Friday, June 8, 2018

Summer Vacation (Holiday)

It’s only 8 June, but it’s already been a big summer. I just returned from 14 days in Eurasia where we served with our F.C.A. Eurasia teammates, AIA legend Carl Dambman, 100 other Eurasian sports ministry leaders, and about 30 people gathered for a Sports Chaplaincy School in Kyiv, Ukraine. It was a great trip.

Given the full calendar of activities over the next weeks, I will hit the pause button on these emails until sometime in August. I have a couple of weeks of vacation to use for travel and family activities, plus three more F.C.A. Power Camps in our area.

By way of preview, I am incubating thought on these notes that will come up in August and beyond:
  • A Sports Chaplain personal development plan.
  • A report on the Sports Chaplaincy United Kingdom conference in Bradford, England.
  • A discussion of Christian discipleship processes and resources.
  • A promotional note about the monthly sports chaplain conference calls.
  •  A promotional note about Cede Network videos on YouTube.

Have a wonderful summer. I intend to invest time, talent, and treasure in family and friends during these next weeks. Love to all.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Community and Purpose

For the last several days I have been in Vilnius, Lithuania and Moscow, Russia in support of our teammates of FCA Ukraine. While here in Moscow, I had a great talk with a young man who is pursuing ministry in ice hockey. He was an elite level young player and then a professional until age twenty. As we discussed what he misses most about playing with a hockey team he said, “My teammates. In the summers, when we would go to a summer camp to train and compete, I would come home after the camp and cry in my room. My mother would ask what was wrong with me and I would reply that I miss my teammates.”

For this young ice hockey player, his team and teammates provided community and purpose for his life. After he was passed over for further advancement in professional hockey, he was suddenly thrust into the real world of work and this world provided neither community nor purpose. He was adrift. He descended into a life of alcohol and drug abuse, crime, and eventually homelessness. In the midst of this downward spiral he connected with people in the world of crime. They also welcomed him, without condition, and gave him a community and purpose for living, nefarious as it was.

While homeless, a man approached him on the street offering a way out of his plight through relationship with Jesus. At first he said no. When the same man offered again, he asked what he had to offer. The man gave him the phone number of a rehab clinic that could offer him food, clothing, and shelter. When he made the call he was amazed that they would receive him without condition. This new set of friends offered him community and a purpose for life. He went through rehab, staying and working there for four years.

Now well integrated into his local church, married to a delightful young lady (a former professional volleyball player, now a coach), he and his wife began to dream and to pray about ministry in sport. He said, “How many ushers does a church need? Surely there is a way to serve God outside the church walls.” They were both looking for a way to share community and purpose for life with sportspeople. One day he received a call from a man named, John McIntosh. John has a long history of serving the ice hockey community. John said, “I hear you are a pretty good hockey player, and I hear you are a believer. Can we get together?” They met and that launched their journey toward ministry in sport. They are just beginning, but they already understand the hearts, minds, and lifestyles of elite level sportspeople.

We, as sport chaplains, must be increasingly aware of the loss experienced by sportspeople when they leave the organized, regimented, community of their sport. Whether due to retirement, injury, failure, or simply being released from their contracts, sportspeople experience the same loss of community and purpose as did this ice hockey player. We must find ways to bridge that gap. We must find ways to provide community. We must explore ways to help them find purpose for their lives. Please join me in this most important venture.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Christian Sportsperson’s Identity

In recent years more and more Christian competitors, coaches, and sports chaplains have become uneasy about the degree to which they have become identified by their most recent performances. They find their emotions, relationships, and even their sense of personal worth to be tracking with their win/loss records, their most recent times, distances, heights, and other measurements of personal performance. While knowing this can’t be right, most have no other way to grasp their worth, their value, and their identity as a person.

