Irving churches step up to the plate with sports outreach

by Leann Callaway on November 1, 2023 in Local Church Stories

Student minister Kyle Backhus (far left) regularly meets with the players to encourage and pray with the team before games.

IRVING -- Desiring to demonstrate God’s love and show support for students, three churches in Irving have stepped up to the plate by creating a sports outreach program designed to help meet needs in their community and encourage athletes to press on towards the goal.

First Baptist Church in Irving sponsors the varsity football team from MacArthur High School, while Oak View Baptist Church adopts players from Nimitz High School and Christ Church partners with Irving High School.

“The ultimate goal of this partnership is to love and serve our community and meet needs however we can as a church, while sharing the gospel to make disciples of all nations,” said Kyle Backhus, student minister at First Irving. “The nations are present here in Irving and represented in our local high schools, so we want to go to those spaces and steward the gospel message well. Our prayer is that every practical need that we can help meet would be an opportunity to help share the gospel. I am grateful for the local church's commitment to live for Christ, seeking to make Him known in Irving.”

With doors opening to reach players and their families, church leaders recognize the opportunity the sports outreach opens up to reach the city for Christ.

(Left to right) Carson Frick, MacArthur football player Colby Cleveland, student minister Kyle Backhus, Malex Fuget, and Braden Stemley are all members of First Irving. A couple of MacArthur's football players were already attending First Irving, and the presence of fellow church members at their games helps them to invite their friends to church.

“I believe the main way that the MacArthur Football program has encouraged the body here at First Irving is by reminding us to be mindful of the gospel need in our community. It has been a sweet opportunity that the Lord has given His church to serve. So much of this relationship with the team is about seeking to serve and bless the team however we can. As the Lord brings about opportunities to serve, our desire is to be ready to share the hope of Christ that we have through His death, burial and resurrection.”

The sports outreach program provides opportunities for church members of all ages to be actively involved in various ways, including putting together weekly care packages for the team, writing encouraging notes and attending home games.

As a result of this outreach, players and their families have been able to see the gospel in action.

“I go to each home and away game, pray with the team before each game begins and seek to be available to connect with and counsel players, coaches and community members as the Lord brings about opportunities,” Backhus said. “We have the amazing opportunity to serve team dinners in the MacArthur High School cafeteria throughout the season as well. Our church members come and serve the team dinner, allowing them the opportunity to connect with and get to know the players and coaches.

(Left to right) Braden Stemley, Carson Frick, MacArthur football player Caden Baker, Malex Fuget and student minister Kyle Backhus are all members of First Irving. The team has been greatly encouraged by the regular attendance from First Irving members throughout the football season.

“The Lord has provided numerous gospel conversations and opportunities to develop personal relationships. Many of the players on the team will talk about what is happening in their lives and ask for prayer. I believe the main way that the team has been encouraged is by seeing many people who love and serve them well for the glory of God. When this type of love and service is evident, people start to simply ask, ‘Why do y’all do this?’ Giving an answer to this question is a great opportunity to share the gospel and show the love that we know in Jesus Christ.”

By continuing the connection on and off the field, it has encouraged athletes to connect with local churches.

“We have had players attend a few events as a result of this outreach, but we are praying for more gospel fruit over the coming days, weeks, and months,” Backhus said. “We have some players whose families already attend First Irving, and we hope to equip them to be bright lights for Christ in their locker room. Even though the football season ended a few weeks ago, we are continuing to pray that the Lord would save young men from their sin and connect them to local churches in Irving.”

Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.

The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

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