi, with a student population of over 3,000 students. BU also maintains satellite campuses in Atlanta, Chattanooga, Houston, Memphis, and Orlando.
BU was founded by the Presbyterian Church in the United States, to which it continues to have strong ties. BU is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Belhaven University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Ministry, which encompasses a broad preparation in sports ministry with a biblical worldview. BU seeks to promote students’ growth both academically and spiritually, and to prepare them for Christian leadership positions in society.
The coursework in the Sports Ministry program includes:
- Sports Psychology and Spiritual Influence
- Structure of Activities in Sports Ministry
- Coaching and Sports Pedagogy
- Administration and Activities of Sports Ministry)
Graduates with a BA in Sports Ministry will be employable in positions, such as serving as church ministers of sports and recreation, directing activities for retreats and camps, or serving in leadership in organizations like the YMCA or Athletes in Action.