The culture in general and the sports industry in particular are happy to give an identity to sportspeople. This is usually in an effort to market, to lionize, or to degrade a person for their own purposes. If that’s not enough, those in sports media are more than happy to reduce a sportsperson’s life to a cliché, a meme, or a sound bite on their evening broadcast, blog, or talk radio show.

We who work in Christian sports ministry will often tritely say, “Your identity should be in Christ,” and walk away as if that instantly solves the whole issue. I wish it were that easy. I’ve been wrestling for years with how to express a better way for the Christian sportsperson to understand and to embrace his or her identity in Christ Jesus. Please consider the following seven points and I pray the scriptures, each directly addressing identity, inform your heart, your mind, and penetrate to the depths of your soul.

1.   I am not identified by slavery to my flesh. I do not need to obey its every urge or bow to its appetites. Galatians 2:20 speaks to this matter – “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.” I am crucified with Christ, my flesh is as good as dead. I need not heed its screams of desire. I still live, by faith in Christ, but I am still alive. My life in Christ is energized by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. That’s power. That’s infinitely more powerful than any urge or appetite resident in my body. I am crucified with Christ and I now live by faith in Him.

2.   I am not defined by my performance, good or bad, personal record or disqualification, league championship or relegation. Ephesians 2:10 holds a transforming truth for our lives in sport – “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Even more, He prepared works before my appearance that I may walk in them. My identity and my performance on the court, the track, the pitch, the ice, the field, in the pool, or the gym now spring from who I am, not what I do. I am God’s workmanship. He has done the work, now I just stroll in the works He has prepared for me.
3.   I am defined by neither my brand nor my tribe, not by the logo on my gear or the club for which I compete, not by the club’s ownership nor even my nationality. My true identity is stated clearly in I Corinthians 4:1-2 – “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” Due to my relationship with Jesus, this text says that I am now Christ’s servant, thus He determines my value. I am His. Further it says I am a steward of the mysteries of God. This is a privileged position given through relationship, not merit. The Creator of the universe has called me to serve Him and to be a trustworthy caretaker of the mysteries of His kingdom. That’s who I am.

4.   I am not an outcast, a loner, a free agent, out on waivers, or between teams. I have been chosen for an elite team. We read about our place on this team at I Corinthians 3:9 – “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” I am now God’s fellow worker, a part of God’s field, a part of God’s building. I do not stand alone or isolated. I am not disconnected or cast off, I am part of God’s team, His field, His building. I am in community with all those who love Christ Jesus. I am an integral part of what God is establishing in this world.

5.   I am not an asset, a liability, a tool, an acquisition, or any other inanimate, dead thing. Romans 12:1 dispels these pernicious notions – “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is our spiritual service of worship.” I am not a dead sacrifice, lacking will and animation. Rather, I am a living sacrifice with full capacity to make choices, to love freely, and to worship God. I am free to present my body as a living, holy, and acceptable sacrifice. This is my true and reasonable act of worship. I am one who worships the living God through the presentation of my body as a living sacrifice in sport.

6.   I am not an isolated, forlorn, outcast from society. I Corinthians 12:27 reveals our present standing in the world – “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” I am a member of Christ’s body. I have a distinct role and a unique function. I am indispensable in value. I am absolutely integral to the function of Christ Jesus’ body in this world. I am a member of Christ Jesus’ body.

7.   I am not defined by my past. Weak or strong, austere or privileged, rich or poor, wise or foolish, stellar or mundane, my identity is not in my past. Colossians 1:27 frees us from the past and its bondage  – “to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The marvelous, mysterious truth is that Christ in me is the hope of glory. The powerful hope that makes life worth living, gives us significance, and marks our true identity is the daily presence of Christ Jesus’ Spirit in our mortal souls. Christ in me is the hope of glory. That is who I am.

I hope that these powerful statements of identity, directly from the Holy Scripture, are used by the Spirit to transform your life, to free you from performance based identity, and to liberate your athletic soul to compete freely. Rest in the assurance that you are complete in Christ, without regard to today’s performance, your team’s place in the standings, or any other temporal standard of measure.

