Friday, November 21, 2014

A Recommendation from the Sports Chaplaincy Table

Over the last fifteen months, the men and women of the Sports Chaplaincy Table of the In Sport Group, a network of sports ministries around the globe, have been collaborating to produce a set of recommendations for sports chaplaincy training agencies. We have sought to determine what would be the global standard for such training. After much correspondence, prayer, sharing of ideas, and editing, the recommendation below is the document we will now begin to share with those agencies in various nations. If you represent one such agency and would like to adopt these standards, please email me and I’ll be pleased to add you to our list of adherents to the standards.

There is soon to follow exciting news about a new and powerful delivery system for basic, introductory sport chaplaincy training that reflects these same standards.

A Recommendation from:
The Sports Chaplaincy Table of the In Sport Group
International Sports Coalition

The Chaplaincy Table respectfully submits the following recommendation to all agencies that train, certify, and place sports chaplains all across the globe.
We have collaborated with many of the leading agencies and individuals who have decades of experience in training sports chaplains and we believe the set of items below constitute the global standard of comprehensive sports chaplaincy training.

We would be very pleased to see your organization join with the others listed below in committing to sports chaplaincy training which adheres to these standards. We will not presume to dictate the methods for training, nor the cultural nuances of the sports cultures in your nation.

Please prayerfully consider these training standards and contact us if you would like to join us in adopting them. We will refer inquiries about training that come through our network to the agencies that adopt these standards and develop training that is in keeping with them. We would also be privileged to collaborate with you in the design and implementation of such training.

I.             An Introduction to Sports Chaplaincy
It is wise to define what sports chaplaincy is, to state clearly what it is not, and to identify who and where sports chaplains serve.

II.           A Biblical Foundation to Sports Chaplaincy
It is critical to Christ-honoring service of sportspeople that the sports chaplain be well supported by scriptural principles and biblical models. The sports chaplain’s service is built upon Jesus’ Great Commandment and His Great Commission.

III.          A Profile of a Sportsperson
To serve well as a sport chaplain, one must have a clear understanding of those being served. To perceive the unique pressures, opportunities, challenges, and heart issues experienced in the world of sport enables the sports chaplain to wisely apply the truth of scripture and to care for the sportsperson.

IV.         A Profile of a Sports Chaplain
There is a particular set of character qualities, gifts, and experiences that make for the most effective service as a sports chaplain. This section of training would enlighten the trainee and catalyze his or her development as a sports chaplain.

V.          A Code of Conduct for Sports Chaplains
Where chaplaincy has been effectively modelled a tri-partite agreement between the sporting organisation, chaplain and local chaplaincy organisation has existed.  This module would look in detail at the code of conduct, assessing the roles of responsibilities not only of the chaplain, but of the sporting club/organisation being served and how they should inter relate with a chaplaincy body.  In particular the module would look at the importance of accountability in the execution of chaplaincy, guarding against the seductiveness and influence of elite sport.

VI.         A Sports Chaplain’s Relationships
The nurture and development of relationships is at the core of all ministry roles. To serve as a sports chaplain is no different. Understanding the unique attitudes and the power of being present is of tremendous value in sports chaplaincy. This element of training would inform the trainee of the most strategic relationships in sports cultures and how best to develop them.

VII.       Sports Chaplaincy Strategies
To serve effectively in the world of sport requires an understanding of one’s audience and prayerful consideration of the strategies and methods to be used. This section of training would inform the trainee about the wide variety of strategies and methods that may be employed and factors for wisely choosing them for his or her sporting environment.

VIII.     Resources for Sports Chaplains
The last several years have seen remarkable growth in resources for the development of sports chaplains and their ministries. Wise training would include resources for both the personal development of the sports chaplain as well as resources for direct use with the men and women the sports chaplain is serving. Resources could include books, periodicals, websites, blogs, podcasts, videos, films, and more.

IX.         Sports Chaplaincy in Critical Incidents and Crises
Depending upon one’s place of service, a critical incident or crisis could be a player’s retirement, a coach’s being fired, an injury, or even death. Excellent training for sport chaplains should include some basics for how to serve well in such situations.

