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Everything You Need to Know About Youth Ministry, According to High School Football

Football is BACK! I love this time of year. In some ways no better time exists: The cool air this morning beckoning fall to arrive, the excitement of a new school year, and the many new faces at our Young Pros ministry at Richland Creek Community Church, to name only a few. But something else happens to me (and to many more) this time of year. The marching bands, the pom poms and the endless discussions have arrived concerning the great American sport: football. No sport turns my crank more than football. Around here we hope the Carolina Panthers will continue to win. I would be OK with the Crimson Tide winning another national title, and would like the Tar Heels to win another bowl game. But football in particular takes me back to my own youth and the days of playing football.

Football has had an enduring effect on my life. Maybe it stems from the matching scars I have on both knees from surgical repairs brought about from my gridiron days. No doubt it comes in no small way from my having grown up in Alabama in the heyday of Bear Bryant-led Alabama football. My brief stint coaching Josh in football back in his freshman year in high school brought a lot of joy, although I think I will stick to teaching. One thing is certain: Every fall I experience a strange phenomenon. About the time school begins, if I hear a marching band practice or see football players sweating in their two-a-days, I begin to twitch, and I feel an adrenaline rush. I find myself looking for someone to tackle, or at least find the urge to watch Remember the Titans one more time! Something about football has never left me.

I have fought the urge to tackle a colleague or try to convince the assistants in my office to lead a pep rally. But I have discovered that nothing in my adult experience causes me to reflect on my teenage years more than my annual habit of football nostalgia.

Football gave me a lot. I was far from the all-star player on my team. Like most guys, in my mind the older I get, the better player I was! But I have observed that being on a football team over four years taught me practical lessons about life that have helped me ever since. And, many of these same lessons have been especially helpful to me in ministry. Ministry is to team sports (like football) as painted lines are to a highway—not the same, but a pretty good parallel. Just look at the times Paul used athletics in the New Testament to teach spiritual truth (I Cor. 9:24-27, Phil. 3:14, I Tim, etc).

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Alvin L. Reid (born 1959) serves as Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has been since 1995. He is also the founding Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism. Alvin and his wife Michelle have two children: Joshua, a senior at The College at Southeastern, and Hannah, a senior at Wake Forest Rolesville High School. Recently he became more focused at ministry in his local church by being named Young Professionals Director at Richland Creek Community Church. Alvin holds the M.Div and the Ph.D with a major in evangelism from Southwestern Seminary, and the B.A. from Samford University. He has spoken at a variety of conferences in almost every state and continent, and in over 2000 churches, colleges, conferences and events across the United States.