Friday, May 4, 2018

What does Sports Chaplaincy Look Like?

What does Sports Chaplaincy look like?
Sports Chaplaincy looks like sunny afternoons at football practices in the heat of August. It looks like quivering lips at the funeral visitation for a coach too soon taken from his team. It looks like the bright lights of a stadium on a fall evening. It looks like the dim lights of a locker room after a disappointing loss. In short, Sports Chaplaincy looks like opportunity. We see the hearts of men and women, boys and girls, in the glaring lights of sports arenas and in the shadows of injury, disappointment, and grief. Each of these moments looks like an opportunity to speak the life of Christ Jesus into their searching souls.

What does Sports Chaplaincy sound like?
Sports Chaplaincy sounds like loud sports arenas; their blaring music, shouting crowds, chanting fans, and bellowing announcers. It sounds like the banter between teammates in a locker room before practice. It sounds like the hushed voices and the beeps of a heat monitor in an emergency room. It sounds like the squeaks on a basketball floor during a scrimmage. It sounds like the crack of bats and pops of balls into gloves at batting practice. It sounds like sobs and sniffles while in the grieving line of mourners at a funeral wake. More simply said, Sports Chaplaincy sounds like peace. In each and all of these sounds, we experience the peace of Christ. Amid the chaos of game day and the flood of emotions in crisis, Christ Jesus carries us by His Spirit in unusual peace and assurance of His presence and provision. Sports Chaplaincy sounds like peace.

What does Sports Chaplaincy taste like?
Sports Chaplaincy tastes like pregame pasta. It tastes like sweat on your upper lip while standing at a midsummer batting practice. It tastes like a cup of coffee with the coach as you discuss the painful options for the career changes that are suddenly at hand. It tastes like the glorious post-game pizza, chicken, or sandwiches on the long bus ride home following an important road victory. It tastes like Gatorade on the sideline as you gulp down some Ibuprofen to ease the pain in the chaplain’s aging joints. More than anything, it tastes like love. To be with the people the sports chaplain loves tastes like love, anywhere and anytime.

What does Sports Chaplaincy smell like?
I know what you’re thinking, but hang on. Sports Chaplaincy smells like the barbecue smoke wafting into the stadium from the tailgate area outside. It smells like menthol from ointment rubbed on sore muscles in a training room. It smells like hot dogs and popcorn at a ballpark. Yes, it smells of the pungent aroma in a sweaty men’s locker room. Mostly it smells like competition. These olfactory stimulations prompt my heart to compete, my pulse to race, and my mind to pursue victory. I love these smells! They are as sacred as incense.

What does Sports Chaplaincy feel like?
Sports Chaplaincy feels like pain in one’s joints. It feels like breathless exhilaration after a thrilling victory. It feels like bitter grief after a disappointing loss. It feels like the rush of pride when a player breaks through a performance barrier. It feels like death when a coach is exposed for cheating. It feels like joy when relationships are restored. It feels like discomfort when riding a bus through the night after a rainy road loss to a rival. It feels like life. All of life’s kaleidoscope of emotions are distilled into the sporting experience for the competitors, the coaches, the support staff, and even the sport chaplain. Sports Chaplaincy feels like life. Isn’t it wonderful?

Sports Chaplaincy, when experienced with an open heart, an inquisitive mind, with fully engaged emotions, and an active body is rich with sensory perception. Go ahead, jump in with both feet. Plunge into the depths of sports chaplaincy. See its marvels. Hear its sonic flood of music and voice. Fill your mouth with its delicious tastes. Breathe in its every aroma. Feel its joy, pain, exhilaration, and grief. It’s worth the risk and the reward will capture your soul. Our Lord walks with us through each and all these experiences. He sanctifies them with His presence and consecrates them in our hearts.

