Softball is not who we are, it’s just what we do.
That’s the message Kirsten Smith, Portland South Area Representative in Oregon, helped teach a group of 65 sixth through ninth graders who attended a softball camp this past July.
Adolescence can be a challenging time of searching for one’s identity and purpose. Students this age often look to find affirmation and identity in all kinds of places, but Smith wanted the girls to learn their true purpose is rooted in so much more than the sport they play.
As this message was reinforced from the speakers and the high school and adult coaches, discussions led to the next logical questions: Then who am I, and who does God say I am?
The answers all came back to finding their identity in a relationship with Jesus.
“We cultivated a space where they felt okay to share where they are at in their relationship with Jesus,” Smith said.
The three-day camp at a park in West Linn, Oregon, focused on a wide variety of softball skills. The girls were divided into teams based on skill level, and they moved to various stations. Because the camp focused on helping the girls improve their skills, it provided more outreach opportunities as there were girls participating who wouldn’t typically be drawn to a ministry event.
“It was good for teaching us how to be in a team and bring God into that as well,” said eighth grader Grace Colvin. “It also taught us a lot about softball.”
Both Grace and her sister Bailey, who is in sixth grade, attended the camp along with many of the members of their recreational softball team. The girls learned how to hit and pitch and grew closer to their team while be challenged to grow together in the knowledge of Christ.
“There was freedom that came from a community of coaches and athletes that make it okay to be a softball player who loves Jesus,” Smith said.
Scott Reavely, pastor at New Life Church in West Linn, coached one of the teams and delivered a camp-wide message one day on pursuing purpose. Discussing Matthew 6:33, he talked about how the anxieties in life come from pursing the wrong purpose.
The messages the other days focused on God’s desire for the girls to grow in love for people and trust in His many promises. After lunch, they would have team Huddles, and the girls answered questions about what the speaker discussed. By the end of the camp, Smith said they were signing in the backs of each other’s Bibles.
Reavely said many of the girls who attended were new to softball as well as to Christianity, becoming introduced to the Gospel for the first time and given the opportunity to recognize their need for Jesus.
For Smith, it was encouraging the camp was so well-received in a dealing with much division and where ministry can be challenging. The girls asked if there would be another camp next year, and Smith is gauging interest in starting FCA club softball sports in the area.
While the pandemic prevented them from hosting a larger-scale overnight leadership camp, offering this smaller day camp was just as good. Registration filled within a few weeks, and they added more spots to accommodate a waiting list.
“It was a launching pad for what FCA softball looks like in the area,” said Smith.
Kirsten Smith joined FCA staff as the area representative for South Portland, Oregon in November 2019 at a time when there wasn’t much ministry happening in that area. Since then, four new Huddles have formed, and there have been camps in new places. Additionally, she has seen student ministry become more united across youth groups in the area.
Please join Kirsten in praying for more team and multi-sport school Huddles to form as a result of athletes engaging with FCA through ministry events like camp. Also pray for FCA softball to create a community where athletes and coaches feel a sense of community built on the Gospel and for them to lead their teammates into a growing relationship with Jesus.
Photos courtesy of Kirsten Smith