The main reason I love coaching (and teaching for that matter) is the relationships I get to form with the kids; it’s my favorite thing about it. Don’t get me wrong; I love sports too! But I really love the relationship-building opportunities they provide, and coaching only furthers this because of the extra time spent together and the bond that is formed as a team.
Coaching also provides an enhanced platform for discipleship. We are together almost every day for multiple months and I recognize this is an opportunity to share life together and hopefully influence them for the kingdom of Jesus.
My favorite times in coaching are actually outside of the sport itself - car rides to games, end of year parties, and just time before practice. However, several years ago, God put it on my heart to do something even more impactful with our time together, and we started incorporating this at West Side. We started to do a service project every season as a team. We go through a local ministry that identifies families and individuals who, due to age, an illness or disability, could use a hand with work around the house and yard. We help with whatever is needed.
This has been an amazing experience to do together as a team! The boys bond when they serve together and I just love to see that. I see growth in their interactions with each other as a result of their time spent serving together. But more importantly, we get to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we serve those in need and be an example of what he has done for us.
About a year after starting this while serving at someone’s house last spring, I felt stirred that these people needed to know why we were there helping them and that we should pray with them. So I asked the woman we were helping if we could pray with her and her husband. It turns out they were believers and said they would love to pray with us. As a team, we gathered in this couple’s small living room and put our arms around each other's shoulders and prayed for them. I can’t even explain how powerful this was! It was amazing to hear the boys pray for this couple that they had just met and hear their hearts through their words. Ever since then, we pray for every person or family that we help and each experience has been incredible.
There’s something powerful about asking to pray for someone. You get to hear their stories. This opens up the boys’ eyes to what people are struggling with.
This spring I’m coaching the boy’s middle school baseball team, and recently we spent an afternoon helping several local families. The first home we went to was owned by a woman with terrible COPD; so bad that she could barely have a conversation with us. She loves yard work and plants and just can’t do it anymore so she was thrilled to have our boys show up and help her with her yard. We had an opportunity early on to pray with this woman and after praying she opened up about her struggles and even a bit of her history with faith. She shared, “Thank you for praying for me. No one’s prayed for me for a long time.”
One of my boys noted, “God really touched her heart -- she was crying.” Another said, “Little things can have big effects. Just us being a good example had a big impact on her. She was so emotional and thankful.”
While driving to the next place we talked a little about how so many people in our city are struggling and face challenges that we don’t even realize. It can be good for us to see some of those needs and realize how blessed we are and that not everyone lives the same way we do. Not that we necessarily have it better – but that we are blessed.
“Even when we think life doesn’t go our way, we still have it better than a lot of people and we need to be thankful,” said one of my boys.
The next place we worked at was a senior housing development. Four apartments needed help so we split up. My brother took one group, I took one, and two eighth graders led the other groups.
After we were finished working, the other groups shared that they had all prayed with the people they were helping. That was so encouraging to hear that they stepped out and prayed on their own.
One of the guys that we helped had a nerve disease that kept him from being able to do any physical work. He said he couldn’t write anymore and was even beginning to have trouble speaking. He began to share that he was struggling to believe in God because he had prayed many times and wasn’t being healed. When we asked him if we could pray with him, he kept saying maybe another time. “I can’t pray right now because I’m shaking. I can’t come to God like this.” We talked with him about how there is never a bad time to come to God. We let him know that we would be praying for him, even though we didn’t get to pray with him.
One of the boys asked, “why does he think he can’t pray because he’s trembling?” We spoke about how it is the best time to come to God when we are at our weakest and that His strength can work in us.
It is so good for these middle school boys to hear what these people are going through and their need for Jesus – not just their need for yard work. And as one of them noted, “A small act of kindness can do a lot for someone.” Said another, “I thought it was cool to pray with everyone – you never know what that could do for them if they’re not a Christian – that could influence them.”
Last fall the boys basketball team helped a man and his wife, who was ill and not able to come out of the house. We prayed with the husband although he seemed hesitant about it. A few weeks later we got a letter from the wife.
It was incredible!
In it, she shared how powerful it was that we prayed for her. Apparently she was watching us because she spoke of how hard the boys were working and not complaining. “After you came, I was able to get out of the house for the first time in several weeks.” She was so thankful and grateful that we’d come and it was so encouraging to how God worked through our time at her home.
We’ve tried to continue praying for all of the people that we’ve served. It’s good for the kids to do this; to get outsides themselves and their own environment and have their eyes opened up to the blessings in their lives and the needs around them, and to understand that God can and will use them. They just have to respond.
They ARE middle school boys -- so the full impact of these experiences might not hit them right away.
But my hope is that these experiences will be something they can look back on and see as stepping stones in their walk with Jesus.
God’s really put on my heart the need to get out of the “bubble” and go into places and situations that might be uncomfortable - where I come to the end of myself and have to rely on Him. And I also think this is what we are called to do at West Side Christian School: to help raise disciples to go out and share the light of Jesus in our broken world.