Sunday School

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Football aficionados have made tailgating an art form with parking lot cookouts and foldable furniture. One group of folks took the pre-game party to a whole new level…making a fan stop for the faithful. Heidi Robinson has the story.   

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(Locator: Charlotte, NC)

“We’re gonna win today!”

“Anybody need tickets?”

You don’t need a ticket to this tailgate party in the shadow of Charlotte’s Panther stadium.


This is the place to be on Sunday morning, and savvy church leaders, inspired by their own love of football, saw an opportunity…

“It’s drop kick me Jesus.”

… to introduce fans to a different playbook.

The Rev. Ann Self, First United Methodist Church: “I saw everything from cell phones to tobacco products to men’s razors being promoted at tailgating events and I thought ‘Why can’t the church do that?’”

“Good Morning! Welcome this morning. We’re so glad you’re here.”

First and Ten is the name of this tailgate worship service hosted by First United Methodist Church of Charlotte at Panthers’ home games during the NFL season…

“We’re going to have Sunday school now.”

…complete with portable pews, hymns on hand-outs, and a casual atmosphere for folks…

“Let’s go!”

…heading to the game.

Members share more than a message. Game day goodies help make new friends and offer a reminder for the future.

Katie Ingram, First United Methodist Church: “I want them to feel like they are loved and that people care for them.”

(Fan eats food) “What’s the best? It’s all of it.”

Food and fun draw new faces to the tailgate.

(Person face painting) “She wants a paw print.”

This family stopped by en route to their first NFL game, surprised to find something wholesome amid the mostly adult party scene.

Beth Koster, Tailgate Guest: “Drinking alcohol…it’s things you don’t really want your kids around, but when I came in and I saw the church over here, I was saying, ‘Well we can join in over here.’”

The church wants folks to hear an invitation…

(Fans) “Whoo hoo!”

… from their team.

The Rev. Ann Self: “It’s about having a good time, whether it’s in a beautiful stained glass sanctuary or whether it’s underneath a tailgate tent.”


All the tailgating equipment, including portable pews, tents, coolers and food came courtesy of grant money given through the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.

If you would like more information on this ministry, you can log onto the church Web site or call 704-333-9081.

Posted: Nov. 19, 2008