My Goodbye to Turkey Bowl

1 Corinthians 9:19-23– For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.


Dear Turkey Bowl participants, referees, fans, and friends,


Calvary Baptist Bible Church and I have formally made the decision that 2016 was our final Turkey Bowl for the foreseeable future.  It was most certainly a difficult decision after 14 years, but, after much prayer and consideration, we feel it is the right decision at this time.  I have put together a few explanations leading up to our decision but I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on what a blessing the Turkey Bowl has been to me.

When I started the Turkey Bowl as a naive 23 year old, my goal was that we would host a football tournament, people would hear the Gospel, and flag football players would flood our church on Sunday mornings!  When I walked off the field in November, as a still pretty naive 37 year old, I knew that we had obeyed Jesus by telling fields full of flag football players about Him; that was more important than packing our building on Sunday mornings.

I am thankful for years of volunteers from Calvary who poured time, energy, money, and talent into the Turkey Bowl.  There are countless stories of volunteers from church hauling personal gas grills, chili roasters, lawnmowers, and snow removal equipment to church at a moments notice to serve our community.  There are also countless hours our church spent in prayer over Turkey Bowl.  There are several people who have also poured so much into mentoring me.  There are too many people to list but thank you to Corky Schumacher, Garry Geer, and Dan Hurn for spending so many hours serving and mentoring me each Turkey Bowl weekend.

I am thankful for the friendships I made over the years with the referees.  There are too many people to mention without leaving someone out but I am thankful that Mike Anderson, Bob Graf, and Glen Thompson showed up that second year and were brave enough to come back and invite several referee buddies to join them the following years!  I am thankful for the opportunity to befriend so many players over the years.  I am also thrilled to see so many make a decision to follow Jesus as their Savior and watch them grow in Him over the years.

I am thankful that God used Turkey Bowl as a means of providing several players for the Saints Prison Ministry team that we started in 2012.  I was introduced to Brent Gerber, Jeremy Test, Kurt Hand, Ben Morrow, and Jeremy Haab at Turkey Bowl and I now travel several times each summer with them to share the Gospel on prison softball fields across Illinois!

I am thankful that God provided me the most patient wife on the planet.  The secret to the success of Turkey Bowl was that Kelly was really the assistant Turkey Bowl coordinator and spent countless hours running to the store for supplies, sorting flags, and covering in the kitchen during times they needed help.

I am thankful that God grew me in so many areas through the happy and the tough moments.  God really impressed upon my heart that He loved each man who stepped on that field enough that He gave His own Son that He might save them.  That message was so much more important than all of the other details that went into this tournament.

This has been a difficult decision and I have struggled to make that decision the last couple of years.  Despite not doing Turkey Bowl, our church will still be a church that loves our community and will share the hope of the Gospel with Peoria.

Thank you again for the friendships and the blessings you all have been!


Tom Gibson


Why stop Turkey Bowl?

     My standpoint–  After 14 years of coordinating Turkey Bowl my simple answer is: I’m ready to do something else and share the Gospel through other means.  To go into further depth, my children are now involved in several school activities that overlap with the planning and the weekend of Turkey Bowl.  I have a few other ministry commitments that take my time and make it difficult to do Turkey Bowl to the best of my ability.

     The Church’s standpoint–  Our church has supported this faithfully year after year but there is no one in the congregation who feels they would like to responsibility to run the whole tournament.

But wasn’t this a big fundraiser for the church?

It has never been a fundraiser.  In fact, the team fees only covered a partial amount of the cost of the tournament.  The church covered anything to do with ministry (food, literature, etc), and the team fees covered the tournament costs, (lights, referees, etc)

Was Turkey Bowl no longer well received?

We have built up a pretty solid reputation, so I am pretty confident that we were still well received.  We have noticed a decline in teams the last couple of years but we also noticed a decline in teams in other flag football leagues.  It might just be a phase in the sport, but that really didn’t play into our decision.

Was it because the players and referees fight and argue?

No, but I won’t miss that aspect of Turkey Bowl weekend!  🙂

But why are you letting us know now?

We felt it was appropriate to get this out early.  Perhaps another ministry or organization will run their own flag football tournament this fall and they will now have time to plan.  I would prefer they call it something other than Turkey Bowl, but we most certainly don’t have any legal rights to that name.

So, after all these years do we finally understand how the pass interference penalty works?


Will the church ever consider bringing it back?

Good question.  We will most certainly never say never!



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