The whistle rested in my mouth. I was poised to throw the ball in the air. Two players on either side of my stood ready to jump for the ball. Everyone watched. The game began. With four players on each team, they worked their way back and forth. Yes, they traveled. But they had so much fun. Some of them scored points. Others played really good defense. Others wondered just a little if this is the game for them. The other coaches and I tried to encourage them. They have progressed so well. All their hard work is beginning to pay off, if only a little. Tomorrow is out final night. I will post photos on my other blog soon. In the meantime friendships with these growing little buggars are being forged. It has been time well spent.
Movie and game night took place in the other building with the little ones, 35 in all. So, as the summer begins to fade, we have managed to sustain a large portion of the kids we have gained. I look forward to getting to know them all better in the weeks ahead.
Another day of basketball in the books. Two hours. Thirteen kids. Lots of hard work. Definite signs of improvement. It is cool to watch players experience success based on the focused feedback from coaches. It is even better to see acts of sportsmandship. There is room for improvement both in skills and sportsmanship. But the week is only half done. More is yet to come. I am hopeful that this concentrated week will encourage the players by showing them what is possible, not only in basketball, but in life.
In life, they will need to learn that being teachable will serve them well. A self-motivated work ethic will reap benefits. Disciplined attention to basic skills will improve their performance in every area of life. Care for others, rather than a focus on selfish desires will give them a profound sense of peace. Respect for others rather than sly mockery will in turn earn them respect. All of these are the kinds of things that can be learned in sport. They surface at teachable moments as the pressure of competition mounts; as friendships are forged in the shared pain of hard work.
A college music instructor once told me that sports is not a ministry. Apparently he felt his music groups were more of a ministry than the college basketball team since they went into churches to sing and perform drama, rather than playing against schools such as Reed College or some of the other local Bible colleges. As much as I enjoy music and drama, I personally recognize the power of sport as a vehicle to minister missionally to a generation of kids who might not otherwise hear the gospel. So the other coaches and I are working hard to forge strong relationships with the kids. Much headway has been gained. We are trusting God for breakthroughs in the hearts of each of them.
Tonight was day one of basketball camp. It was a small gathering of kids. Only eleven out of the seventeen who signed up appeared. For two hours we practiced layups, jump shots, defense, passing and three-on-three. At one point I took the highest skill child aside and tried to counsel him regarding his jump shot. I suggested that he was missing his shots because he was fading away, doing turn around jumpers and generally not taking good shots. He disagreed. Later I approached him again. This time I told him about a former college colleague who was a Second Team All American, averaging over 28 points per game. I said, “He had one main weakness. He faded away on his shots.” I looked at the boy meaningfully. “He did the same thing you are doing, and it hurt his shooting percentage. You have strong shooting skills but you need to square up to the basket, plant your feet, using your legs to jump and shoot the shot.” He said, “Okay.” Immediately he drained three shots in a row. All of them were picture perfect form with no fade aways or fancy showmanship. I said, “Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!” Then I gave him a high five. He smiled (barely) for the first time that night. Hmm. Maybe he realizes I am not such a relic after all.
Coaching involves teaching skills, encouraging application and then praising the resultant success of the protege. I look forward to continued improvement in this child and all the others as well tomorrow.
I watched the kids choir performance tonight. A gaggle of growing kids singing, dancing, saying their lines. Smiles, giggles and a few waves to Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa. Lots of clapping. Lots of proud loved ones looking on at the spectacle, the fruit of three months of hard work, head scratching and encouragement.
I remember them as babies and infants, and later toddlers and preschoolers. I remember the many hours of teaching, counseling, mediating, listening. The tears and the laughter; the celebrations of birthdays. They are giving me the privilege of a being a small part of their lives. And so tonight I got to see them perform, much older now, yet still young children. And I beamed, proud of them for their efforts in music and also proud of their contributions to helping feed the hungry in our community as part of their program.
Joyful memories, they bring, these precious children and families I am privileged to help pastor. Thank you Lord for the joy you have set before me in the form of these wonderful families.
The little ones of my church currently are practicing for a one act play which they will perform on December 23 at my church. It is based on Max Lucado’s book, “The Crippled Lamb.” I wrote a brief script, adapting the text of the book to the one act. The play lasts about 15 minutes. I first did it about 10 years ago with a group of kids who are now teens. I thought it would be fun to try it again with a new group. My current group is a bit younger than the first. But they are no less precocious. This Sunday I will hand out two of the main parts, Josh the crippled lamb and Abigail the cow. I also will have a couple of understudies for each part. That way if any of the leads cannot make it, someone else can step in.
Abigail likes to say moo alot. She is the crowd favorite. Last Wednesday there were several little girls running out of PowerClub Kids yelling MOO! Good thing I already told their parents what is happening. I could have a lot of explaining to do. :)
Hopefully I will have some photos of the performance to share. Stay tuned. Errm, rather, MOOOO.
Leave it to the Kidologist, Karl Bastian of Kidology.org, to invent the unconference for children’s pastors. The result? Yosemite Summit 2008. This is a limited five-day sabbatical for 8 male children’s pastors, including Karl. The purpose, according to Karl, is to “provide both group and personal time of reflection, prayer, reading, and worship in a setting where God can truly be heard and experienced” (From About Page). I am going to have to pray seriously about this. It is the very kind of thing I have been attempting on my own in my area. In any event, check it out! It looks like it will be well worth the nominal cost.
This evening we held a talent show in our gymnasium. Parents and families were invited to come and watch their children perform a wide variety of skills. There were soccer players, basketball players, jump ropers, a joke teller, a story teller, an exceptionally gifted harmonica player, singers and a skilled dancer, actresses, and artists. They were all excited to share their developing skills. The evening exceeded my expectations. Between performances I was able to thank parents for their support and invite them to be a part of the children’s ministry in the days to come. I also cracked a few jokes and generally tried to keep the mood festive. From what I could tell, everyone had a great time of simply enjoying the kids and each other. I expect that we will do this again next year.