Last Saturday night was the last night of our summer basketball program for City teens. City Church and the YMCA partnered together with volunteers from Temple of Grace Ministries, Asbury United Methodist Church, and other volunteers to pilot the program.
The goal was simple: get teens off the street during the summer on Saturday nights from 8-10 pm and have fun playing basketball. Each Saturday anywhere from 15-40 teens would show up eager to play. We would circle together before playing to pray for God’s protection over them and to cover the rules. The rules were simple: no fighting or using abusive language toward each other. To the praise of the young people there, they followed the rules perfectly. They were respectful and grateful to us for making this available to them. All of the adult volunteers joined in the pickup games which helped us get to know everyone by their first names.
All in all, I’m convinced that what we did was a success, even though maybe just a small one. The kids who came to play live in some of the roughest neighborhoods in the City where violence and tragedy are the norm. One of the young men had a father who was shot and killed in his neighborhood during the summer. The saddest part to me was talking to him and his friends as though this was a regular part of street life. Pray for the peace and prosperity of our City…not my words, they belong to the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:7).
So where do we go from here? I’m hoping to potentially assemble a program in the early winter to play ball, train together, and discover what it means to develop solid character and hope in a City where for many the norm is despair. I’ll need your help, creativity, and participation. These kids are worth it and they deserve the best of our collective energy.