'Lobs for the Lord:' Pickleball Gaining Ground in Faith Communities

Churches are using pickleball as a community engagement tool; church depicted with pickleball ball on the spire

Pickleball, with its inherently social and inclusive culture, is noted for its community-building capabilities...and churches across the country have picked up pickle for those qualities.

In a time when church attendance is at its lowest point since 1940, parishes, mosques, and synagogues are likely desperate for ideas to keep the population engaged in faith.

The First Baptist Dallas church knows how to tap pickleball's potential. They use their facility's gym to run seasonal tournaments.

They even have a "sports and recreation minister" named Brent McFadden, who tells Southern Baptist Texan that he laughed when pickleball was first suggested as a community engagement tool.

Their first event saw tape on the gym floor and an "alright" turnout. But after the pandemic hit, a familiar demand started to crop up among his parishioners.

Also Read: What Pickleball Looked Like in the 1970s 

“My brother-in-law got into it with the referees and statisticians playing pickleball every day during that isolation. He told me that the sport was taking off.”

A total of 36 teams signed up for last winter's league. McFadden expects more will join this year.

The Spiritual Connection

By 2022, the church knew it had to install permanent lines. But the connection to spirituality and faith had to come into play in some way.

McFadden provides video devotionals with scripture and applications for league teams to watch each week.

“I don’t want to provide a way for people just to connect physically, but also to connect with Jesus spiritually,” he told Southern Baptist Texan. “Players sign up in teams of two and the church helps prospective players find partners if needed."

The Coggin Baptist group uses pickleball's accessibly - and outdoor-oriented background - to encourage spiritual discussion. 

Member Jina Joss uses pickleball to invite women to a home Bible study on prayer, posting the details on the Brownwood Pickleball Club’s Facebook page. About 15 women signed up for the six-week study, and whoever feels like it after each session hangs around to play on nearby private courts.

“Pickleball lends itself to conversation,” she tells Southern Baptist Texan. “It’s all about fellowship. Why not include Bible study in that?"

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