Friday, April 27, 2018

80/20 Principle

For many years I have heard people in the church say, “80% of the work gets done by 20% of the people.” I always heard it as an axiom, not as a true mathematical principle. I recently read a book titled, The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch in which he dives deeply into the veracity of the 80/20 (Pareto) principle. While it was pretty easy to get lost in the mathematical weeds, I found it to be quite helpful in a few ways. A few of the thoughts I drew from the book are listed below.

The author talked both of 80/20 analysis and 80/20 thinking. Rather than reducing all of life into mathematical formulas, he talks about applying the principle to all of life.

The big idea is that, most of the time, 80% of outcomes are produced by only 20% of inputs. The select few will be most productive for almost any enterprise. Here are some examples that you may consider in your life and ministry.
·        20% of your relationships probably produce 80% of the fruit of your ministry.
·        20% of your time spent in ministry will likely produce 80% of your effectiveness.
·        20% of your donors will contribute 80% of the funds for your ministry. (I did some analysis of this and it came out 20/76.)
·        20% of your leisure time and activities probably produce 80% of the joy you experience.

What’s the point? If it is true that 20% of inputs contribute 80% of productivity, let’s be great at that 20%! Invest even more deeply in those 20% most fruitful relationships. Be excellent in your 20% most productive time slots and activities. Be very intentional in developing relationships with those top 20% donors. Be 100% present in the 20% of your family time and leisure that produces great joy. You may even want to cut out your least productive 20% in order to invest even more in the 20% most productive.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Sports Chaplaincy 101 Videos

Our friends and colleagues at Cede Network (@CedeNetwork have uploaded a series of excellent, brief (most around two minutes), videos titled, Sports Chaplaincy 101. Each of the videos addresses one of a wide variety of subjects like: What is the origin of chaplaincy? What is the process of becoming a sports chaplain? How do I serve an injured player? How do I serve as a chaplain to an individual athlete? What is the role of a chaplain in a multicultural setting? How do you walk with a player through bereavement? How should I collaborate with other chaplains and field professionals?

Please take a few minutes to browse through these videos. I trust that some, or all, will enhance your service of sportspeople. There will surely be more uploaded in coming days. Thank you, Richard Gamble and Cede Network.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Second Sports Chaplaincy Summit

From 15-17 March of 2018, I was privileged to participate in the second Sports Chaplaincy Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Those in attendance represented sports chaplaincy ministries from around the world and the academic community. We were hosted by Cede Network and Joe Gibbs Racing ( Bob Dyar and Richard Gamble hosted leaders from Illinois, Colorado, Washington, and Tennessee in the USA, Australia, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and England. We were joined electronically by a colleague from South Africa as well.

Our time together included a tour of the Billy Graham museum, delicious meals together, nights spent in the homes of local friends and Cede Sports board members, reports, updates, and important deliberations regarding the continuing development of sports chaplaincy ministries around the globe. This form of ministry is growing in many parts of the world and our team aims to facilitate its growth and to give assistance to those leading its development.

Please watch for more information on how this will develop and how you may become engaged in the process. In the short term, you may register with Cede Sports and their world-wide registry of sport chaplains. This service, free of charge, enables sports chaplains to connect with others, for fellowship, for development, and to connect sportspeople traveling to other parts of the world with other with sports chaplains who can serve them. Click this link to access the Cede Network registry page -
* Photo courtesy of Warren Evans of Sports Chaplaincy United Kingdom.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Humboldt Broncos - Ministry in Grief

On 6 April, the Humboldt Broncos club of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League experienced a tragic bus crash. The experience crushed the team, the community, and the entire world of junior hockey. In the midst of their pain and grief, their team chaplain served very faithfully. His authentic, grief filled, Christ honoring talk at the memorial service is at the link below. Please take a few minutes to watch it and to learn from this excellent model of serving in crisis.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Ministry in Preseason Baseball

Each spring in Southern Illinois arrives with soaking rain, blooming flowers, greening grass, and baseball. For the last seven springs the blossoms of April have brought me a new season of opportunity to serve the players, coaches, support staff, and management of the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League of professional baseball. This is a rare privilege.

