May 28, 2024 | John W. Coleman

Believing that churches should be places to play as well as pray, two United Methodist churches in EPA & GNJ are providing indoor pickleball courts as inviting gifts to their communities.

West Lawn UMC in Reading, PA, and St. Paul’s UMC in Brick, NJ, have both gotten into step with America’s fastest-growing sport, drawing praise from their neighbors.  

West Lawn uses its Raffauf Community Center for open court pickleball play for anyone in the community on Monday and Thursday afternoons. The center’s main hall is large enough for two courts. Paddles and balls are available for anyone to use.

“Pickleball is huge in Berks County, and we have a space ideal for year-round, indoor play,” said Kelly Rismiller, West Lawn’s Director of Leadership Development and Volunteer Recruitment.

“Opening our facility to the community, and allowing anyone to come and play for free, meet new people, and participate in active community fellowship—that’s the type of thing West Lawn UMC loves to offer. We hope this space and opportunity to congregate for pickleball is used by many.”

Courts help neighbors feel they Belong

The new pickleball courts at St. Paul’s UMC in Brick provide one of many ways the church helps its community feel it “belongs,” says Tom O’hearn, adopting GNJ’s 2024 Annual Conference theme.

“Our church now has portable pickleball courts in our fellowship hall to offer those in our surrounding community a time for fellowship and exercise,” he writes. “We have had more than 500 people come to play over the past three years. Many have joined us for worship, and a few have joined the church and our choirs.” The church also hosts in its gym basic instructional pickleball sessions for beginners for just $10. An unexpected benefit of the ministry, said O’hearn, is the donations of pickleball players, which help the church fund much of its missions and ministries, as well as capital improvements and utility expenses.