Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles throws during the first half of the NFL football NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Churches use Super Bowl to score fellowship and mission goals

By John W. Coleman

The annual NFL Super Bowl, like all big, televised sports contests, offers a great opportunity for churches to gather members and guests to enjoy fellowship, fun festivities and even some outreach ministry, while also enjoying the big game. For many, it’s also a good time to exercise the power of intercessory prayer.

This Sunday evening’s contest between the Philadelphia Eagles and that other team (the New England Patriots) maximizes that opportunity, thanks to local excitement and pride in the home team. Super Bowl LII (that’s 52) on February 4, will be played at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. The Eagles finally return to the pinnacle of NFL competition after a 14-year absence; and some churches are getting ready to host championship viewing parties.

One of our churches, Wharton-Wesley UMC in Philadelphia will continue a 23-year tradition of hosting a “family night of fun we call Souper Bowl,” according to Lenora Thompson, a church leader and new chairwoman of the conference’s Connectional Table. The church invites members and guests to come enjoy not only the Super Bowl together, but also pre-game activities, including trivia quizzes, snacks and fellowship. They also invite attendees to bring cans of soup and $5 to donate to its community food ministry, called Helping Hands. “We distribute food at the end of every month to about 60 families,” said Thompson. The annual event is sponsored by the church’s United Methodist Men. Doors open at 5:30 PM.

Other churches–like Covenant UMC in Springfield and First UMC in Phoenixville–will sponsor Souper Bowl of Caring outreach campaigns, started and led by youth in churches across the nation. These annual, major anti-hunger efforts solicit and collect tons of non-perishable food, during and prior to Super Bowl weekend, to donate to community food banks and other charities. Dozens of Eastern PA Conference churches participate each year.

Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com faith and religion reporter Kristin Holmes contacted us Tuesday looking for Philadelphia-area churches that plan to do anything special for Super Bowl Sunday, from wearing football jerseys at Sunday services to hosting viewing parties and more.

If your church–wherever it is located in the Eastern PA Conference–will celebrate Super Bowl Sunday in any special way, including Souper Bowl of Caring food collections, please let us know by Thursday, so we can let Kristin know and also publish information in NEWSpirit Digest and on our conference website.

Moreover, if you do plan to host a Super Bowl viewing event, here is information about copyright legal allowances and restrictions governing that popular practice:  How to Host a Church Super Bowl Party without Copyright Penalties.

The good news is, churches can host Super Bowl parties without fear of penalties and interference from the NFL for copyright infringement–IF they stay within certain boundaries. Learn more. Also, check out these Five Ideas for Hosting a Church Super Bowl Party.

And finally, FYI, a recent article in the South Jersey Courier Post, On a wing and a prayer, South Jersey churches offer Super Bowl support, reports that some Philadelphia Eagles players, both past and present, attend church in South Jersey. “Their outspoken brand of faith has forged deep bonds with pastors and congregations here even among those who don’t follow sports,” reports Doug Horton, co-host of sports radio program, “Faith on the Field.”

Pastor Ted Winsley Sr. (right) has ministered to the Philadelphia Eagles for the past 17 seasons, serving as a Christian mentor for players who seek one, according to the article. He says the team’s growing “spiritual legacy” has brought more media attention to the faith of players like Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Zach Ertz and others.

“Winning has earned them a platform for their faith,” he asserted, “and that’s the force driving them to work hard on and off the field…. It’s not about the money or the personal glory. There’s a real hunger for God on the team. These guys really want to live for him.”

Winsley, pastor of The Family Church in Voorhees, N.J., and team chaplain for 17 years, will lead the prayer for the Eagles prior to their game on Super Bowl Sunday. Listen to his uplifting comments on the team’s active faith and prayerful outlook in the online Courier Post article.


Collecting food for the Souper Bowl of Caring?  Tell us how you did.

The long-awaited Super Bowl Sunday is here. But what many churches and local food banks have been waiting for is the simultaneous Souper Bowl of Caring food drive. They depend on the generous donations of non-perishable food that replenishes their depleted shelves and helps them feed countless hungry neighbors. Many of our churches participate in this undertaking as a crucial, often youth-led outreach ministry to respond to a growing epidemic of hunger and “food insecurity” in many areas–even in middle-class communities.

Covenant UMC in Springfield got into Souper Bowl of Caring two decades ago and has since spawned one of the largest food collection operations in the state, involving hundreds of people in Springfield and other nearby communities. Their recipe for success? An army of youth and adults distribute 10,000 front door hangers in advance, pick up curbside donations, and then collect more food and funds from the congregation during (Super Bowl) Sunday worship.

Please tells us how your church scored in the 2018 Souper Bowl of Caring. Send us descriptions and photos of your efforts, so we can share your story with the conference, too. E-mail us at communications@epaumc.org.