The Miners arrive in Marion, Illinois in late April having been signed during the winter, returning from last season’s team, or having been recruited during the recent combine for independent teams. They arrive with hearts full of promise, bodies full of talent, minds full of questions, and souls full of anxiety. We tend to get players either on their way up or on their way down in baseball. Some have completed their college baseball careers, but were not selected in the draft by a team affiliated with a major league team. They still believe they can play and hope playing in this league will give them the chance to play their way onto an affiliated team’s roster. Some come to us after years of playing with affiliated team of minor league baseball. For any number of reasons, they have been released and have found their way to Southern Illinois. They intend to retool one part of their game and to return to their climb toward the big leagues. Others have been released from minor league clubs and simply don’t want to get a regular job and be grownups. In any case, they are desperate to play baseball or they would not be here.

All these factors leave their hearts in a rather vulnerable place. At a glance one would not perceive this, but understanding their station in baseball makes it readily apparent. Like most gifted athletes, these young men have the poise, swagger, bravado, and air of confidence that some find off putting. They wear these traits like body armor, guarding their hearts from the doubts and insecurities that stalk their preseason workouts and the sleepless nights of late April and early May.

My role of service in this situation is simple, but has many facets. I aim to serve, each and all, as they are with the club. Whether they are here for a week, a season, or for years, I seek their best interests and the Lord’s purposes in their lives. This level of baseball affords me a unique opportunity and an immense responsibility. These young men are not burdened with enormous salaries or plush amenities that harden hearts and inflate egos. Their hearts are much closer to the surface and are quicker to hear the words of an older man who cares for them and wants the best for them, with no strings attached.

Here’s what that looks like on a typical day of the preseason:
·        I download and print out the team roster so that I can memorize names, uniform numbers, and faces of each player and coach.
·        I drive the 16 miles to the ballpark anticipating conversations, remembering relationships from past seasons, and preparing my heart in prayer.
·        I arrive at the ballpark, pass through the player’s entrance, walk by the clubhouse, and exit to the hitting cage.
·        At some point in the preseason, Mike Pinto, the COO and field manager of the club, invites me to introduce myself and my role with the team. For this I am very grateful.
·        I will come to as many workouts as possible, and on game days I’ll arrive in time for batting practice.
·        I will greet players at the hitting cage, group by group as they hit, or I’ll join them on the field as they stretch, throw, and take batting practice.
·        I make it a point to meet each player, to ask about his home town, and about his path to this place in baseball. To hear their stories helps us to connect and for me to understand more of who they are. I also get a sense of how they perceive this point along their journey through professional baseball.
·        Once introduced, some players will seek me out and others will begin to avoid me. I am, however, hard to avoid. I just keep showing up.
·        During the preseason I will identify a player to be the player representative for Baseball Chapel. He will be the one I rely on to inform his teammates of Bible study and game day chapel times and locations during the season. He is also the player who helps gather players for chapels held on the road, led by the home team’s chapel leader.
·        During these days of preseason, we will discuss the process for Sunday home game Baseball Chapels and the best day and time for a Bible study during each home stand.
·        Occasionally I will have the opportunity to meet with a player or coach individually, over breakfast or coffee.
·        Occasionally I will have the privilege to walk with a player or a coach through a crisis. We have walked with players as they lost family members, with support staff through cancer treatments, through relationship difficulties, injuries, surgeries, death, and other matters confidentiality forbids me to discuss.
·        As preseason progresses, the roster is trimmed down until the opening day team is selected. That means many players will be traded or released, thus ending their stay in Marion. This is always painful and always strains relationships. Hearts once full of hope and expectation are suddenly crushed by feelings of rejection, failure, and even despair. For some, this is the end of their lives in baseball. For others, they will seek new opportunities elsewhere. In any case, I feel the grief of relationships lost.

