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News for Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dodgeball Tournament Draws 1,000
By Connie Davis Bushey
news editor, Baptist and Reflector

KNOXVILLE — “It’s not about the Dodgeball Tournament. It’s [about] using it as a tool for hundreds of students to hear about Jesus,” explained Bobby Thompson, student pastor, Grace Baptist Church here.

Though an unusual outreach event, the annual tournament has become the church’s largest and most effective outreach event for middle school and high school students, explained Thompson, who recently saw 42 students make professions of faith at the event. Two weeks later on Nov. 13 at a Baptism Party, also held on Wednesday night, 29 students were baptized.

The Dodgeball Tournament drew about 800 students from about 22 schools and a total of about 1,000 people including parents and volunteers, he added.

That response is up from last year, the first year it was held, which saw about 500 participate in the tournament, 10 students make professions of faith, and 21 be baptized.

“It has really taken off,” said Thompson. Grace Baptist Church draws about 2,800 to Sunday morning activities. Grace Christian Academy for Kindergarten to 12th grade has about 950 students.

Last year the number of students who were baptized was more than those who made professions of faith because each year the Wednesday night after the tournament “the essentials of our faith” are taught so more students can make decisions and so students who made decisions can understand what their commitments mean, explained Thompson.


Details of event

The Dodgeball Tournament is successful mainly because of the regular participants of the Grace Student Ministry, explained Thompson. The ministry draws about 350 middle school and high schools students to activities.

He said he teaches them for weeks prior to the event about missions and challenges them to use the tournament as a way to share their faith.

To emphasize that focus of the tournament, one rule is that each seven-member team has to have at least one member who doesn’t regularly attend church, said Thompson, who got the idea for the event from a minister friend in Texas.

The church assists the students in inviting their friends by providing T-shirts for the students to wear, posters to place on their lockers, and invitation cards.

The event is held on the Wednesday before Halloween and includes a presentation of door prizes and then praise and worship by the Grace Student Ministry praise and worship band. This year Nathan Smith, an evangelist of North Carolina, presented the gospel and asked students to make spiritual decisions.

Then Thompson transitioned the event to the tournament, which is held on an athletic field of the school in four fenced off courts. The entire event lasts about four hours, he reported.

The dodgeball part involves games which either have three rounds or last up to five minutes. The brackets are made up of middle school and high school teams. To win a round, a team member has to hit everyone on the other team without allowing them to catch the ball which eliminates them. The two winning teams win cash prizes. Finally, one team which wins the best uniform contest receives a month of free meals from a local Chick-fil-A restaurant.

During the two weeks following the Dodgeball Tournament Thompson and a team “dedicated to following up” contacts those students who made spiritual decisions. They receive a phone call and letter. If they go to another church, they are encouraged to attend that church, he added. “This is not about taking other churches’ kids,” said Thompson.

On the Wednesday night following the tournament the students can learn more about making a commitment to God and can make a commitment then also.

The next week, the Baptism Party is held, said Thompson.

He is thankful for the great response this year, he said.

Grace Baptist funded most of the event but several businesses in addition to Chick-fil-A helped with the expenses. One expense involves renting fencing to form the dodgeball courts, said Thompson.

Ron Stewart, senior pastor of Grace, said the Dodgeball Tournament is one way for the church to “reach teenagers in the 21st century with the gospel” by following the Apostle Paul’s directive to Christians from I Corinthians 9:22 — to “become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”

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