Cache-First UMC experienced its version of "March Madness" when the church hosted the Cache community basketball league, for grades one through six. More than 160 youngsters signed up for the eight league games, played during four successive Saturdays.
The recreational opportunity almost didn’t happen, said Pastor Bryan Tener. Two weeks before the season, a community notice declared the league was cancelled and its booster club had fizzled.
The church decided to team up with the school’s athletic director, Lonnie Nunley, and sponsor the league. Time was short, but the church drew from previous experience, when it hosted a community 5K run, and on valued relationships with school leaders. The effort engaged the community in a huge way, Rev. Tener said.
Registration forms went out; they had to be returned within a week. First Church’s website and Facebook were utilized, along with forms handed out at school.
Communication about the league spread rapidly, Tener said. Within the week, all players had signed up and 19 teams were formed. Coaches came from within the congregation as well as students’ parents.
The school opened its gyms for games and practices. Church members gathered early on Saturday mornings to set up, including a concession stand, scoring clocks, bleachers and chairs — and afterward they cleaned the space, preparing for Monday classes.
On the last game day, the church cooked out, serving hot dogs to about 400 people.
Each week about 600 people shared quality family time in a safe, encouraging environment, said Tener. Many offered their thanks to church members, and positive relationships were built through coaching and the welcoming congregational presence.
First UMC’s lay leader, Jan Watson, celebrated being part of a church family that seeks to help provide opportunities for all children. Skeeter Sampler, church member and a school principal, declared the experience positive for everyone involved.
"This huge undertaking was made possible through the dedication to serve in big ways that this congregation feels a call for," Tener said. "This has led to great excitement within the congregation and throughout the community, with people already talking about next year, and an even grander vision for this church recreation league.