Many people have said that professional baseball is a great game, but a terrible business. I have a sense of that each preseason. We start with a large group of hopeful, excited young men, and day by day a couple are released, a few are traded, some new ones arrive, and by opening day, the business is complete. Suddenly the roster is set, the games begin, and everything seems bright, new, and exciting.

Baseball, like spring in Southern Illinois, is full of new life, thunderstorms, sunshine, fear, joy, fulfillment, disappointment, runs, hits, errors, wins, and losses. This is why I’m here, to walk along with the players, coaches, management, and support staff through all of it. To do so is one of my life’s greatest joys.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Being a Steward

Last Friday, during the Global Sports Chaplaincy Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA we heard an encouraging devotion from Walt Wiley. Walt was a 14 year Baseball Chapel leader for the Atlanta Braves and is now a member of Baseball Chapel’s board. He also leads a ministry called, "Winning With Encouragement." Notes from Walt’s talk, which have great relevance for our service, are below.

Being a steward - Jesus always spoke of it through parable, on 5 or 6 occasions.
• "I am a steward of my life." It's not mine.
• "I am a steward of my things," the things I have. They are not mine.
• "I am a steward of my thing," the thing I do. It's not mine.

Observations from Parables about Stewards:
1. A steward is appointed. Luke 12:46
2. Emphasis is made on how the steward carried out his responsibilities.  Luke 16:2
3. The owner was not looking over the steward's shoulder. Matthew 25:14-15
4. The relationship between the steward and his coworkers is emphasized. Matt 18:33
5. Be careful to not use your position as a steward to your own benefit. Matthew 18:28
6. A day of reckoning will come for the steward. Luke 16:2

Friday, March 16, 2018

Eleven Guidelines for Chaplains

During the recent FCA Collegiate Conference in Atlanta, Georgia we heard a presentation from the Alliance Defending Freedom ( titled, Eleven Guidelines for Chaplains. It was directed toward those among us who serve on public school campuses in the USA. I hope these notes are of value to you and your ministry.

Eleven Guidelines for Chaplains
1.   The US Constitution permits and sometimes requires chaplains be available to serve.
2.   The Law does not require schools to have a chaplain from every religion.
3.   A public university cannot prefer one religion over another.
4.   We should use neutral criteria to select chaplains.
5.   Any religious activities must be voluntary. No punishments, rewards, or stigmas may be used for those who do not attend.
6.   Chaplains do not serve two masters. Avoid dual employee status.
7.   No monopolies. FCA is not the sole supplier of chaplains.
8.   Be careful about proselytizing or witnessing on public school campuses.
a.   Be careful with evangelism.
b.   Tie evangelistic activities to student-athlete led activities.
9.   Serve all students of any faith (connecting them to others as needed).
10.  Have secular and religious duties, but no authority over students.
11.  Accept benefits if offered, but do not insist upon them. Do not make demands.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Sports Chaplaincy Training in Honduras

I just returned from five days of training sports chaplains in Tegucigalpa, Honduras in Central America. I went in support of the FCA Texas Region International Coordinator – Eric Anderson of Houston, Texas. I have been traveling to Honduras since 1992 and the nation has a large piece of my heart. We have been serving the sporting community in Honduras since 1999 and we are now seeing the fruition of a number of trips, the development of relationships, materials, and investment of soul. A few photos are attached.

Below is a simple summary of the week’s activities. We did six hours of formal training with a set of three young chaplains who are already serving very effectively. In addition, we were able to go with them to meet the teams they are serving and to model a couple of models for ministry they can employ. I hope this record of activity is inspirational to you.

Sunday -
I left home at 1:45 am to drive to the airport. I flew into Tegucigalpa from St. Louis, Missouri through Houston, Texas, arriving just after noon. I was picked up at the airport and then we went to lunch with our friends, Pastor Tito and Zulema Penalba.

