Posts Tagged ‘recreation’

Don’t sit around!

Story by Erin Cumbia

From the outside it can sometimes seem that churches, especially churches effective in their ministries, run fairly smoothly. It does, however, take a surprising quantity of gifted people willing to give their time and talents to make it all work. Laura Harris is one of these people.

Laura Harris

Laura Harris

From childhood Laura has generally avoided participating in sports of any sort, choosing instead to be heavily involved in clubs and other social activities. However, growing up near Raleigh, N.C. gave her access to various sporting events. She spent much time attending ball games and tailgating with family and friends, reveling in the social interactions and relationships that were built. This interest, coupled with internships in marketing during her summers through high school and college, set her up with a background of marketing and event management.

recreation imagesLaura and her husband, Chris, came to First Baptist Church shortly after their marriage in 2001 and joined the Young Couples Sunday School Class. Soon Chris got involved in Upward Basketball in the Richmond area as a referee, and Laura tagged along taking pictures and cheering from the sidelines. Upward became a very meaningful way in which to minister for them. In 2005 they approached Steve Booth about the possibility of bringing the Upward program to FBC. Leadership at FBC had already been tossing around the idea for a few years but nothing had yet been done to make it happen. Laura and Chris stepped up and made it happen. Working as a team, Chris handled the technical or sports side of things and Laura, the details, planning and event management aspects. The Harrises have nurtured FBC’s Upward Program and made it the ministry it is today.

In 2017, 185 children participated in Upward Basketball and Cheerleading. Laura’s own children have also grown up in the program, first by cheering from the sidelines and helping their mother with set-up and now as participants in the sports. Laura noted what a blessing it has been to see them experience the program from both sides and to grow up surrounded by the Bible verses and devotions that are part of the programming.

Buddy Burgess retired in 2015 as minister to the Deaf Congregation and the Recreation Ministry. At the same time, Laura was looking for a part-time job. According to Laura, “the whole process was really a God thing,” and it was truly amazing to look back and see how everything she has done professionally and through her volunteer work had prepared her for the job of FBC’s Recreation Coordinator. Laura’s new position includes coordinating the following programs:

First Travelers
FBC Night at the Diamond
First Riders
Musicians’ Jam Sessions
American Red Cross Blood Drives
Upward Stars Summer Youth Basketball Camp
Youth Summer TGA Premier Tennis Camp
Classics in the Courtyard
T’ai Chi with Jenny Barone
Gentle Yoga with Sarah Humphries
Open Gym Volleyball
S.K.E.I.N.S. (Sewers, Knitters, & Embroiderers Involved in Needlework & Service)
Boy Scout Troop, Cub Scout Pack and Girl Scout Troop
Upward Basketball & Cheerleading
Rim Rattlers Basketball
FBC Night/FBC Upward Night at the Richmond Spiders Men’s Basketball Game
First Baptist Church Golf Tournament

The constraints of budget, time, scheduling, and volunteers precludes the possibility of new programs at the moment. However, Laura’s dreams for the future include softball, pickleball, exercise/Bible study classes, and active aerobics like Zumba® or line dancing.

Laura shared the biggest things she has learned through her time working with the recreation ministry. Never judge a book by its cover—you never really know who a person is or what they are capable of until you get to know them. So many of us have gifts that go unused because nobody took the time to ask. Follow your passion because if you pursue what you are passionate about you will always love your job. Use your strengths to work for the Lord. We may not all be cut out for traditional overseas mission work but we can still be missionaries in our own backyard using whatever talents we have. No matter what our strengths are and no matter how small, there is bound to be a way in which we can use them to glorify God.

Though she avoided actual participation in sports her entire life Laura has found herself working in that environment and has been able to use her natural abilities in marketing, organization and event planning to make FBC’s Recreation Ministry a successful program for everyone involved.

Editor’s Note: For more information on any of these programs, contact Laura Harris.

Erin CumbiaErin Cumbia has grown up at First Baptist Church. After graduating from Liberty University she moved back to Richmond and is now working as an Account Executive at SageView Advisory Group. She is currently very involved in the Young Professionals Sunday School class and has had the honor of serving as a deacon since January of 2017.


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Story by Alex Hamp. Photos by Paul Bickford, Alice Brette, Susan Brown and Janet Chase.

Carter Bearden, Pat Allen, Mary Hiteman, Alan Jones, Buddy Burgess, Steve Blanchard, Alex Hamp, Laura Harris. Numerous faces have come and gone through the Preschool, Deaf, Recreation, and Community Mission ministries at First Baptist Church, but one face—that of Robin Hendricks—has remained constant. During the past 28 years, Robin has faithfully served all these ministries as an administrative assistant. She will retire on June 30th, having joined the church staff in September of 1989.

