Mitchellsburg church mixing basketball with religion

March 01, 2004|JIM LOGAN

Dan Johnson watches the fourth- and fifth-graders run up and down the carpeted basketball court and sees boys learning to serve Jesus.

The boys are playing in a Saturday league at Mitchellsburg Baptist Church called Higher Goal. Started by Johnson, the church's pastor, it takes its name from Philippians 3:14 in the New Testament: "I press toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Johnson, who is from Indiana, said hoops and religion were a natural fit.

"The Lord blessed us with a building and we're just trying to take advantage of it," he said.

It's been a roaring success. With minimal publicity, the league signed up 105 kids from kindergarten through eighth grade. The fee was kept to $12 to make it affordable, although some families received scholarships.

"We don't want anybody turned away," Johnson said.

There are eight boys and eight girls teams for the six-week league. Games, which start and end with a prayer, consist of four six-minute quarters.


Scorekeepers, referees and coaches are all volunteers. The community has been wonderfully supportive, Johnson said.

"We figure we have 500 people come through here for games," Johnson said.

As for the kids, he said, they're learning the value of a good attitude, teamwork and having Jesus in their lives.

"I can see a difference already in how some of them have come along," Johnson said.

Parents love it, too.

"All the men in here are good examples of Christian men and it's absolutely fantastic," said Andra Adams of Parksville.

She said her kids have played in other leagues, but some have not been good experiences.

At Higher Goal, she said, "You don't have to worry about what kind of coach you're gonna get." She's seen coaches who were "out of control" or who use profanity.

John Glasscock of Mitchellsburg, who was there to watch his 9-year-old stepson, John Ganen, play, said the league has another benefit: "It's gets a lot of people who were slacking back in church."

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