I did not have to play basketball my whole life in Indiana for me to know about basketball. It is a culture that seeps into everyone in the Hoosier State. Basketball was emphasized, the teachers were coaches, and everyone attended the home games. I played as a teen, and I have watched “Hoosiers” a hundred times. Looking back, I have learned some of the administrative keys to success for a ball program.
1. Teach them young.
2. Keep them interested.
3. Parents are key.
I remember an older man describing in detail why our school had a good run for a number of years. “The elementary coach focuses on this and that, then the Jr high coach teaches them these, so by the time they get to high school ball they’re already trained exactly how the coach wants them.” That small conversation remained an earworm for me until I understood the truth behind it: A high school coach’s success depends in part on those that came before him. A good player is more likely to be found in the group of kids who have been playing since Kindergarten.
The Apostle Paul and John wrote two lines that seem unrelated, but dig into the truth every man of God needs:
1 Timothy 1:2 Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
2 John verse 4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.
Great rejoicing can be found where our children walk in truth. Paul invested much in his “son” Timothy. John was filled with joy that the children of this church continued to walk in truth. We have neglected to grasp what ball clubs and programs have been utilizing for years: your success with teens is dependent on your Jr program success.
1. Teach Them Young
Look at your church. Who is in your Jr church? Flash forward 10 years. Those Juniors are now your teens. Part of being a youth worker is not just doing the work, but simultaneously scouting the next generation of youth. Learn those 5 th and 6 th graders who will be entering the youth group in the next two years. Learn their names, pray for them, and invest in them early as a scout for the Lord.
2. Keep Them Interested
There are varied reasons children do not make it to the youth group in our church, but the common denominator to these reasons is interest. I personally dropped out of church because I would rather play video games than ride the bus. Many wordly interests draw children’s interest from Church to the world. My favorite memory of basketball as a kid was a two day basketball camp. We played, practiced, ate pizza, and watched movies all night. I have never forgotten it. Seek innovative and godly ways to keep the young people you have until they can participate as
3. Parents Are Key
Your church kids are more likely to be your church teens in the years to come. Why is that? Parents. As a parent now, I understand that my parents played a huge role in my interests. The basketball coach’s son was one of the best players on the team. Why? His parent’s encouraged him in that direction. Have a good relationship with your church kids’ families. The key to bus children making it to teen years, and subsequently bus teens making it to college years, is to reach their parents. If you can do this, your youth group will grow in quantity AND in quality.
Pastor Jesse McCammon
Calvary Baptist Church | Flora, IL