This fall Rev. Josh Miles of Peachtree Road UMC in Atlanta started a chess club for kids at his apartment complex. With support from the church, 20 young people participated weekly over pizza. Sybil Davidson in Conference Communications checked in with him on this heartwarming and inspiring ministry.
Sybil: What gave you the idea for a Chess Club?
Josh: I still remember how my elementary school in Athens, Ga. brought in a local chess instructor during the fall of my third-grade year. We practiced. We applied ourselves. We learned new ways of critical thinking and problem solving. It was lots of fun, too.
As we continued to play chess together and be mentored by Mr. Boutwell, we actually became pretty good at the game of chess. We formed a school team, and we even got rocking t-shirts: Barnett Shoals Elementary School Chess Club! That spring, we came to Atlanta for a state-wide competition. Our hard work, practice, and problem-solving skills really paid off. We tied for first-place in the state of Georgia, and that April we were sent to the National Elementary Chess Championship competition in Peoria, Illinois to represent our state.
Looking back on it, that time of my life was so foundational for me realizing the value of mentoring, problem-solving, and self-confidence. This is the need this project seeks to address: To build community through chess, problem-solving skills, life lessons, and mentorship.
Once you had the idea, what was next?
Because that experience was so foundational, I decided to pour back into my local community with the gift of chess. I wanted to bring things to where the people are! So I offered free chess lessons and free pizza dinners to the young people who live at my apartment complex on Cheshire Bridge Road in Atlanta.
Each week, I brought with me lay representation from Peachtree Road United Methodist Church to help lead and facilitate the lessons. There were two youth from PRUMC who helped lead the chess club with me, and their parents came and led also! It was truly a team effort.
Additionally, the reason I was able to make this a free offering to the students is because two families at PRUMC made a financial commitment to the chess club to cover the costs for personal chess sets for every single participant, and all our weekly dinner needs as well.