Friday, October 12, 2018

Raise Your Game.

It was a unique privilege to be invited by Sports Chaplaincy United Kingdom CEO, Warren Evans, to speak at their annual conference in Bradford, England earlier this summer. Throughout the conference the attendees were challenged to “Raise their Game.” I talked with the gathered men and women about what it is to inspire and to be inspired. I then spoke with them about how we challenge and receive challenges. Lastly, I spoke with them about how sports chaplains must stretch and be stretched to serve effectively. Below is the outline from each talk. No frills, no stories, just the essentials.

Raise Your Game.
Ø Inspire
Ø  Challenge
Ø  Stretch

I n s p i r e
·        Who inspires you?
·        Context for inspiration: Fear, ambition, & jealousy. Mark 10:42-45
o   Inspired to be great? Serve.
o   Inspired to be first? Be everyone’s slave.
o   Inspired to be like Jesus? Sacrifice.
o   To what are you inspired?
Ø To be great?
Ø To be first?
Ø To be like Jesus?

C h a l l e n g e
·        Elisha is challenged to follow.
o   I Kings 19:19-21
o   II Kings 2:1-2
o   II Kings 2:8
·        Elisha requests a double challenge.
o   II Kings 2:9-12
·        Elisha receives a double challenge.
o   II Kings 2:13-14
·        Serving as a sports chaplain is very challenging.
·        Accept the challenge!

S t r e t c h
·        To Raise Your Game will require you to stretch and to be stretched.
·        Stretch by holding tightly to your faith.
o   Hebrews 10:23
·        Stretch by stirring up your colleagues.
o   Hebrews 10:24
·        Stretch by gathering for encouragement.
o   Hebrews 10:25

Raise Your Game.
Ø Inspire
Ø Challenge
Ø Stretch

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Source of Joy

During the days of 17-20 September, I was in Havana, Cuba to train 100+ men and women as sports chaplains. They were very hungry to learn and we spent two full days discussing how this role of ministry can be of greatest effect in Cuba. We wrapped up the training by praying for their Cuban and FCA ministry leaders, then commissioning them all into service as sports chaplains.

At the end of the trip we took a ride to the Jose Marti airport. My colleagues and friends, Eric Anderson, Alex Roque Martinez, and I were discussing the source of joy for people's lives. My contribution to the discussion, now expanded, follows.

It is my observation that the closer one is to death and dying, day to day, the simpler life is, and that life requires fewer entanglements to have joy in living.

Inversely, the more remote death seems to be, daily living requires more stuff to produce a sense of joy, and one's life becomes increasingly more complex.

When asked, "What brings joy to your life?" my friends from the USA usually trot out a list of creature comforts, foods, drinks, or electronic devices. Their daily existences require a massive amount of support, both emotional and electronic. 

My friends in the more impoverished and daily perilous nations of the world simply say, "Jesus." Their relationships with the risen Lord supply all the joy necessary to navigate their precarious journeys through life with abundance in their souls.

As I have walked with USAmerican friends and family through battles with terminal disease and the immediate prospect of death, they begin to apprehend the simple and unencumbered joy experienced by our less prosperous global brothers and sisters. They too can reply, "Jesus", when asked about their source of life-giving joy and fulfillment.

Let us join them. Let's unclutter our lives. Let's protect and clarify our springs of joy. Let's reject every rival to Jesus' centrality as our soul's river of living water.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Reflections Upon my Sixty-second Birthday

         In June of this year I turned sixty-two years of age. My father retired from his career with a railroad at age sixty-two. My wife retired over four years ago. A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were in the car and I said, “Okay, baby, here’s the deal. I just turned sixty-two, but I have absolutely no interest in retirement. I aim to go as hard and as fast as I can until seventy, then we can think about it. I have way too much juice, lots of vision, and plenty yet to accomplish.” She has no complaints as she certainly doesn’t want me hanging around the house being hyper with nothing to do. If I retired, I would just volunteer doing the same things I do now.
          Below are some simple reflections on how things look at sixty-two.

Earlier this year I went with my father to Washington DC on a Veterans Honor Flight. Dad is a Korean War veteran and the whole day, 4:00 am to 9:30 pm, was tremendous. Both my parents have had knee replacements, but still live in the home they have owned for over sixty years. My son and daughter-in-law are wonderful, loving, and wise parents.
Our granddaughters are lovely girls, seven years of age and four. Both are involved in dance, the younger one with a much more competitive mindset. One is very compliantly natured, the other quite strong willed.

Forty-three years of marriage

My wife, Sharon, and I are more committed to each other than ever. That’s surely how we have made it this far. I am a much better husband than I was twenty years ago. I am more understanding and accommodating. We have a better handle on our finances than ever. We now contribute more to various ministries and charities than we ever could have imagined.

Physical changes

It’s harder to sleep soundly in recent years. I have more joint pain than ten years ago. I can still play racquetball competitively. I carry some pounds that I would like to lose, but am not really obsessed with my waistline. 

When I shave, I see my maternal grandfather looking back at me in the mirror.

Church and volunteerism –

No Greater Love Ministries and the NGL Network continue to be an important part of my life as a man, a leader, and as a life-long learner.
My involvement is now mostly through facilitation of the Camp Leaders during the Mardi Gras outreach and in as many NGL board meetings as fit with my busy schedule.
The longer I serve Christ Jesus in sporting culture, the harder it is to fit in with church culture.

Global travel –
I have now traveled to or through twenty-nine nations in the last eighteen years. In the years that remain, I intend to be available to serve anyone, anywhere I am called that fits my life's purposes, as the Lord reveals them.

Ministry in sport –

This facet of my life is constantly changing. I still lead FCA Camps, but in a less direct manner than ten years ago.
I find great joy and fulfillment in serving in sports chaplaincy, locally, nationally, and globally. I serve, lead, write, and network in these initiatives.
I lead ministry with coaches in professional, college, high school, junior high, and club sport, in a variety of sports. Some of this is done by direct relational contact, others are via conference calls, still others via text messages, many more by writing books, and still others by visiting annual coaching conventions.

Summary –
Life at sixty-two is rich, fulfilling, and joyous. I love my family, my friends, my colleagues, and those I am privileged to serve. Let’s crack on for a few more decades.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Engage, Equip, Empower

Earlier this year, Fellowship of Christian Athletes rolled out some new language regarding our strategies for ministry. Whereas we had before talked about ministry with nouns – Coaches, Camps, Campus, and Community, we have now begun to talk about it in verbs – Engage, Equip, and Empower. Being an active person, I like verbs far better than nouns and was excited to see what would result from this shift. Those details are being worked out at every level of the ministry, from the board room in Kansas City to the most remote posts of our service, even Carbondale, Illinois (USA).

As the weeks and months progressed, several discussions with colleagues had me thinking about the dynamics of how this works in my network of coaches and sports chaplains. As we talked I could envision a funnel.

At the top end of the funnel it is quite broad, but at the bottom end it is very narrow. I drew the illustration on a piece of paper and continued to think about it. I analyzed my approach to ministry and it is quite broad as I seek to engage people from a very wide radius. As many of these are first meetings we have little depth of relationship. This is what it is to Engage and we do it broadly.

In the middle of the process, the funnel’s center section, it is narrower than the top, but still broader than at the bottom end. The relationships I have with coaches who seem hungry for more, I Equip. I give them a book, recommend a website, a blog, a podcast, an app, invite the coach to an event, or some other way to facilitate their growth. The number we Equip is properly smaller than those we engage. We Equip strategically.

At the bottom end, the outlet of the funnel, it is quite narrow. The number of coaches we Empower is vastly smaller than those we Engage, and even smaller than those we Equip. This development process continues as we provide these coaches with the authority, resources, encouragement, and investment to lead various portions of our ministry. These are the coaches who lead team huddles, multi-sport huddles, coaches huddles, and more. We Empower intensively. Many of our sports chaplains and character coaches have progressed through the same Engage, Equip, and Empower process.

Further, I surmised that the commodities that push one through the process are spiritual hunger and depth of relationship. The hungry coach, just engaged will express the desire to be equipped (if we are listening), and we invest more time in him or her. Once equipped and still hungry, we can approach the coach about being empowered to serve his colleagues, team, families, and community. Our job is to perceive hunger and offer to feed it with time, energy, and resources.

My colleague and friend, Bob Pankey, took my crude illustration and improved it significantly. It is below and attached. It very well graphically describes the process and the factors that animate it. Thanks, Bob, for your contribution to the development of this concept. Please give this some thought and let me know what you think. Thanks.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Discipleship Processes and Resources

During an Illinois (USA) FCA staff meeting one of our colleagues was asking about our best tools for developing the sportspeople we serve in developing Christian discipleship. We talked about specific books, videos, and other resources, but no one had a simple, clear, game plan for holistic Christian discipleship development.
Later in the day, I realized that I had been given such a tool by my mentor, Fred Bishop of No Greater Love Ministries, back in the 1980s. We who grew up in Fred’s ministry were well drilled in Pray, Study, Fellowship, and Witness. For our use in FCA, I have updated the language a little for a more secularized audience, and have shaped these timeless spiritual disciplines into a two page document with lots of flexibility for anyone to insert his or her favorite resources into the process.

The premise is simple. We have a vertical relationship with our Lord through prayer and study. We have a horizontal relationship with other people through Christian community with other believers, and sharing our faith with those not yet committed to Christ. The stronger our vertical relationship is, the greater shadow it casts in the world. If our relationship with the Lord is weakened, our influence with those around us is diminished.

The first page simply serves as a road map, asking where shall we begin the process of development. The second page offers processes and resources for growth as a follower of Christ Jesus. One can insert his or her favorite resources into the processes as they fit.

I hope this simple form is of value to you and to those whom you serve.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Lineup of Sports Chaplain / Character Coach calls for 2018-2019

Below is a listing of the upcoming Sports Chaplain / Character Coach calls for 2018-2019. Please plan to join us live, or watch this blog for recordings of each. 

September 2018 Sports Chaplains Conference Call

Please click on the link below to access the recording of the September, 2018 Sports Chaplain / Character Coach conference call.

September 2018 Sports Chaplains Call

Friday, August 31, 2018

Personal Development of Sports Chaplains

Now in my 25th season of serving sports teams and individuals, I continue to grow and develop my ways of thinking, my skills, methods, and resources. I would challenge you to do the same. It is much too easy to fall into serving simply in the routine of last season’s way, with last year’s methods, and last decade’s thinking. It’s easy to become a dinosaur. It’s hard to stay relevant across decades of service.

Here are some simple thoughts re: a Sports Chaplain or Character Coach’s development plan:
·        Read and study regularly. Of course, read your Bible, but also read good books on subjects like culture, leadership, sports biographies, applied psychology, coaching, theology, and Christian living. Discover authors or genres that interest you and dive in deeply. Stretch your mind.
·        Experiment and evaluate. Take some chances with new methods of ministry. Risk failure. Ask hard questions in evaluating. Challenge your own status quo. Distribute surveys among your constituents to see what connects well and what misses widely. You may just invent the next breakthrough form of ministry in sport.
·        Consult with peers and mentors. Reach out to your colleagues and those who paved the way for you. Ask them good questions and listen. Hear their stories. Perceive their hearts’ wisdom. Listen and learn.
·        Pray for and about the people of sport. Secure a team roster, memorize it, and pray for them. Develop a system to pray for them regularly. Half of our role is to be the priest to this community. Carry their souls to the Lord via intercessory prayer. Faithfully praying for them will awaken your heart to their needs and to their souls’ hunger for the Gospel of Christ Jesus.
·        Observe and contemplate. Watch practice and competitions. Watch body language, gestures, facial expressions, and more. These are tied directly to their hearts. Contemplate what each moment, tone of voice, mumble, and comment means. Listen for the Lord’s voice regarding each heart you serve. Contemplate, “What would the Lord say to this team, player, coach today?” Tune your heart to hear the Lord’s voice. He’s speaking. Are you listening?
·        Learn continually. However you learn best, lean into that and never stop learning. I read, others listen to audiobooks, others like podcasts, others like on line videos, still others learn best in small groups. Be a life-long learner and your energy will endure, your soul will stay fresh, and your mind will expand beyond your wildest dreams.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Notes on Travel with a Team (Reprise from October, 2009)

Let’s think for a moment about the various ways we have traveled to and from competitions across our lives in sport. Low rent or first class, those who play their hearts out find joy in the journey. 

· I remember traveling to high school wrestling meets in school busses. I remember teammates spitting in paper cups to lose the last fractions of a pound so as to make weight. I remember the smell of oranges being peeled and snacks from mothers being shared among teammates. I remember the raucous rides home after victories and the deathly quiet following painful losses. I also remember being slapped by a cheerleader, but not having enjoyed the offending pinch.
· I remember riding twelve hours with three charter busses from Carbondale, Illinois to Cedar Falls, Iowa for a football game at the University of Northern Iowa. One bus broke down before we even got out of town. Thankfully, the Athletic Director was in the seat in front of mine and we’ve flown there ever since.
· I remember a road trip to Northern Iowa and Peoria, Illinois with a Women’s Basketball team. It was so cold the VCR froze up and we couldn’t watch movies. What a boring drive! Worse yet, we lost both games.
· I remember a bus ride with that same Women’s Basketball team between Des Moines, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska. The head coach and I both knew she would likely be fired upon our return home. We had a very good heart to heart talk on the quiet bus in the late evening. We anticipated accurately and I was very glad to have had that talk with the coach.
· I remember boarding the chartered plane after our football team had just lost its first game of the season. We had entered the game 10 and 0 and had a lead in the fourth quarter, but came up short. I sat down and the head coach asked me if I was okay. I said, “Coach, I forgot what it felt like to lose.” It was a bitter flight home.
· I remember a whole college football team traveling to Tampa, Florida on commercial flights. This was before 9/11/01 and security was a little easier. Still, trying to get a traveling party of 85 through two international airports was a logistical nightmare for our office manager.
· I remember a friend who played college football for our team and went on to play in the Arena 2 League for 4 years. His team had a sweet, tricked out bus in which to travel. It included beds, big screen televisions, video games and more. I asked him once about what he would miss about football, “Road trips,” was his answer. He loved everything about being with his teammates, the bus, the hotels, the meals and all the camaraderie which we who play our hearts out enjoy in sport. 

Whether you ride in a rattling yellow school bus, a shiny motor coach, a Boeing 737, or even a private jet, find the joy of travel with your team in the rich relationships to be cultivated in every mile of the journey.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Report from Sports Chaplaincy UK annual conference

It was a unique privilege to be invited by Sports Chaplaincy United Kingdom CEO, Warren Evans, to speak at their annual conference in Bradford, England earlier this summer.  On Wednesday 13 June I traveled from my home to St. Louis, Missouri (USA), boarded a plane to Washington, DC, and then flew to Manchester, UK. On Thursday, after a 90 minute ride to Bradford, I joined the Sports Chaplaincy UK team as they were well into their day of induction at Life Church. I sat in on the remaining sessions of their excellent training for new sports chaplains, checked into my hotel room, and went to dinner with colleagues and friends from across the UK and Ross Georgiou from New Zealand, now living in Germany.

On Friday the 15th I delivered the three talks I had prepared for the conference. I talked with the gathered men and women about what it is to inspire and to be inspired. I then spoke with them about how we challenge and receive challenges. Lastly, I spoke with them about how sports chaplains must stretch and be stretched to serve effectively. The conference, continuing through Saturday, also included some excellent and practical training in various dimensions of serving in sports chaplaincy with excellence. Like most sports chaplaincy conference, some of the most valuable exchange of information and ideas took place during the breaks, over coffee, across the lunch table, and in casual conversation. Throughout the conference the attendees were challenged to “Raise their Game.” Warren and his team were excellent hosts for the conference with every detail handled very well.

On Sunday we attended church with the Evans family at Life Church. After a brief visit to the river locks near Bradford, and a wonderful family dinner we had a restful evening watching England’s opening round World Cup victory.

Monday included an outstanding meeting at the home ground for the Bradford Bulls Rugby club with Warren, Ross, Richard Gamble, and me. We discussed many facets of the global growth of sports chaplaincy. As the meeting adjourned we took Ross to the train station so he could catch his flight home. The balance of the day was spent with Warren and his lovely family, in relaxation and comfort.

On Tuesday morning we began an extraordinary day of travel including a traffic jam due to an accident on the motorway, running with my bags to the check in counter (arriving with about 30 seconds to spare), hassles at security, a good flight across the pond, delays in Chicago that had me sleeping on the floor of the airport overnight, and the eventual return to St. Louis, my car, and the two hour drive home. International travel is only glamorous to those who don’t do it.

To be included in relationship with such highly committed, loving, bright, and visionary people as Warren Evans, Ross Georgiou, Richard Gamble, and the board and chaplains of Sports Chaplaincy UK, is an immense pleasure and privilege. I am very thankful for these teammates and their faithful service of our Lord.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Report from Lithuania, Russia, and Ukraine.

During the two weeks of 22 May through 4 June, 2018 I traveled to Vilnius, Lithuania; Moscow, Russia; and then to Kiev, Ukraine in service of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I worked with FCA’s Eurasian Global Region Coordinator, Andriy Kravstov, to make connections with people who are serving in sports ministries in the Baltics, in Russia, and then for a Sports Chaplains School in Kiev.

While in Moscow, we were hosted by our colleagues of Athletes in Action and others of the sports movement in Eurasia. In particular, our friend and Eurasian sports ministry pioneer, Carl Dambman of Athletes in Action, was a gracious host and connector of people.

360 Coaches meeting in the Sports Palace – Kiev, Ukraine

During the Sports Chaplains School, Carl and I shared the days of instruction. We included lots of group discussions, role play, and other methods to help our new colleagues integrate all they were learning into their service of Ukrainian sportspeople. We were thrilled at the nature of the group that FCA Ukraine and our friend, Ruslan Muts, had gathered for the training. Many were already serving various clubs and others were preparing to engage soon.

Attendees of the Sports Chaplains School - Kiev, Ukraine

This was the fourth year in succession for this Sports Chaplains School in Kiev. We are very proud of our friends and their faithful service. I am most thankful to have the faithful and excellent partnership of Carl Dambman of Athletes in Action.

Roger Lipe – FCA and Carl Dambman - AIA

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Sports Chaplains Conference Call - Performance Based Identity

Please click on the link below to access the recording of the August 7, 2018 Sports Chaplains Conference Call re: Performance Based Identity.