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Back to the basics

UCC’s Basics doesn’t only minister to church kids

By Kelsey Baker | Contributor

Photograph provided by Kelsey Baker.  Kids stick with Basics because of leaders like Kelsey Baker, pictured at right.

Photograph provided by Kelsey Baker. Kids stick with Basics because of leaders like Kelsey Baker, pictured at right.

I got smacked with a dodgeball again. I’m a prime target in the weekly dodgeball game at Upland Community Church’s (UCC) Basics program. For one thing, I have no discernable athletic skill, so I can’t retaliate. For another, I’m a leader, and it’s much more fun to spike a ball at a fellow leader than at a Basics kid.

It’s easy to think that when I graduate and have a job, I’ll have more influence to make change. I’ll have more money at my disposal, more skills to contribute and more respect. But I’ll never again have the kind of influence I have with these Basics kids.

Think back to when you were younger, when you thought college kids were cool and you wanted to be like them. Now we know the truth—we’re really not all that cool. Something happens when you get that diploma and start a real job—suddenly you’re more like a parent than a mentor. But for these four years, we have a unique position to influence kids all around us.

Over one hundred kids show up every week for Basics. According to the 2016 Basics Annual Report, two-thirds of the Basics kids aren’t from Upland Community Church, and one-third don’t come from a church at all.

I’ve heard Taylor students say they would rather volunteer with a program that is more focused on un-churched kids, but Basics provides an opportunity to work with kids of varying exposure to the Bible. We started a transportation program last year to pick up kids who otherwise probably wouldn’t attend. I’ve personally been challenged in my assumptions and my faith by some of these students. When you realize a sixth grader knows more memory verses than you or has deep questions about a passage you’ve never considered, you are inspired to invest more in your own faith.

Working with a student who has never interacted with the Bible is a remarkable experience. Often, God allows you to plant seeds you will never see prosper. But several times at Basics, I’ve seen God change a kid’s life.

Steven Davenport, left, and Clayton Cena, right, are "cool college kids" to their Basics kids.

Steven Davenport, left, and Clayton Cena, right, are “cool college kids” to their Basics kids.

One particular student amazes me with her maturity and growth. She didn’t go to church or have much exposure to the Bible, but now she has a favorite Bible story: Daniel in the lion’s den. She reads the Bible every night by herself, which is more than I did in elementary school. She asks me to pray with her.

Not every student goes through a visible change: many kids swear they’re only at Basics for the dodgeball. But no matter their excuse for coming, they still hear God’s word and get into the habit of going to church. Parents have told us their kids’ attitudes are changed by attending Basics.

Take advantage of your unique position as a college student. Become an agent for change. Participate in Lift, Basics, Real Life, One on One, ESL Tutoring or Basics Jr.
Sign up and then show up—make a commitment to go every week. Your presence means more to the kids than you’ll ever know. The kids who stick with Basics are the ones whose leaders make an effort to show up every single week and to invest in their kids. Sign up to get hit with a dodgeball every week. Sign up to give advice about crushes and bullies. Sign up to stumble through some of the Bible’s hardest questions. Sign up to allow God to use you. If you’re interested in getting connected, contact TWO’s Peter Carlson at to learn more about the different opportunities.

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