By Shelley Mager, BaptistLIFE writer
ANNAPOLIS, Md.—The pounding of feet to a lineup of balls at center court was drowned out by well over 100 screaming teenagers at the sixth Weems Creek Church Dodgeball Tournament on May 27. At least 156 students attended this creative outreach held at the Annapolis Area Christian School gymnasium, forming 26 teams of students ranging from middle school to college age. In addition to the 156 players, there were dozens of friends who came to show support and socialize.
“Most of these kids have never been to church,” said Justin Orr, youth pastor of Weems Creek. Orr was the announcer for the night, calling out each of the teams as their turns came up, and wearing one of the bright yellow referee shirts for the night. Orr recently received his Master of Divinity from Southeastern Seminary and took on a job as a coach in a local public school in the area.
Orr was one of several church members who launched the first event in October 2007. Since that time, interest has steadily grown and the tournaments have attracted over 200 participating students. Many of the students come not from the local churches but the local schools. Players on the winning teams of the double elimination tournaments receive free T-shirts and often wear them to school the next day, sparking interest in many of the students.
“I came for the heavenly experience of playing dodgeball,” laughed 8th grader Lindsey Missell. This is Missell’s first experience with Weems Creek. “It’s a lot of fun. I got to meet a lot of new people.”
Missell is an enthusiastic member of team “Black Attack.” Each team creates its own name (breeding titles such as the “Dodgers,” “Rainbow Slugs,” “Black Attack,” “Victorious Secret,” “Sonic Death Monkeys” and many more) and many create their own glittery t-shirts or dress in matching colors to create their own uniforms.
While many come enthusiastic about playing, the event is not all fun and games.
“I’ve presented the Gospel in pieces to them at each of the [events],” said Orr. “Tonight was the first time I called for a personal decision.”
After a short game of Red Robin and the determining of teams, Orr steps to center court to share God’s truth with a group that is largely unfamiliar with biblical ideas. Orr usually incorporates a visual activity to drive home his point. This time he invited several students to play musical chairs to show the students that where they choose to “sit” in life will make a huge difference in their futures.
“I think it’s a really good outreach,” said Rachel Eaton, a team captain of the Dodgers. Eaton is a sophomore at Anne Arundel Community College and, while she is a member at First Church of Waldorf, she attends Weems Creek regularly during the school year. “At every dodgeball tournament the students get to hear the Gospel.”
The group is a diverse one. Sixth graders, Naval Academy midshipmen, and every grade and age in between have attended these different events. The church has gained at least two families from this outreach so far.
When asked if they would consider visiting the church, several students agreed that they would.
“I would definitely consider coming, especially if they have events like this,” said Missell.
Weems Creek will host another double elimination dodgeball tournament after the start of the school year. For more information, contact Justin Orr at (410) 266-5527.