HARRISON, Idaho (BP)–Coach was not a name Dave Shanks ever expected to be called.
He was always a good student in school but never excelled at anything athletic. Despite this, “Coach” was the only way some of the young men on Kootenai High School’s junior varsity basketball team knew him.
They didn’t go to Harrison Community Baptist Church, where Shanks has been the pastor the last four years.
Harrison Community Baptist, with roots more than 100 years old, became affiliated with the Northwest Baptist Convention and part of the Southern Baptist Convention at a recent meeting of the Inland Empire Baptist Association.
“I had a hard enough time adjusting to Pastor Dave when I first became pastor,” Shanks said. “I still chuckle when I get mail addressed to ‘Reverend Shanks.’ Now to hear ‘Coach’ — I’m entirely out of my league, and loving every minute of it.”
Shanks, who graduates May 20 with an M.Div. degree from the Pacific Northwest Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, was hired last fall by the local school district to coach basketball when no other qualified candidates stepped forward to work with the junior varsity squad.
He knew he loved teenagers and he knew he had grown to love basketball in the last few years of watching his younger brothers play at Kootenai.
At first, there were a few eyebrows raised at the deacon’s meeting when Shanks tentatively announced his plans to apply for the coaching position. One deacon wondered aloud if the pastor didn’t already have too much going, but in the end all affirmed the decision as another way to build relationships with an unreached community.
Shanks is the first to admit he likes to have several irons in the fire. To commute to the Pacific Northwest Campus for Monday and Tuesday classes from this rural north Idaho town on the east side of Lake Coeur d’Alene, he usually takes an airplane from Spokane. This entails a 4 a.m. wakeup call for the unmarried pastor, and a 40-minute drive to — and later from — the airport.
The rest of the week is taken up in sermon preparation, meetings, Bible studies, youth functions, seminary homework and, of course, basketball practice and games.
A native of upstate New York, Shanks moved with his parents and brothers to Harrison as a high school senior. He went to college to be a high school English teacher, but connected with Bob Royall and Baptist Collegiate Ministries at the University of Idaho.
During a summer missions experience in Sarasota, Fla., Shanks experienced his call to full-time ministry.
“I became a Christian at 16 at a small Baptist camp in northern Pennsylvania,” Shanks said. “That is when my heart changed, but my life changed through my involvement with campus ministry.”
Is the coaching an effective way to minister?
“Last week two of my best players were cutting up on the bench. They’re also in my small group at our weekly student dinner and Bible study,” Shanks said. “One was going on about how great a basketball player he is and why he should really be the team captain. The other retorted, ‘You weren’t listening very well at Teens, were you?’
“That’s when we had studied in Matthew 16-18 about the disciples arguing over who was the greatest, and Christ’s call to be the servant of all,” Shanks explained. “These are unchurched young men from unchurched families. Something got in.”
Martin is a freelance writer with the Northwest Baptist Witness newsjournal.