How can the fastest growing sport in the USA also be used for health evangelism? That’s what Loma Linda University School of Public Health Assistant Professor and AAHWC board member, Ernie Medina, Jr., DrPH, NBC-HWC, talked about at the recent NAD Health Summit in Lexington, KY.
Pickleball is a paddle sport where you hit a plastic ball over a net on a small court. Think ping pong on a court. On Monday night, Dr. Medina gave a brief presentation on how pickleball is being used by churches as a way to bring both members and the community to their church on a weekly basis. All a church needs is a flat, hard surface, like a fellowship hall floor or parking lot, and they can set up a pickleball court and start playing! No gym, large space, or expensive equipment is needed to set up a pickleball court.
Once you have a court, teaching people to play is very easy. The learning curve of pickleball is much shorter than tennis. At the Summit, the hotel where the summit was being held had 3 pickleball courts, so during the Tuesday afternoon health fair time, Dr. Medina held five 30-min intro clinics for over 30 attendees. All of them were playing the game by the end of 30 mins, and many of them wanted to keep playing after their session was done! During the rest of the week, attendees tried to play more, though a short rainfall during the latter part of the week curtailed pickleball play.
Since the clinic, many attendees left the Summit, determined to find pickleball back at their home. One health ministries director in Canada was immediately addicted and is very interested in starting pickleball in churches across Canada.
In the General Conference’s initiative for “Total Member Involvement,” using pickleball as a form of “exercise evangelism” benefits the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of members and provides a way for members to make relationships in a fun and healthy way in their communities. These relationships can then lead them to attend other events and activities happening at the church.
You can read more about pickleball at the NAD Health Summit by reading this article in a recent Adventist Review.