HOLTS SUMMIT — Children ask questions — lots of them — about life and their relationships to parents, coaches and other students. Now a devotional book not only provides God's answers for children, but also supports a ministry specifically for them.
Bobby Shows knows students across a wide spectrum of ages and in different sports settings, most recently as director of Sports Crusaders, a sports evangelism ministry. He has heard lots of those questions in his 45-year career.
Shows was a standout basketball player at Mississippi State University in the 1960s — playing on teams that captured three Southeastern Conference championships.
He turned his life over to the Lord as a sophomore at MSU and felt God calling him to use his sports expertise in ministry. While in college, he assisted with recreation in church and led sports-ministry teams overseas and into area prisons — what he termed "indirect" sports evangelism.
After college, he was a coach at the high school and college freshman levels. An ordained minister, he also carried out his call through recreation and sports at churches in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri. He became a consultant to the Missouri Baptist Convention in 1993, where he founded Sports Crusaders in 1994.
That year, Shows and five college students offered sports skills training and a devotional time in nine churches, involving about 300 children. The ministry grew to include more volunteer teams and additional sports — soccer, cheerleading, basketball and volleyball — and crossed state lines and international borders.
As the ministry grew, Shows felt God leading him to move Sports Crusaders from under the MBC umbrella to become self-sustaining and relocated the ministry to Holts Summit in 2001.
About four or five years ago, Shows looked for a tool to help students recognize "God's coaching advice" and provide scriptural answers to their questions. He wanted something that would point them directly to the Lord.
"I felt led to do it. There just wasn't anything out there like what we had in mind," he said. "I hadn't seen a book like it just for children."
He thought about all the questions he had been asked and the statements he had heard children and young people make over the years, and decided to use them as the springboard for a devotional book, targeted primarily to third- through sixth-graders.
"Kids don't always ask questions but sometimes make statements that indicate the questions they want to ask, like: 'Coach is not playing me very much' or 'They're telling nasty stories in the locker room,'" Shows explained. "I decided to sit down and start putting them together."
The longtime certified referee called on his friend, former pastor and then-Sports Crusaders board member James Preston to talk over the book idea. Preston was one of the ministry's incorporators.
The pair winnowed the questions and determined which to include. They developed a list of pastors familiar with Sports Crusaders and asked each to suggest Scripture that would be pertinent to young athletes and that would answer the questions. "We didn't cover half the questions and have enough for another book," Shows laughed.
Preston edited and organized the material into five categories — attitude, character, competition, faith and teamwork. Each devotion starts with a question or statement and provides several Bible verses to address the issue raised. The authors give questions for the student to ponder and space in which to respond.
The original document was put together about four or five years ago as a devotional booklet and given to each child who attended a Sports Crusaders camp. The cost to print the booklets was included in camp fees. When his supply ran low, Shows started looking for other ways to fund it.
He realized that published, the book could be a ministry tool for coaches, parents, sports evangelists and any adult who teaches or mentors children. "Sunday School teachers could use it even," he said. "Topics like 'I get angry' or 'I'm not popular' or 'kids make fun of me' would happen to children in any situation, not just to those in sports."
A financial gift covered the cost of publication by Crossbooks Publishing, a division of LifeWay. Shows is marketing it to a broader audience, with the royalties going directly to the Sports Crusaders ministry.
He has sent complementary copies to other sports ministries, including Upward Sports, Connect3on3 and Sports Reach, and to several recreation ministers and sports evangelists. His brother, Scott, plans to use the book at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., where he serves as recreation director. Many books have been sold to grandparents and schoolteachers.