Robin Hendricks retires
Robin was first hired to assist Carter Bearden in the Deaf Ministry and Pat Allen in Community Missions. Technology was not yet the office norm so most of her early tasks were done with paper and pen. Her duties included monthly reports, calendaring, copying—and any other tasks asked of her. Both the Deaf and Community Missions ministries changed hands in the 90s, moving to Buddy Burgess and Steve Blanchard respectively. Robin assisted them both as they navigated their new roles. Steve shared this about Robin, “When I first was hired as the Missions Minister in 1997, Robin was my part-time administrative assistant. She not only helped me get oriented to the ins and outs of First Baptist life as a new employee, but was always willing and able to help in any way she could. I really appreciated her help and to this day appreciate her as a friend to me and my family.” Eventually Buddy took on the additional position of Minister of Recreation from Alan Jones, so Robin helped in this ministry too.  Her work was critical in keeping track of registration forms as Upward Basketball, Indoor Soccer and Blood Drives became very popular in our community.

Robin Hendricks retiresOne of Robin’s biggest joys has been working with the First Baptist Preschool children and families. Since 1998, first under the leadership of Mary Hiteman, Robin has served as the administrative assistant for the preschool. She has been kept busy with various tasks which include recording tuition payments, calendaring, laminating, subbing in a room when needed, and even being a graphic artist, designing t-shirts and programs for school.

Robin’s role was critical when the preschool leadership was handed over to me in 2014. She helped me learn the behind-the-scenes tasks of the preschool, was able to anticipate when I was not sure what was coming next, and became a great sounding board. She has also been loved by our families. According to Preschool mother, Beth Fuchs, “Ms. Robin’s knowledge of the inner workings of First Baptist Preschool, her uncanny ability to remember the name and details of every single child and his/her family, and her genuine love of all the kids is so apparent and such a blessing to our school.”

Robin Hendricks retiresRobin has enjoyed her time here at First Baptist Church. She has watched the change of leadership of the Senior Pastors from Dr. Flamming to Dr. Somerville, as well as in all the ministries where she served. She says this has required that she be flexible and adaptable to the times and the style of her supervisors. She has enjoyed the relationships she has made with the people and families of First Baptist Church and First Baptist Preschool. Robin is looking forward to moving to Baltimore to be with her daughter’s family, but will find it bittersweet to give up her near-daily trek across the Huguenot Bridge to First Baptist Church.

Alex HampAlex Hamp was named Administrator of First Baptist Preschool in 2014. She has been educating and nurturing young children and their families for the past twenty-three years, first as a kindergarten teacher at William Fox Elementary School and now at FBC’s preschool. She and her husband live in Hanover County with their four children. In her spare time, Alex enjoys traveling, reading and watching her children play sports and perform with their show choirs.

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By Becky Kyle.

Vacation Bible School has changed since I attended in my childhood.

I remember going to VBS every summer and learning about God and the people in the Bible. I remember the daily processional with the salute to the American flag, the Christian flag and the Bible. I remember being in one classroom all morning with one set of teachers, having in-depth Bible study enhanced by activities, crafts and week-long projects. Music, snack, and recreation were breaks from the classroom.

VBS still happens every summer, but much has changed since my memories were formed.

Vacation Bible School morning assembly in the Sanctuary of First Baptist. Photo by Susan Brown.

The most exciting change is the addition of missions as a component of VBS. FBC offers children participation in mission projects that reach people in our own community, throughout the U.S., and around the world. The children have packed gift bags for the leaders of the Boys & Girls Club of Richmond, for FBC’s Community Missions clients and Grace Fellowship participants, for families at the Ronald McDonald House, for local fire fighters, and for FBC’s neighbors and homebound members. VBS children have sent their pennies to relief work for children in Israel and the Caribbean. Last year they prepared blankets and coloring books to fill backpacks for children in Africa.

FBC and Mount Moriah Baptist Church partner to help transport children to Vacation Bible School. Photo by Anthony M. Nesossis.

VBS has become an outreach ministry in Richmond. We partner with Mount Moriah Baptist Church to offer VBS to children in their congregation. We provide transportation; they provide volunteers. We also provide transportation for children from several community centers and from the New American community. As a result, a growing percentage of participants are from families who are not members of FBC.

First Baptist’s Children’s Ministry leaders carefully study and review about ten VBS curricula each year. Through prayer and discussion, they select the one best fitted to our children. Most of these curricula have a secular, fun-oriented theme with children rotating to different classrooms for each activity (i.e. Bible study, music, crafts, games, recreation, snack, missions).

