A charity impacting thousands of young people throughout Gloucestershire has been recognised as the first Centre of Excellence in the UK for its new concept of Sports Ministry.
PSALMS (Putting Sport alongside Local Ministries) was established in 2005 to support local churches of all Christian denominations in reaching out to their communities through sport. The charity uses sport to engage with young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds in rural or semi-rural areas. Although Christian-based, PSALMS works with young people of all faiths and none.
In 2016, the success of PSALMS led to a three-way partnership being formed between the charity, Scripture Union and the Diocese of Gloucester. The aim was to develop models of sports ministry that could be replicated throughout the UK.
This led to the appointment of PSALMS' director of sports ministry, Rob French, who, together with Scripture Union's national coordinator Richard Witham, has worked with a diocesan strategy group.
This has led to PSALMS being recognised as the only Centre of Excellence in the UK for Sports Ministry by Professor Andrew Parker at the University of Gloucestershire and Scripture Union.
A recent grant of £45,000 from Allchurches Trust, one of the UK's largest grant-making charities, means that fundraising towards the £300,000 target for phase one of the partnership project is almost complete.
This funding is enabling sports specialists to assist with and run youth clubs, sports sessions and other activities, often working with local schools, youth clubs, churches and town councils.
A team of eight sports ministers currently works with PSALMS, equipping young people with new skills and empowering them to use them, increasing their confidence and encouraging them to take pride in their achievements and be positive role models.
PSALMS set up Pulse FC – a football club for young men who have been excluded from school – and Kick Off Stroud, which is a social enterprise providing employment opportunities for the graduates of Pulse FC and the charity's other programmes.
In August 2018, PSALMS ran a football tournament inside the magnificent Gloucester Cathedral. It also runs residential and non-residential camps for more than 200 young people and developed Stroud Family Fun Days attended by up to 5,000 people.
Chair of PSALMS Canon Ian Marsh said: 'It has been so exciting to see many young people, most of whom have previously had no experience of traditional church, enjoying the opportunities that Sports Ministry affords for fun, competitiveness, relationship building and learning about the Christian faith. We are very grateful to the vision of several national and local Trusts who have helped to make this possible through vital funding.'
James Laing, director of grants and relationships at Allchurches Trust, said: 'This innovative project is showing God's love in a real, practical way to some of our most vulnerable young people. It is channelling their energy through sport into activities that boost their physical and mental health and wellbeing and encouraging them to be a force for good within their communities.
'We're delighted to be able to support it, and look forward to sharing the learning so that churches and communities throughout the UK can follow in their footsteps.'