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Pastor finds pickleball can be evangelistic tool

Pickleball, the fastest-growing sport in North America, has found a home at Corinth Baptist Church in London. The sport has become a way to build friendships and relationships that lead to gospel conversations. (Kentucky Today photo)

LONDON, Ky. (BP) – Gospel conversations can come from almost any circumstance or activity. Even pickleball.

Andrew Dyer, pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in London, not only has found a new sport to play in pickleball but a new way to develop friendships and relationships that can lead to the most important decision anyone can make – accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.

“There have been some amazing conversations we’ve been able to have,” Dyer said. “Back in the spring of this year, my wife and I were figuring we’ve had those conversations from introduction to friendship with about 60 to 80 who had no association in the church.

“The lesson is that God uses whatever you have, whatever you’re interested in,” he said. “It makes a difference in the world in a church context. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might and to the glory of God.”

Dyer said in the fall of 2021 he had a church member he asked him if it would be possible to put some pickleball lines down in the church’s activity building.

“I said, yeah, I guess. What’s pickleball?”

The woman was one of the senior adult members and she explained about pickleball – often described as a cross between tennis and ping pong – that is sweeping the nation, especially in Southern states. It has been extremely popular with senior adults because the court’s smaller size lessens the impact on the knees.

“She said we could get portable nets and see if people want to play,” Dyer said. “We had a small group of about eight that played through the fall and winter. In February one night, there were a lot of cars in the parking lot. I went to the activity building and people were playing pickleball. They said, ‘You need to come play with us.’”

Dyer, who is 45 and grew up around athletics, said a few weeks later he stopped in again and began playing pickleball. He had a great time and told his wife about it. Corri Dyer is a former college tennis player, so she took an immediate liking to the sport as well and plays competitively with her husband.

“We started playing and fell in love with it,” he said. His wife, however, tore her Achilles and was out 6-8 months but has since begun playing again. Meanwhile, pickleball began to grow in the community with some outdoor courts.

“We started playing with people in the community who were not part of the church,” he said. “I wasn’t Pastor Andrew, I was just Andrew to them. And when we get to know them better, those gospel conversations can come naturally. The artificial barriers are eliminated.”

Dyer said several from the community have visited the church and started attending with the first and only connection coming through pickleball. He said a 75-year-old senior adult came to play pickleball with a church group and said to one of the members they had never been around a group of people accepting of everybody and wanting everybody to succeed.

“It’s such a tremendous testimony,” Dyer said. “She has attended regularly for several months.”

The church has hosted community pickleball tournaments, which is another way the church door has swung open for all to see. What they have found is a vibrant community that wants to do nothing more than introduce them to Jesus and love on them.

Dyer said it’s also good cardio exercise and anybody can learn how to play in less than an hour. Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in North America and it has become one more evangelistic tool at the disposal of Christians. Age isn’t a determent either, he said.

“During the week of the Boys Sweet 16 when North Laurel was playing, everybody in the community was excited, of course,” Dyer said. “One young man stayed here to play pickleball at the church with his grandmother. How many things in America do we have where grandkids and grandparents can play an activity like that?”

    About the Author

  • Mark Maynard/Kentucky Today

    Mark Maynard writes for Kentucky Today, www.kentuckytoday.com, where this article first appeared. Kentucky Today is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

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