“Finding Hope: A Field Trip of Faith” is this year’s curriculum. The theme is based on Together For Hope, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s 20 year commitment to the 20 poorest counties in the United States. Each day VBS begins with worship followed by a Bible study that is the foundation for the day’s activities. Children then take a “field trip” to one of the 20 areas to learn through activities how God’s love is shared with the people who live there. One trip is to Helena, Arkansas, where former FBC members Ben and Leonora Newell serve. FBC partners with them through family mission trips each summer.

Children participate in arts and crafts during VBS 2010. Photo by Susan Brown.

VBS is one of FBC’s best opportunities to share God’s love with children and to help them discover God’s hope in the Bible. It teaches them of God’s love for all people and how to reach out in that love to others. That’s a VBS basic that is exactly as I remember it.



Editor’s note: Some volunteers are still needed- childcare givers with babies and toddlers, a preschool and an elementary teacher, and van drivers. Contact: Candi Brown, Brown@FBCRichmond.org, 358-5458 x150.


Becky KyleBecky Kyle has been attending FBC since she was a college student and joined FBC in 1984. Since then, she has served in many FBC ministries, taught children in Sunday school for the last 13 years, and volunteered with VBS most of the last 14 years. She works part-time for Fleet Auto Tag & Title Service. James and Becky have two children, Sarah and Aaron, who are active in the youth ministry.

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Moving Upward

By Matthew Brown.

Girls play ball during an Upward game in the FBC gym.

Smoke and music fill the air. The crowd rises, claps and begins to cheer! Cheerleaders’ names are announced as they begin to line up in anticipation! Smiles, excitement, eagerness, and even some adrenaline fill the room. More smoke billows as each player’s name is announced!

Madison Brown! That’s my daughter. She has had her name announced Saturday after Saturday for the last six Upward seasons. I have not only been there to hear her name announced each of those Saturdays, but I have had the pleasure of personally announcing her name on many of those occasions. I am one of the two MC/Announcers for Upward at First Baptist Church. Maron El-Khouri and I have been tag-teaming these duties for the last six seasons. This season, I had all three of my children on Upward teams, for the first and last time. That’s because Upward runs from 1st through 6th grade, and this year my daughter is in sixth grade and my youngest is in first grade.

Adam Brown! My eldest son has had his name announced for three seasons.

Jonathan Brown! My youngest – this year was his first year running through the “tunnel” and having his name announced.

Children who participate in Upward sports are encouraged to have a relationship with Christ. Each Upward team meets together for practice once a week, during which they have a devotional. They are given cards with memory verses for the week ahead, and they take time to discuss what God is doing in their lives. After every game, players receive a star which they apply to their uniforms. These stars are earned by memorizing the weekly verse and by their efforts during the Saturday games. Each of the Upward stars has a different color and a different meaning. The blue star represents effort, the gold star represents sportsmanship, the gray star represents offense, the red star represents defense, and the white star represents Christlikeness.

Upward is very much a part of our family… and it all started with a phone call.

Chris and Laura Harris

Chris Harris and his wife, Laura, called my wife, Candi, and me, a little over six years ago. They wanted to know if we would be interested in helping them with something that had been on Chris’s heart for over a year. Chris felt very strongly that God was calling him to a mission right here in Richmond. His mission was to reach young people through sports. Basketball was the game. He began his involvement with Upward basketball by helping his brother at another church in the Richmond area, and Chris had witnessed the impact that it had had there.

Cheerleading adds a sense of excitement and fellowship at Upward games.

He had seen that congregation come together to support the Upward Program and had witnessed lives being transformed. He saw children coming to play basketball, but something amazing was happening at the same time. The children were learning more than just how to dribble a basketball, how to pass the ball, how to run a play and make a shot. It wasn’t even that they were learning about sportsmanship and the value of friendship and integrity. The children that he saw were being transformed. Chris wanted to know if we would lend a hand to help bring some of that transformative energy to First Baptist. How can you say no to that?

Here are a couple of facts about Upward at FBC:

During the 2011 season we had 147 players on 22 teams, and 20 cheerleaders on three teams.

On the average game day there are 18 volunteers who run the program, along with 25 coaches, 25 team parents, 12 volunteer score keepers, 24 volunteer referees, and volunteers for the halftime devotion for each game –  that’s more than 100 volunteers each Saturday.

Six years ago I got a call. This call is going out to you now. Are you going to answer? Volunteers are always welcome with Upward. One easy option is to come to the Gym during the season and cheer on some children as they reach for something a little higher.

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