We recently concluded our 2010 Basketball Camp at Portland Open Bible Church. In all, 13 children participated for two or more evenings. Three additional children made one time appearances. All but two of the children were from the Lents neighborhood, specifically the apartments across from and adjacent to our church property.
We had a great time. More photos can be viewed at my photo blog. Given that the skill level was pretty low for most of the children (in a previous blog post, I shared about one boy who could shoot accurately from the college 3 point range), we focused on acquiring basic basketball skills, such as dribbling, passing and catching the ball, shooting the ball, rebounding, and defensive stance. All the drills were designed to lead them progressively to 3-on-3 capability. We achieved that in limited form by the third day, allowing them to attempt controlled 3-on-3 experiences. That is, it was not a full-blown scrimmage. Rather, we helped them to set up the play, attempt it, and then stopped the action when it reached the conclusion of each play. We did this in order to prevent injury, confusion, and frustration. Inexperienced basketball players typically have little court awareness or intuitive sense of how to play without getting bonked in the nose by another player or the ball. So, we watched them carefully to provide the best possible experience without letting it turn into a free-for-all.
On the final evening, I challenged a group of five children to 5-on-1. It took them awhile, but they finally managed to make a few baskets by using teamwork through passing to help their teammates get into a position to score. At the end, they asked me the score of the game. I chose not to keep score, so I told them I did not know. They wondered if they had won. I told them they worked hard together to produce some great plays, but I had no idea who had won the game. Later on, if and when they enter competitive sports, they can worry about the win-loss column. My goal this week was to give them an experience in basketball through collaborative teamwork, sharing of responsibility, and exposure to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Each night I shared for about five minutes some aspect of the gospel. For example, I explained that the gospel is good news, the good news about Jesus Christ. I told them the story of the Samaritan woman at the well who had the life-changing encounter with Jesus. I shared about Nicodemus, who came in secret at night to question Jesus. On the final night I shared about Adam and Eve, and the terrible choice they made which affects us all.
Using story, I invited the children to become followers of Jesus Christ with me. Instead of asking for a decision without first setting the context of the gospel, as I have done in the past. I invited them into a relationship. With Jesus. With me. With each other. A relationship predicated on following Jesus together, recognizing that we need him desperately and that we cannot deal with our sin on our own. No amount of good works and no degree of being nice can solve the problem we all share due to our heritage as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. We sin. We need a Savior. Some of the kids began to understand this, so when I invited them to follow Jesus with me, they began to shake their heads in the affirmative.
Some trust Jesus as their Savior. Others do not yet understand or believe. However, each of them is invited to continue to learn, follow, and explore who Jesus is and what relevance he has for their lives.
You could infer that their knowledge and experience concerning basketball closely parallels that of their faith. Yet, the good news is that they need not become experts in matters of faith before they can believe. In basketball, they get the fact that the ball needs to get into the basket to score points. Some of them understand that Jesus saves them on the basis of their belief and trust in his bodily death and resurrection for their sins. Others need continued exposure to the truth, which indeed will happen as we carry on with following Jesus together, revisiting the gospel and living it out in community.