ARTESIA (BNM) - Through a Gospel-centered sports ministry, First Baptist Church, Artesia, is teaching children in their community to put Christ first in all that they do.
The ministry, Seek 1st Sports, offers “a competitive league that teaches children to be leaders and examples of Christ to all they come in contact with while building their skills as true athletes,” according to the church’s website.
According to First Baptist’s pastor, Ty Houghtaling, the idea for Seek 1st grew from a church mission trip to England. During the trip, seven men from the church conducted sports camps at various schools, teaching American football, basketball and golf. At the time, the church participated in Upward Sports, a national youth sports program, whose mission is to promote Jesus through sports. Even so, according to Houghtaling, many in Artesia’s sports community were wary of Upward, seeing it as a recreation league, lacking in competitiveness and athletic development. While the league’s reputation wasn’t entirely accurate, “it wasn't reaching the community they way the church wanted it to,” Houghtaling said. This led the church to utilize the experience gained during the mission trip to England and the development of its own program.
Seek 1st officially launched in 2013, with a basketball program and added football the following year. The co-ed ministry is open to children through fifth grade.
The ministry’s core verse is Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Houghtaling said that while “competition is great, we want our kids to get advantages with coaches and to thrive in competition and succeed in sports. But really, that's not what it's about. If we seek God first, then all of those other things, like being a good athlete and participating on a football team that wins games, that will come when we put our priorities right."
“Our goal is to be spirit-filled, to be led by the Spirit in God's will, to be pursuing God first, and to be living missionally. A secondary advantage of that lifestyle will be that we'll thrive in sports, we'll be good teammates, and we'll grow as athletes,” he added.
Houghtaling also said that the ministry has “been a really unifying way for our church to come around sports ministry," adding that some of the adult Sunday school classes at the church have "adopted" teams in the league and have become the “boosters” of the teams.
When asked if there were any kids who had potential to mature to the caliber of Landry Jones, a National Football League quarterback and Artesia native, Houghtaling said, "I don't know if we've got another Landry Jones, but we've got some kids coming through that we're going to be really proud of."