Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Blessing Of Sports Ministry

On Monday evening 80 children and their families gathered in the sanctuary of Westmoreland Baptist Church to celebrate the completion of our Upward Soccer season.
The 8 week season had just wrapped up the previous Saturday and by all accounts it was a great experience for the children, parents, grandparents, coaches and other volunteers. Our Soccer Commissioner, Kim McFann once again had done a wonderful job in overseeing this annual ministry. In the Award Celebration, each child received a new Upward soccer ball, and a gospel DVD entitled, "The Big Story", for their families to have and to view at their leisure.
Upward is a sports ministry more than 25 years old, founded by Caz McCazlin at First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, SC. It has grown in its scope and now Upward Basketball, Cheer leading, Soccer, Flag Football, and Sports Camps can be found, sponsored by evangelical churches around the world! It has been a wonderful asset to our Children's Ministry here at WBC. Some of the children who participate are from families that are actively involved in other churches, and that is fine. However, many of the kids come from families that have no church affiliation, and little spiritual influence in their lives. Upward is not nearly as intensively competitive as other youth sports league - and that is by design. In our busy world, time is at a premium, and families are often short changed in quality time together. Upward has one hour of practice per week, and one game per week on Saturday. Every child learns a Bible verse per week. Each practice has a devotional Bible lesson, as does half time on game day. When children have completed a season of Upward, they have been coached and taught by Christian volunteers, and they have been presented with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No other youth sports program can say that!
Some say that Upward is not competitive. Well, tell that to the kids who participate! The beauty of Upward is the three fold purpose that says "Every Child Plays... Every Child Learns... Every Child Wins". Parents who are looking for a hard nosed, win at all cost youth sports program will not be impressed with Upward. There will be plenty of opportunities in the lives of these children to compete in games and in life. Upward is not a youths sports league, Upward is a ministry, and we make no bones about it.
As part of the Award Celebration program, we ask for parent/guardian feedback. We ask them to rate their Upward experience on a 1 to 4 scale, with the four choices being "Great", "Good", "Satisfactory", and "Less than Satisfactory". Only two forms rated the experience as low as "Satisfactory", 87% rated it "Great" with the rest falling under the category "Good". There were no forms that listed an "unsatisfactory" rating. We also gave the parents an opportunity to give us verbal feedback as well. The two that rated it "Satisfactory" gave us constructive remarks that we will use next season to try to enhance the ministry.
Here are some representative comments from the feedback form:
"Aidan had a great season!'
"We had a lot of fun this year. I hope to have my son in the program again next year."
"The coaches were great... they were knowledgeable about soccer fundamentals. They were fun, caring, and all around super people."
"This was our first year of Upward and it will not be our last! These coaches taught my children so much. Thanks to all the coaches and staff of Upward."
"This was my son's second year. He loved it and we look forward to next season."
"As a grandparent, it was a wonderful experience. We love it than everyone gets equal playing time."
"This was exactly what my 9 year old daughter needed. Thank you!"
Upward is a lot of work, from pre registration activities, to registration, evaluations, team selection, recruiting volunteers, scheduling practice times and games, and the time involved to practice and coach the games. One might ask, "Is it worth it?" Well, on Sunday morning we will be baptizing two children who have both participated in Upward Sports this year. I think we can agree it is worth every minute of time and effort.
We'll take a short break, and then begin preparations for Upward Basketball and Cheer leading to fire up this fall!

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