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Youth pastor works sports into the mix

March 14, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

CLEAR SPRING - Chris Mitchell is a man of God and an enthusiastic sports fan who has combined those two passions under one steeple.

In late January, Mitchell organized a men's basketball league at Emmanuel Baptist Temple where he is youth pastor. The teams play Monday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. at 16221 National Pike east of Clear Spring.

"My wife says the word fan is short for fanatic," Mitchell said. "But it's just that I love basketball and baseball, sports which promote both good exercise and teamwork."

The league is open to men age 18 and older. There are some players in their 20s and 30s and a few in their 50s.

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The cost is $10 and a commitment of time - not only to the league but to the church.

"Everyone in the basketball league is required to attend at least one preaching service a week at the church," Mitchell said. That can be either the morning or evening services on Sundays or the Wednesday evening service.

While only about half of the league members are also members of Emmanuel, the other 15 or so players have been abiding by the requirement, Mitchell said.

"There has been some resistance because of work schedules but if a member wants to play, he'll find a way," Mitchell said.

The new multipurpose facility to the rear of the church contains a full-sized basketball court with hardwood floors, glass backboards, a scoreboard, referees and even a championship tournament looming in the future.

"People say sports teaches character but that's not true," Mitchell said. "Sports reveals character and then the word of God can come into a life."

A native of Boston, Mitchell, 30, has traveled all over the country. When pinned down, he says he still thinks Boston is the best city in the country and goes back there to visit family whenever he can.

Mitchell graduated from Pensacola Christian College in Florida with a degree in mathematics and physical education. A basketball coach for 11 years, he spent eight years coaching in a Christian school.

He also completed his studies at Pensacola Theological Seminary in Florida.

Mitchell and his wife, Heather, who is from the Midwest, have been in Washington County for about a year.

"There is a lot of support for youth programs here," Mitchell said, and the network of youth pastors in the area is strong and committed to providing worthwhile activities and guidance to young people.

Emmanuel, for example, has a new teen church for young people whose parents don't come to Emmanuel, Mitchell said. The service is at 11 a.m. on Sundays. On Feb. 26, it attracted 20 to the service.

A new youth complex at the church has a pool table, air hockey and other "young" activities. Housed in the Ed Hampton multipurpose wing, the 3,000-square-foot youth complex was unfinished until recently.

The dedication was earlier this month.

Earlier in March, the youth at Emmanuel journeyed to Winchester, Va., for an all-nighter with other youth.

"The philosophy is simple - bring them in for something they like and then bring them to God," Mitchell said.

More information on the youth programs or the basketball league at Emmanuel can be obtained by calling Mitchell at 301-582-0378, ext. 105.

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