Getting in the Game: Pickleball

Since the pandemic, a new sport has taken off in popularity—one that seems to interest all generations: pickleball. Lee Chinnis, support pastor at Charleston Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, took up the game a year ago and has since used it as an opportunity to create stronger community within his church and community.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re athletic or not, you can get out there and have fun,” says Chinnis. “It’s a good way to meet people while getting a bit of exercise.”

Charleston Baptist Church has about 400 members. Chinnis found that a lot of members knew one another’s faces but not their names. 

“It was a lot of saying ‘hi’ in the hallway, but that’s not much of an in-house reach,” he says.

Chinnis thought if he could get folks onto a pickleball court, a kinship would follow, so in August of 2022, he started setting up pickleball nets at the church and inviting folks to play. 

Initially, 20 to 30 people came out; over time, that number has grown to 70. Chinnis is pleased by the wide range of demographics the game attracts as Charleston Baptist sees people from children as young as nine to 80-year-olds who play regularly.

“Any age can play, but if you’ve got a background in tennis, ping-pong, badminton or racquetball, then you’ll learn to love this game,” says Chinnis. “And because there is not as much running as in tennis, it’s a good game for people to get to know each other.” 

People at the church gather for games and, midway through, have a three-minute devotion. When they aren’t playing, they sit and talk. The church uses pickleball both for in-house reach and outreach as members invite friends and neighbors to come play. Some church families have taken the idea home and elected to put up a net in their driveway or street.

“People come over to play, and that activity sparks conversations and builds relationships,” says Chinnis. “Hopefully some of them will attend church and learn more about Jesus.”

Christy Heitger-Ewing
Christy Heitger-Ewing

Christy Heitger-Ewing is a contributing writer for Outreach magazine. In addition, Christy pens the “Now & Then” column in Cabin Life magazine. She also writes regularly for Christian publications such as Encounter, Insight, and the Lookout. She is the author of Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat.