Friday, October 2, 2015

2015 Chaplains Roundtables

If you serve as a Sports Chaplain, a Sports Mentor, or a Character Coach and you are in the Midwest or Great Lakes area of North America, please consider attending one of these excellent events. They are for you and are always of tremendous quality. Thanks.

015 Chaplains Roundtables
The 2015 Chaplains Roundtables are coming together and we hope to see you there! If you are planning to attend, please submit the form below and we will add you to the list. We look forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for us this year and trust He will make a lasting impact on you and everyone who attends! We look forward to seeing you there!

Guest Speakers

Troy Murphy
Green Bay Packers

Jim Stump
Football Chaplain,
Stanford University

Roger Lipe
Southern Illinois University

If you would like to register, or just receive more information, as it becomes available, click the Register button and fill out the form, along with a note telling us what you're interested in.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sports Ministry Training in Cuba

During the days of 21 and 22 September, my FCA colleague, Jim Roquemore and I delivered sports ministry and sports chaplaincy training to our friends in Havana, Cuba. Like many in Latin America, they had primarily experienced sports evangelism as the predominant form of ministry in sport. Having visited Cuba in 2009 and 2010, I had some background on their approach and thought they were in a position to see sports ministry from a broader perspective and with an approach beyond evangelism.

We began by discussing the McCown Sports in Ministry Map, followed by the 360 Sports Matrix. I was very encouraged by how quickly they grasped the concepts and made immediate application to their service of sportspeople in their nation. It was most helpful that the room of around thirty sports ministry leaders was populated by people from most every category on the map’s horizontal scale – spectators, novices, recreational participants, players, elite players, and one high profile sportsperson. In their large and small group discussions, they processed the material quickly and were greatly encouraged.

On day two, we delivered the Introduction and the Relationships of a Sports Chaplain, from the material at These materials had been converted into Spanish and were very well received. They and I believe that sports chaplaincy can be of tremendous value to the sporting community in Cuba, not only in Havana, but across the island of 11 million people.

These loving, passionate, and disciplined leaders feel cut off from the world of sports ministry due to the US embargo and their nation’s lack of infrastructure. In many ways, it’s like Cuba is stuck in the 1960s in terms of infrastructure and technology. We delivered some simple tools for them to use, including copies of Corazon de un Campeon (Heart of a Champion in Spanish), and the FCA INVICTO Bible (in Spanish) from this summer’s camps.

We finished the trip with a visit to a Havana based mission organization to meet with their leadership to discuss options for the shipping of ministry materials and sports equipment to further our Cuban teammates’ ministries in Baseball, Football (soccer), Volleyball, and other sports.

While travel to and from Cuba is rather clumsy from the USA, it is better than it was five years ago. I believe it will be increasingly easy and more frequent for Jim and his colleagues in the coming years.

I told our Cuban friends that their nation is better positioned for the rapid growth of ministry in sport than any other on the planet. That is largely due to the centrality of sport to Cuban culture. A huge mural is painted on the wall of Havana’s best and largest sports arena. It says, “El Deporte Derecho del Pueblo.” “Sport is the right of the People.” This statement in indicative of how important sport is to this nation and it points to the tremendous opportunity the Church and the sports ministry community has in this nation. May we be faithful to serve our Cuban brothers and sisters as they effectively serve Christ Jesus in the world of sport.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Identity and Sportspeople

The issue of identity, its misplacement in one’s performance, its loss due to injury, retirement, or firing, and several other dimensions of this matter related to people in sport were recently addressed in an article about a college football (American Footbal) player. This article was written by one of this former teammates and it is rather insightful. It offers no solutions, but accurately reflects the gravity of the issue. I hope you will take a moment to read and to think deeply about those whom you serve. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Challenge to newly trained Ukrainian Sports Chaplains

Check out this video from our FCA Sports Chaplaincy School in Kyiv, Ukraine earlier this summer. It will test your language skills, but you’ll catch the drift from the video and the passion communicated by the Ukrainians.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wise or Foolish?

This season marks my twenty-second in serving a college football (American Football) team, here in Southern Illinois. It has been my privilege to be the team chaplain to Saluki Football through some rather lean years, like 1 win and 10 losses, and some very successful seasons, like a national semifinal appearance. In those years I have experienced a great variety of things, some exhilarating, some painful, some laughter, and plenty of tears.

I have also observed the ways of some of my colleagues. There are a number of men who serve as sports chaplains to football teams and most of us develop our own particular style and have different guiding principles. I’d like to share some observations of some less than wise approaches to ministry in sport.

1)   Some of us use the scripture in ways that is not worthy of the Lord’s Word. To spiritualize scripture to accommodate your motivational talk is not wise, even if you believe it leads to your team’s winning. To rip scripture from its context to fit your devotion is foolish. e.g. Philippians 4:13
2)   Some of us act presumptuously regarding team gear, sideline privileges, and other matters related to the life of the team. To seek privilege or to foolishly stomp on boundaries is a great way to find one’s favor with the coaching staff rapidly evaporating.
3)   Some of us act more like fans than chaplains. To act as if the team you serve is somehow God’s chosen one is ridiculous and the province of lunatic sports fans. Show love and loyalty to those whom you serve, but don’t act as if they never err, never underperform, never cheat, and can never fail. Be their chaplain, not their fan.
4)   I saw one chaplain, who was allowed sideline privileges, during an important moment late in a game, abandon his spot on the sideline and went to the end zone to video a scoring play on his phone. This is the height of abdication of responsibility to become over privileged fan boy. Stop it!
5)   When speaking with a colleague on the field of play prior to the game’s start, don’t stand there and compare how many came to chapel, how many are in your team Bible study, give a spiritual assessment of the players or coaching staff, or other measurement of spiritual comparison. Spend a few minutes encouraging the other person. Pray together and wish your colleague well. This competitively supercharged environment need not overrule your spiritual self-control.

I think that is enough for this rant. Some of these things really annoy me and I see them too often. Let’s love extravagantly and let’s serve selflessly. Should we achieve this, we will have pleased the Lord greatly, regardless of how many are at chapel or Bible study this week.

Friday, August 28, 2015

2015 Team Building Sessions

For the last thirteen seasons or so, I have been doing team building sessions with the (American) football team at Southern Illinois University. The Salukis have enjoyed some tremendous success and some rather middling results in those years. The team building does not find its value in the results, as in wins or losses, rather in the results as measured in relationships and leadership development. I also did an abbreviated form of this process with a local high school girls volleyball program with similar outcomes.

This year’s team building took a significantly different style than past years, but I am pleased with the results so far. An outline of the process is below and the outcome of the process is at the bottom. Please give it a look and let me know if you have questions about it or if you’d like to tailor something for your team.

Saluki Football Team Building – 2015

Session 1 – Saturday 8 August – 6:30 pm (one hour)
  • Welcome and introductory comments by Roger. (15 minutes)
  • Bart Scott’s challenge in April – “What defines a Saluki Football Player?”
  • Some thoughts from Saluki Football Alumni (handout)
  • What shall we say is the mission of Saluki Football 2015? (handout)
  • Throughout the preseason, we will discuss this, develop a definition of a Saluki Football player and write a mission statement for 2015 SIU Football. 
  • This handout is for you to write down your thoughts. Deliver your thoughts to me at any time. We will discuss and develop this together.
  • Players are grouped by Alpha Dawg teams to interview and introduce the new players.
  • Alpha Dawg Captains interview the new players with these questions: (15 minutes)
    • What is your name, your uniform number, and your position?
    • Tell us a little about your home town.
    • Why did you come to SIU to play football?
    • How much are you willing to sacrifice to be a Saluki Football player?
  • Each Alpha Dawg Captain introduces his new teammate(s) to the team at large – 90 players. (30 minutes)
Session 2 – Monday 10 August – 7:30 pm (30 minutes)
  • Review “What defines a Saluki Football Player?” ideas to date.
  • Review 2015 Saluki Football mission statement ideas to date.
  • Discussion of ideal characteristics:
    • Whose name comes to mind when you hear, “Saluki Football Player”?
    • How would you describe that player? What made him special?
    • Let’s use these next two sessions to nail down our list of the characteristics that make a Saluki Football Player.
Session 3 – Wednesday 12 August – 2:30 pm (one hour)
  • Review “What defines a Saluki Football Player?” ideas to date.
  • Review 2015 Saluki Football mission statement ideas to date.
  • What are the important factors in the daily process of being a Saluki Football team?
  • What are the values that shape how you go about the daily process?
  • Who are the people for whom you go through the process of playing Saluki Football?
  • Narrow the list of defining characteristics of a Saluki Football Player. (Aim for 4-8)
  • Write a first draft of the 2015 Saluki Football Mission statement.
Session 4 – Saturday August 15 – 6:30 pm (60 minutes)
  • Finalize – What defines a Saluki Football Player?
  • A Saluki Football Player is:
    • Relentless
    • Passionate
    • Selfless
    • Resilient
  • Finalize – Saluki Football Mission statement
    • “Saluki Football will build a legacy through relentless effort, passionate play, selfless character, and resilience… The time is now!”
Upon completion of these sessions and the team’s completion of their definition of a Saluki Football player, as well as their mission statement, I submitted the ideas to the head coach and made a couple of edits. He then reviewed the players’ work with the coaching staff and they were all enthusiastic about the results. The head coach has incorporated these ideas in his daily remarks, we are preparing banners for the inside of our locker room and another one to take on the road to be in the locker rooms for road games.

My aim in this and all team building sessions is always twofold: to build the community of the team by establishing identity, trust, and commitment among the players and to build the culture of the program through discussion of its values. I hope this discussion is of value to you and to those you serve.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Kingdom-Minded Coaches

Occasionally, we are able to observe directly the fruits of our labor in serving the men and women of sport. One such occasion has been mine recently as I have watched the growth and development of a young man whom I first met as a college baseball player. Nathan Emrick has grown tremendously as a man, competitor, husband, father, and as a coach over the ten years I have known him. The blog post inserted below and linked at the bottom of this page detail much of his pilgrimage and his presently tremendous influence as a coach and teacher at Cobden High School in Southern Illinois.

I hope Nathan’s story is an encouragement to you to continue to serve and to joyfully watch for God to grow your investments.

Kingdom-Minded Coaches Part 2: From Wins First to Hearts First: How Jesus Changed My Coaching Mission

Posted: August 17, 2015 in 

The following is a post from Cobden High School volleyball coach, Nathan Emrick. Nathan has been extremely instrumental in shaping countless coaches’ philosophies through his leadership and captain selection programs. More importantly, however, is that he is a man with a heart for seeing the Kingdom expand! 

I can remember my first year as a head coach pretty vividly. It was 2009 and I was the Head Coach of the reigning 1A Softball Champion Cobden Appleknockers. We had almost everyone back from the previous year, including our entire pitching staff and infield, as well as some new players coming in that would make us even better than the previous year. Needless to say, I was feeling an immense amount of pressure. I felt so much pressure that I was making the season that should have been so much fun and exciting miserable for my players, my coaches, and especially me. At the time, I was a very new Christian and really wasn’t sure how to deal with all this outside pressure I was feeling.

See, at the time, I was completely focused on wins, championships, and awards. As a former athlete, this is what had been ingrained in me, as it is ingrained in most athletes. You are only as good as the points you score, the batting average you have, the wins you get, and the trophies you collect. As I matured as a Christian and as a coach, I realized all those things were nice, but had no bearing on my life as a disciple of Jesus.

I realized that Jesus did not care if I won a State Championship or went 0-35 on the year. Jesus loved me and died for me because He chose to, not because He had to. I learned through scripture, teaching, prayer, and worship, that Jesus was a man of great authority, yet selfless, loving and a man of great character. He was the only person to walk the Earth without sin, yet chose to seek out those who were considered the worst sinners of his day.

As my walk with Jesus continued to grow, I began to assess myself as a coach. I looked at those I had coached with, against, or just admired what they were doing in their sport. I assessed those that had led me in my short time as a coach and as a Christian. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

I looked at guys that I had strong relationships with like Josh Franklin, Roger Lipe, Shane Garner, but also guys like Joe Ehrmann, John Wooden and Tony Dungy. I found that there is so much more in coaching the heart of your players, than just the physical bodies. I found that by coaching and focusing on the person more than just the player, both my teams and I were becoming closer by building trust, vulnerability, and love.

From this came a shift in my philosophy as a coach. I would no longer base my success on wins and losses. I would base it on the character of my players and how they selflessly respect and care for those around them including themselves. I would begin using Christian principles and values such as “love, serve, and care” as part of who our teams would be. I began focusing on simply planting seeds, knowing that I have no power to save, but I can show my players the Gospel through my actions as well as in individual conversations. I want my players to understand, as Joshua Medcalf, puts it, “their identity is not in what they do, but in who they are.”

Through this culture change, I have seen short term growth in so many of my players. I have seen girls go from being players who were self-seeking, entitled, blame shifters, and lacked all joy in life to girls who are selfless, team first, leaders, who truly love their teammates. I have had the privilege of walking along side of some of them over the last few years, praying for them both intercessory and hands-on prayer. I have been able to speak wisdom into their lives and point them to Jesus as the one who heals, saves, protects and restores.

I do not believe that I can speak to the overall success of this new culture. I feel that I will not be able to see real success in this until these young ladies that I coach are wives, mothers, and professionals in the work force. I will not know success until I see if those seeds that were planted when they were 15 or 16 years old have as Jesus says in Matthew 13:8, “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundred fold, some sixty, and some thirty.” I can only hope and pray that the seeds I plant will help lead them to Jesus one day and he will save them. Until then, I will continue to run the race, putting my players’ hearts first by leading them, praying for them and pointing them to Jesus when the opportunity arises.

Nathan Emrick is currently entering his fourth year as the Head Volleyball Coach at Cobden High School. He was also the Head Softball Coach for five years prior to coaching volleyball.