Part of the Team

A former youth pastor at Oak View Baptist Church decided to act when he noticed how few parents attended the football games at Nimitz High School in Irving, Texas. At his urging, Oak View launched a sports outreach program in 2018 to sponsor the Nimitz football team.

“Each church member kind of adopts the players and then sends them a bag with snacks and a note every week during the season before each game,” says Jack Teel, Oak View’s minister of students and communications. 

When the pandemic began, all games were suspended. But when sports resumed at the high school, Oak View’s outreach team started a Bible study for Nimitz coaches and began to sponsor girls’ and boys’ basketball. The church, which has an average weekend attendance of 400, went on to adopt the school’s softball and baseball teams, too.

The students appreciate the notes church volunteers leave for them, which address specific prayer requests, contain Scripture or offer encouraging words. The athletes are most grateful, however, when Oak View volunteers show up to their games.

“I remember being an athlete, and you invite everybody and almost nobody ever comes,” Teel says. So, when somebody comes when they say they’re going to come, it’s a big deal.”

Coaches also need support. Beyond the pressures of leading a sports team, they often have to help students in crisis. In that way, it’s not very different from ministry, Teel says. 

Elizabeth Jolley, Oak View’s girls’ minister, does outreach to the women’s coaches at Nimitz. 

“With the women, it’s just been great to encourage them and to equip them to live out their faith and to build those relationships,” she says.

Some Nimitz students now call Oak View their church home. Teel says that’s a nice development but not the goal of the church’s outreach. “It’s not a recruiting technique,” he says.

His objective remains the same whether no one from the high school attends services: “We want to be able to support them in every way we can.”

Nadra Kareem Nittle
Nadra Kareem Nittletwitter.com/NadraKareem

Nadra Kareem Nittle has written for Outreach magazine since 2009. She has written about faith and other issues for a number of publications and websites, including the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, About.com's Race Relations website, TheLoop21.com, PRISM magazine and the Inland Valley Times. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles.