In just a little over one year, it will be ‘games wide open’ for the Paris Olympics, with more than 10,500 athletes from countries spanning the globe and thousands of spectators descending on the French capital. International Mission Board missionaries, Southern Baptist volunteers, international Baptists and French Baptists will be poised and ready to engage the world with the message that victory is achievable for everyone.
IMB missionary Jason Harris leads the missionary work in Paris, and he and his team invite Southern Baptists to join them in ministry outreach efforts during the summer 2024 Olympics. Deadlines for participating are quickly approaching; email [email protected] for more information.
The world will converge on Paris, and Harris said it will be a prime time to proclaim the Gospel. The Olympics provides opportunities for churches in the U.S. to get involved in missions and for the missionaries in Paris to grow in partnership with Southern Baptist churches. IMB missionaries will also seize the chance to form deeper relationships with French churches.
“Ultimately, we’re here to serve the French church, and we want to equip and strengthen them as much as possible,” Harris said.
Harris has initiated conversations with the Baptist Federation and asked what kind of outreaches they would like to do in their communities. The Federation is comprised of 45 Baptist churches in the Paris area.
IMB missionaries and French Baptists will utilize three approaches in their Olympic ministry. They are recruiting people to apply through the official Olympic channels to volunteer, where they will interact with other volunteers, athletes, coaches and security personnel. The volunteers will come a day early to receive training in relational evangelism. Deadline for this option is May 3.
Harris said their second approach is to share the Gospel within geographic areas where they hope to start churches alongside French Baptists. The third approach is broad Gospel sowing with visitors and athletes.
Southern Baptists will work alongside not only French Baptists but also evangelicals from many other countries. Students from South Korea plan to volunteer with Harris’ team. Groups in countries from past Olympics also plan to be involved.
IMB missionaries have used the traditional Olympic trading pins as a means of sharing the Gospel. QR codes will be handed out with the pins. The code will direct people to a website where they can access more information.
Gospel literature distribution, English outreach surveys, distribution of water bottles, street art, music and sports are all ways churches can get involved in ministry during the Olympics.
Digital engagement strategies will make it possible to expand their reach even further. They plan to run advertisements on social media and YouTube that will reach the spectators who are only visiting as well as French locals. The ads will link to Scripture resources in the individual’s native language and connect international spectators to missionary teams in their home countries. French Christians will use software to follow up with people who have reached out.
Evangelical churches have struggled to be seen as a significant entity in this country where the Catholic church has dominated the religious scene for centuries. Harris said the evangelical movement began to take off after World War 2, and though there has been growth, Protestants account for less than 2 percent of the population and evangelicals only 1 percent, making French citizens one of the largest unreached people groups in the world.
“I pray this is an opportunity for Christians in France to really step up and to take seriously the responsibility to reach the nations that are coming to their own backyard, and that they really receive the torch that is being passed to them from the evangelical world,” Harris said.
“I think an event like the Olympics could really catalyze the church forward in terms of confidence in the gospel scene,” Harris continued.
All volunteers will receive training and guidance from IMB missionaries in preparation for their ministry.
Harris encourages people interested in partnering to apply soon to avoid the rising airplane and hotel prices in Paris. For those interested in serving in an official Olympic capacity, please apply by May 3.
For more details and to learn how you can partner with the Paris IMB team, email [email protected]. Others interested in getting involved after the May 3 deadline are still invited to contact the IMB.