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Down, Set…Love Your Neighbor

Jill Marshall

Jill Marshall

Director of Outreach Training
Not only do the kids become better players, they also become more confident and compassionate people—encouraged, encouraging, and supportive of one another.

If you’ve heard anything about our Move Out initiative, people at Kensington are moving out in their communities to “be the church” the other six days of the week. It’s a group of people who align with our belief that outreach should be relationship-building rather than a single event. We consider outreach as serving people rather than taking part in a project

It’s living out a phrase that was inked six times in the bible: love your neighbor as Christ does.

For a group in the Move Out Network, loving their neighbor is serving with a flag football program. As coach Jimmy describes it, “It’s pick-up football with uniforms, coaches, referees and snacks. Lots of snacks.” 

Jimmy Pappas and John Ribbing have been leading flag football for Detroit youth over the past 12 years. Partnering with Central Detroit Christian Community Development, the program runs between the weekend after Easter and the weekend before Memorial Day.  

Boys and girls ranging from 5 to 14 years old come for the football, food and fun—yet they receive so much more. Because the heart of the football program isn’t really football at all. It’s sharing the love of Christ and teaching kids about His greatest commandments. 

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40) 

Love God. Love others. While also loving yourself. Jimmy says that these commandments are the foundation of everything they do. During halftime players are gathered together for a Bible lesson where they learn about what it looks like to love and respect others—both on and off the field. Then this foundation is built upon each day, each game, and through each play.

Not only do the kids become better players, they also become more confident and compassionate people—encouraged, encouraging, and supportive of one another. “Our hope for the kids who come each Saturday is that they see the light of Jesus,” Jimmy said. “I know the environments that these kids are coming from, how tough things can be for them. I too grew up in a tough area, so I know what it’s like.

I just want them to have a light, to have an outlet, to see God move in a way that gives them a spark.” As Jimmy, the other coaches, and the team of volunteers support, encourage and speak life into the kids, they see tremendous impact. 

“We’ve had kids play for years then come back to coach and lead. So our hope is also that everything we are investing in these young people not only builds them up, but then also goes out spreading the light in other places,” he said. 

Down, set…volunteer

Kick-off begins on Saturday, April 27. Jimmy and the team are looking for people to come alongside the Detroit youth. 

“In terms of volunteers, you definitely don’t need to play or even know football to join in the fun,” Jimmy said. 

The team is looking for help with everything from registration, uniforms and snacks to encouraging the players and assisting the head coaches. They’d also love for folks to hang out with kids on the playground who are waiting for their game or just there for the fun of it all. And lastly, fans are always welcomed! When asked what makes the ideal volunteer, Jimmy smiled and said,

“Someone who has relationship as their primary focus and wants to see the Kingdom spread through relationships. Someone who loves God and loves others, and then puts those two greatest commandments into action.” When asked what he loves most about leading and coaching this flag football program, without hesitation he said, “The relationships. It’s all about relationship and building the Kingdom.” 

For more information about getting involved with this Flag Football Move Out team, start a conversation here.  To learn about other ways to Move Out beyond the four walls of Kensington, visit our Move Out website and click Move Out Network under Join a Team.

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