Monday –
We had a meeting with Congressman Wilmer Velazquez (former high profile futbol player), community leaders, local church leaders, Tito and others at two different gang controlled area sports courts. The aim is to partner with all these groups to hold FCA Power Camps in these two barrios and the International School. The plan will need to be further developed for excellent delivery of the camps, but all the pieces are now in place.

We did 2+ hours of sports chaplaincy training with Tito, Maynor, Rony, and Francisco.

We observed Maynor’s futbol academy, serving 60+ children from a very poor community at no cost to them.

We hosted an FCA presentation at the Holiday Inn Express with around 35 church and sports leaders, plus the lady to oversees all NGOs in Honduras. Eric Anderson presented an FCA overview and I walked them through the 360 Sports Matrix to highlight the need for ministry in sport.

Tuesday –
We did 2+ hours of sports chaplaincy training.

I delivered 3 sports chapel talks with three different futbol clubs, of three different age levels, that are served by Maynor, Rony, or Francisco. It was good to model this form of ministry for our team. One of those talks was with the UPN first division team at their training ground.

While at UPN (a teacher’s college), I did a 360 Sports Matrix presentation with around 30 coaches and educators.

Wednesday –
I did a 360 Sports Matrix at Unitec, a technical college, with around 20 student-athletes and coaches.

We went up to El Picacho to give Eric an overlook of the whole city from the statue of the ascending Christ.

We had a conversation with the headmaster of the International School re: FCA, sports chaplaincy, camps, and partnership. This was very well received.

I did a talk at the school with a number of student leaders re: Romans 12:1-2. Afterwards we had lunch. I lead a minute discussion with all the International School’s student-athletes, our team serving as group leaders, about life in sport as informed by I Corinthians 9:24-27. It was good to model another model for ministry with groups for our team.

I did a talk with a 2nd division team, Gimnastico, served by Francisco, at their training ground. I talked from James 1:12 and then discussed the talk development process with the team.

We returned to the hotel and completed the sports chaplaincy training.

Four of us went to the national stadium and prayed with the UPN 1st division team in their locker room prior to their game vs. the 1st place and undefeated Motagua team. We watched about 15 minutes of the game and then returned to the hotel.

Tito led the first ever FCA Honduras board meeting and Eric did a brief FCA Leadership Board training. After the meeting, Eric gave some encouragement to the team and said his goodbyes.

Finally, Eric, Tito, and I went to dinner, and I got to bed around 11:00 pm.

Thursday –
I spent most of the morning preparing to travel and reflecting on the week’s activities. I did some correspondence via email and sent a brief summary to my friend and colleague, Jim Roquemore – FCA’s Global Region Coordinator for Latin America. I sent the same notes to my mentor and others who were supporting our work in prayer. Late in the morning two of the chaplains arrived and Tito arrived at the hotel and then we left for the airport. We gathered again in the airport departure lounge until it was time for me to leave. We spent these last moments embracing each other and heartily slapping backs. This is an outstanding team of young chaplains, two of the three having been professional futbol players. They are uniquely gifted for service as sports chaplains and the training they received will only make them better.

It was a privilege to serve our Honduran teammates as they lead and serve the men and women of sport in this beautiful, hungry nation.

Friday, March 2, 2018


I received this note earlier this week from a friend and colleague. It is quite insightful. I hope it is of value to you and to those you serve.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Jack Easterby has a unique role on the New England Patriots Football team. “His official title: Character Coach/Team Development, is as surprising to see in an NFL front office as his role has become indispensable for the longest-running dynasty in NFL history,” writes Lorenzo Reyes in the USA Today. Yes, you read that right, Jack is a Character Coach for a professional football team. And, not just any team. One that has won more Super Bowls in the last 15 years than any other team. Thus far, New England is the only team to hire this position.

