Image the Upper Room—Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. One by one, He lovingly cleans and dries the dusty feet of his followers.
Now imagine a group of young men removing the tattered shoes and wiping the dirty feet of 8- to 11-year-olds on the floor of an elementary school. Child by child, the men fit new socks and new shoes onto the newly cleaned feet.
The Bob Jones University Bruins athletic teams have had many opportunities to impact others through team community service projects such as this. During their regional tournament in Kissimmee, Florida, the men’s basketball team was able to minister to children by cleaning their feet and replacing their old shoes.
Forward Zac Orr said he immediately noticed the impact of his team’s ministry. He and a teammate had been talking to one of the girls as they gave her the shoes. In the conversation, she mentioned she loved basketball but had never been to a game.
The Bruins were giving the students free tickets to the Bruins game, and Orr told her so. “She had the biggest smile and said, ‘Wow! This is a dream come true,’” Orr said.
“The world is big, but we can change a little piece by doing things that we can do,” Orr said.
The men’s basketball team also volunteered at Greenville’s Meals on Wheels. According to Jon Allen, guard, the team took a van and delivered meals to the homebound around the city. When Allen delivered one of the meals to an elderly lady, she told him that he had made her day.
Team service projects also impact the players themselves. Caroline Hartzler, a forward on the women’s soccer team, saw the bond that grew from serving with her team. Around Christmastime, the team traveled to Brookdale, a senior living home, to decorate doors, craft ornaments and interact with the residents.
Serving with the team allows players the opportunity to encourage the community, other teammates and themselves. “You get to be with other people with the same mind, serving God and being an encouragement to others,” Hartzler said. “It’s important to get outside of ourselves and serve God.”
Being on a team helps with community service, especially in outreaches to children. Children look up to athletes. According to goalkeeper Isaac Landry of the men’s soccer team, being an athlete provides an opportunity to serve in a way not available to everyone, especially in children’s ministries.
Often, athletics serve as an entry point for connecting with children. “It’s a huge opportunity to impact them positively, whether materially or sharing the Gospel with them,” Landry said. “It’s a big responsibility, but it’s also a big opportunity to reach out.”
The men’s and women’s soccer teams often collaborate and offer free sports clinics to children in the area. The teams run drills, interact with the kids and provide a short Gospel presentation.
Similarly, the women’s basketball team participated in a children’s ministry every Monday from September to mid-October.
The team traveled to the Brutontown Community Center and set up basketball-related after school activities such as games of knockout and hot shot and free throw shot competitions.
Having an established team made these ministry opportunities run more smoothly because each player knows how the others work. “We all bring something different to the table,” forward Charsie Johnson said. The community service opportunities allow athletes to use their sport as a platform for impactful ministry.
“It helps us not to be so basketball-centered and understand that there’s other people in the world,” Johnson said. “It’s not just about sports.”