By CLINT FOSTER
For nine years, Upward Sports has been a part of the Mineral Wells community, providing a Sports Ministry Basketball league that focuses on building skills and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with young players and their families.
Now as Upward heads into its 10th year in the area, the Upward Leadership team, led by league commissioner Kayla Buchanan, has announced that they will offer the 2014 league for free to all participants.
“Upward challenged us this year with: ‘Are You All In?’” Buchanan said.
“What are you willing to do to see that your entire town has heard of Jesus? God began to speak to my heart.
“He reminded me that this was His ministry, that it was extremely valuable and should continue, and what was I willing to do to see that every child from Kindergarten to sixth grade would hear of His Son.”
The league will be offered for free thanks to the support of many local church congregations and others in the community, including the Mineral Wells Church of God, the Ministerial Alliance and First Baptist Church Mineral Wells – where Kayla’s husband, Nathan Buchanan, is the pastor.
Last year’s program had about 180 participants and Buchanan said they believe by offering the program for free this time, they can increase that number to around 300 or 400 participants.
Buchanan added that last year, they shared the Gospel with about 600 people, including the family and friends of children participants, through Upward – twice the size of First Baptist’s average Sunday attendance.
Buchanan believes by attracting more participants the ministry opportunities will only grow as well.
“God just reminded me, it’s not about the basketball,” Buchanan said. “It’s about lives being changed.”
Upward provides basketball leagues and skills training for kids from kindergarten to 6th grade, with vary levels of difficulty and intensity.
Throughout the process, Upward incorporates short devotions during practices and at halftime of games that teach biblical and worldly values, including teamwork, handling adversity and loving others.
At the end of the season, they present the Gospel and later have an awards night complete with a highlight video, speaker and achievement awards coupled with a second presentation of the Gospel.
Buchanan, who has been involved in basketball either as a player, coach or referee every year since junior high, said she is very passionate about the program. It perfectly combines her three biggest loves: God, family and basketball.
“After coaching basketball for so many years, I realized that, while there are such grand things you can learn from it, we’re missing some of the best things,” she said. “Their whole goal is to take Jesus to every single player and family. On top of that, they want every child to not just become a better basketball player, but become a better athlete. How do you handle situations when things aren’t going your way? Upward is here to try to train kids to do that.”
Buchanan said free registration for the league will be available online at FBC’s website – www.fbcmwtx.org – or in person until Nov. 1. After that, however, they will have to charge for the program: $52 for each participant. Buchanan added they will also need many volunteers to help run the league, which starts practices on Jan. 6.
Games begin Jan. 18 and the older league will have a tournament to finish the season. The last game day followed by the award night will be March 1.
For more information contact Nathan at 940-325-2523 or Kayla at 940-445-0057.