Jack was hired in 2013, as New England was seeking to respond well to the Aaron Hernandez murder of Odin Lloyd. It was a tense time in the Patriot’s locker room. He quickly realized “we can’t just talk about the problems we have. We need to work toward solutions.” So, how does he do that?

What Do the Players Say He Does for the Team?

Photo via WLTX19
1. He has an “unbending open-door policy.” 
Players can talk to him about anything and everything (big or small), and they do. He seeks out players before every game and tells them he appreciates them, which makes things safe for them to seek him out. He cultivates trust, which enables players to open up and to play at their best. “We’ve been through some things recently—things that have gone on in our country and things that have gone on in the league,” Easterby said of the political climate and social activism in the NFL. “I just think that love wins. Communication with others wins. Servanthood wins. That’s why when we went through some of the stuff we went through earlier this year, it was a conversation, not a judgment.”

2. He consistently seeks to add value to everyone. 
If Jack thinks a player can be helped by a book or a video or a scripture, he’ll drop it off at his locker. “Jack has been huge in my life,” left tackle Nate Solder, who was treated for testicular cancer in 2014 and whose son is currently being treated for a rare form of kidney cancer, told USA Today. “He’s one of my close friends. I call him about everything. I really, really appreciate his friendship.” He hosts parties and whiffle ball games at his house, serves at players’ weddings and greets everyone. “Around other teams, you have people like that, but from what I’ve seen, they’re all pretenders,” defensive end Ricky Jean Francois told USA Today. “Just because they want to be around football players and get things. This guy here, every day, he walks up to us and feeds us positivity. Every single day. This dude is not pretending.”

3. He builds leaders. 
At times, he does more than encourage. He equips. And it’s not just players he serves. “Sometimes it’s actually working with a guy who wants to be a head coach and talking about leadership and growth,” Easterby said, before he paused, looked, and pointed in the direction of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who was named head coach of the Detroit Lions after the Super Bowl. “It doesn’t really matter who it is.” Jack knows that a leadership culture ultimately makes everyone better. It’s like raising the tide. When the tide goes up all the boats go up.

What We Can Learn as a Coach or Athletic Leader

You are likely not a Character Coach yourself. Perhaps you need to hire one. Perhaps you’re like me and simply need to learn from one. Based on this example, here are six changes I think will make us better at leading today’s athletes.

1. Don’t think CONTROL, think CONNECT.
It is natural for coaches to seek control of the team or practice. It’s the best way we know how to prepare for a game. But control is a myth—especially among competitive players. I suggest you go deeper at building relationships and trust with players. I have found if I will seek connection with them, I’ll earn the right to influence.

2. Don’t think INFORM, think INTERPRET.
Today’s athletes don’t need adults to get information. They have it on their portable device. They do need us, however, for interpretation. We must help them interpret all they heard and saw. Sometimes we’ll need to offer context to all the content they consume. If we can help them process (more than access), we will be relevant.

3. Don’t think WHAT, think WHY.
Too often, we’re prone to communicate with athletes by jumping right into “what” we want to say, forgetting we are competing with thousands of other messages they receive daily. I have found if I will begin with “why”—they can engage with almost any “how.” We must furnish the “whys” behind the drills or disciplines to engage them.

4. Don’t think RULES, think EQUATIONS.
No athlete I know likes “rules.” They endure them. What if we switched out the rules for equations—meaning we simply explain the consequences and benefits to all of their decisions? And then, we let them live with their decisions to learn. Life is full of equations, meaning the ups and downs of choices. This is how they’ll grow.

5. Don’t just speak to their HEAD, speak to their HEART.
Many coaches are “old school.” They’re used to just addressing the head of their athletes, imposing or downloading plays or strategies. And those are important. But if we’ll speak to the heart, maybe even with an arm around their shoulder, we might be amazed at how this accelerates all they need to learn in their head.

Want to prepare athletes for excellence in sports and life? 
Check out Habitudes® for Athletes.