The Houston’s First Faith Center-Spring Branch serves families living in and around Long Point Road in a transitional neighborhood less than four miles from The Loop Campus. Neighboring residents benefit from the programs offered at the Faith Center that include a food pantry and clothes closet, multicultural worship, and Kids’ Club, a Saturday ministry for children living in neighboring apartment complexes. Hoops Night is a spin off from Kids’ Club to benefit older children and teens who like basketball. But they are getting more from volunteer mentors than an evening of basketball each Tuesday night; the boys are finding God and learning to follow Him.
“Many of these boys have absent fathers,” said Kyle Paulus (right), who recently took over leading the Hoops Night ministry. “A divorce rate at 50 percent, easy access to porn through technology and the R-rated music kids are listening to are having a negative effect on boys and young men in our culture. They need time from committed men who will mentor and communicate God’s Word to them.”
Kyle was a member at Houston’s First only three weeks when he attended his first Hoops Night as a volunteer. Now, less than a year later, he boldly took the baton from Jacob Andrews, one of eight original Hoops Night mentors who kicked off the program nearly two years ago. Ameer Omar, on the Missions staff, and Jessica Nolte, now on staff at the Faith Center-Spring Branch, were instrumental in laying a foundation for Hoops Night.
“Hoops Night has grown through word of mouth,” said Jacob. “The guys are having fun and telling their friends.” The Long Point Baptist Church van picks up kids at a local apartment complex each week, often stopping along the way to grab a bite to eat, and then shuttles the boys to the Faith Center gym to play ball.
“It took awhile for the boys to warm up to us,” said Jacob. “Many are highly competitive and some wear their emotions on their sleeves. We’ve been able to develop relationships with them, and they’ve become much more open than they were in the past.”
Some of the values the men try to instill in the boys during the devotional portion of the evening are forgiveness, self-control, managing relationships, communication and problem-solving skills. The mentors give Bibles to each boy and over time many have gotten in the habit of bringing them back each week, some even having read the assigned Scripture in preparation.
“They have learned to make eye contact, they’re more focused and have begun to do personal reflection and introspection,” said Jacob. “There is something stirring in them. It’s a real blessing to see for those of us who volunteer.”
Jacob says Hoops Night is changing the volunteers. He is a case in point. “I’m not typically outgoing,” he said. “Doing ministry is difficult for me. I find it easier to communicate with older people, so I had to refine my way of communicating to fit the audience. We’ve all had to learn something new to do this ministry.”
Not only are the volunteers changing as they minister to the boys, but the boys are becoming men and learning to accept more responsibility. One of the high school boys who graduated continued coming to Hoops Night. He was there every week, prepared and engaged. He was looking for a job, so Jacob took a chance and gave him an interview at the company he works for, one that builds, renovates and maintains sports facilities.
“He made a good impression and got the job,” said Jacob. “We’re teaching him all the processes of the business. We would like to turn him into someone who can manage our crews. His future is unlimited if he applies himself.”
The boys are there to play basketball, but they also learn to love Jesus, shed anger and walk a different path. Godly men who volunteer each week are effectively influencing the lives of these boys for Christ, and in the process, their lives are also being changed.
Be a Differencemaker in the life of a young man or woman, child or neighborhood by serving as a Houston 1:8 missionary this July 11-14. Visit the Houston 1:8 page
to discover where your campus is serving, then sign-up to be a missionary by the Sun, June 26, deadline.