By Robbie Robertson/NEMS Daily Journal
Super Bowl Sunday is the pinnacle of the football season, one last dose of football before the sport goes into hibernation.
The Super Bowl has become such a big event that last year’s game became the most-watched program in television history, exceeding 111 million viewers for the first time ever. As a matter of fact, the past four Super Bowls have broken the previous years’ television-viewing record.
This year’s Super Bowl, which pits the New York Giants against the New England Patriots, should also draw a record number of viewers.
That broad-based appeal is both a problem and an opportunity for churches, who generally meet at the same time as the Super Bowl.
David Eldridge, senior pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Tupelo, realizes something as big as the Super Bowl is an opportunity for the church.
“Our normal church time is 6 p.m., so we adapt that and move the service to 5 p.m. for this week,” Eldridge said. “We will have a variety of fellowships around the Super Bowl, from youth to adults throughout the city. I will preach the night service and then go to a couple of those homes to fellowship and watch the game.”
Eldridge said the Super Bowl offers an outreach opportunity for his church members.
“It’s a time for the students to invite friends and they can use the platform of the Super Bowl to expose them to the church,” Eldridge said. “It gives the adults a chance to invite people into their homes. You have smaller gatherings and a more intimate setting. It’s a good opportunity for fellowship and outreach. We don’t want to use Super Bowl Sunday to guilt people. We don’t want to try and compete with it either, but we can use it as an opportunity to fellowship and build relationships.”
At West Jackson Baptist Church in Tupelo, associate pastor Frank Trotter also saw the need to adjust the church’s service time.
“I told our people last week that if we have church at 6 p.m., we’ll have like 14 people show up,” Trotter said. “So we decided to move our worship service to 4 p.m. We are making worship a priority, but we aren’t sticking our head in the mud and acting like it’s not going on. We will make some concessions, but we aren’t going to cancel our worship time.”
Trotter said the youth are hosting a big game party after the worship time and he hopes for 250 to 300 to be on hand.
“We are saying that family is important,” Trotter said. “We are celebrating as a family and we do things together as a family. We want families to spend time together and this is a good opportunity to do that.”
Trotter said outside of the youth gathering at the church, one family is hosting a big game party as a neighborhood outreach.
“We used to have a neighborhood transformation group that is going to host a party and use it as an outreach,” Trotter said. “It gives the adults an opportunity to reach out to their friends.
“This is more than a game, it’s a cultural event, and to ignore that is foolish. It’s not saying that you are giving in to culture, it’s saying that you are going to embrace it and use it to your benefit.”