Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans

If Jesus were an athlete, would he play for the Dawgs, or the Jackets?

Or, would he skip both public schools, and go the private, religious school route, to become the real "Touchdown Jesus" at Notre Dame?

While the approximately 300 children attending Divine Faith Ministries International's Vacation Bible School, in Jonesboro, this week may not find out which college team Jesus would play for, they are learning about the Bible through a sports perspective.

The school is set up like a "mega sports camp," where the teachers, staff and volunteers are referred to as "coaches," according to Vacation Bible School Administrator Christine Smith.

"Most kids love some type of organized sports, and it's something easy for them to relate to, so we use that to teach them lessons from the Bible," Smith said.

Sis boom bah, indeed.

Although it is common to see religious references in sports arenas, such as fans waving signs that say "John 3:16" from the Bible written on them, it is not always as common to see sports turn around and do a full-on blitz, on religion's turf.

Divine Faith's Bible school ends on Friday, and is working to score a touchdown for religion.

While children participating in the Bible school do Bible lessons and arts and crafts in the morning, and early afternoon, they spend the late afternoon playing sports games, such as street hockey, football, tennis, basketball and golf. "Go the distance" is the camp's theme.

"We just use the sports structure to teach them," Smith said.

In one example of how the religion-through-sports aspect works, the Bible school administrator said the Biblical saying "love thy neighbor" can be taught through the sports concept of working together as a team to win a game.

"With team sports, you have to be able to love your teammate, and interact with your teammate for a greater good, and so that's kind of how we tie it into the scripture," Smith said.

Smith said this is the first time in five years that Divine Faith Ministries has done a summer Vacation Bible School program, and she said it was brought back because the church felt there was a need for this type of community outreach program. She said this is the first time the Bible school has ever used a sports theme, though, but she felt it has worked out well so far.

"It has worked out wonderfully," she said. "It's been a very easy concept. The kids have grasped it. The coaches have grasped it. Everyone has kind of taken it and run with it."

Hampton youth Jordan Taylor, 9, said she has enjoyed participating in both the class lessons and the afternoon sports period. This is the first time Taylor has ever participated in a Vacation bible School, she said. "I've enjoyed myself by learning, in the classroom, about the Bible, and coming outside and playing," she said.

Another Vacation Bible School participant, Lovejoy youth Charles Ford, 7, said his favorite part of the school was "Jesus!" As he clutched a small golf club in his hands, he said he also liked playing golf "because it's fun."

Morrow youth Allyson Hunter, 9, added: "It's a lot of fun to hang out with my friends." Hunter, who has been to vacation Bible schools before, in North Carolina, said the reason she likes Divine Faith Ministries camp is "when the teacher teaches us , and when she gives us our snacks, and when she gives us our Bible lessons." She then paused for a second, before adding "and when we play outside!"

Hampton youth Aaliyah Goosby, 9, said she likes getting to learn about the Bible as well as getting lots of opportunities to play sports at the Bible school. Wednesday was her first day at the school.

"I like that you get to learn a lot of stuff, and you get to play," Goosby said. "I've learned about loving your family, and your friends."

Meanwhile, the debate may rage on forever about which college Jesus would play sports for.