X.          A Process for Beginning to Serve as a Sports Chaplain
Upon the completion of a training process, the prospective new sports chaplain still needs guidance related to the process for beginning to serve. Prescribing a step by step process is helpful to both the sports chaplain and to those he or she will serve. The process will vary widely depending upon the sport and culture being served, thus making this a most important factor for the earliest days of a sports chaplain’s service.

Please reply with our questions, your concerns, or with your desire to join us in committing to this standard of sports chaplaincy training.

Respectfully submitted by:
Roger D. Lipe – Chaplaincy Table Chair (Fellowship of Christian Athletes – USA)
Cameron Butler – (Sports Chaplaincy Australia)
Dr. Andrew Parker – (University of Gloucestershire – United Kingdom)
Ross Georgiou – (Sports Chaplaincy New Zealand)
Richard Gamble – (Sports Chaplaincy United Kingdom)
Paul Kobylarz - (The Gathering Place - USA)
Andreas Anderson – (Sport for Life – Sweden)
Ken Cross – (Sports Chaplains Network – USA)
Bill Houston – (Sports Chaplains Roundtable – USA)
Hans-G√ľnter Schmidts – (SRS Pro Sportler – Germany)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Best Day in Sport Chaplaincy

Here in my twenty-first season of serving Saluki Football (American Football at Southern Illinois University – USA), I experienced the best day of my whole career. On 13 September we were all set to play the Southeast Missouri State University Redhawks. They are a local rival for our team and we have enjoyed a history of competitive and interesting games the years. This year’s situation was quite unique and remarkable.

The Redhawks’ new head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator are all dear friends of mine and their team chaplain is my son. I have decades of relationship with these coaches and an obvious bond with my son. This is his first season of serving as team chaplain and he seems thrilled to be in the role.

As the day for this game approached I was flooded with mixed emotions and thoughts. I always want our team to win and to experience success, but I also want my dear friends and my son to do the same. It’s the nature of sport that when we meet, one will win and the other will lose. Game day arrived and I was suddenly freed of such internal conflicts.

My son and I consulted with each other about our chapel talks. We made plans to see each other during pregame warm up drills. I made plans to be on the field very early that day to soak it all in.

As I was on the field very early that afternoon, the head coach came in to do some radio interviews and we had some time for private conversation. I am so proud of him and how he has developed as a man who loves Jesus, a husband, a father, and as a football coach. I was able to encourage him for a little bit before the radio people were ready for him.

As pregame activities moved along, I spoke with the other coaches whom I have known for years. One played for our university and was a great competitor. Fourteen years ago, he and I prayed together for his mother as she had a cancerous brain tumor. I was at his wedding. I traveled to see him play in the Arena League and consulted with him numerous times as his coaching career has developed. The other coach and I also had a few moments to talk. He and I were roommates on road trips when he coached with us. We experienced some great and some terrible days of college football together. We celebrated his sobriety one afternoon as he reflected upon ten years free from drug and alcohol abuse. Warm hugs and pats on the back were the rule of the day. To stand with my son at midfield on a game day afternoon was rich and fulfilling.

Possibly the best part of the whole day was the way I finished each of these conversations. For me, this is the best part of sport. When one is privileged to have an opponent that is competent, respected, honorable, and loved elevates the sport to its best state. To look the coaches of our opponents for the day in the eye, to hug them strongly, and to say, “I love you and I am very proud of you,” is high privilege and made for my lifetime’s best experience in sport.

I would pray that each of us are so privileged, at least once, to have an experience in sport that is so full of love, respect, and honorable competition.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Notes on Coaching Staff Transitions

The month of November in the USA not only ushers in thoughts of holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it is football coaching staff transition season. At every level of American football there have already been and will continue to be coaches resigning, retiring, and being fired. Below are some notes from 2007 related to how sports chaplains can help those we serve to navigate these turbulent waters effectively.

Related to the outgoing staff:
· If the staff was fired, understand that this feels like failure and a lot like death to them.
· Help the coaches to see this situation within the sovereignty of God. The Lord is not surprised by this.
· Understand that the transition is probably harder on the coach’s family than on the coach.
· Be available to them. They may not want much company, but if they welcome your presence, be there.
· Be prepared for the termination of some relationships. Some relationships will live beyond their tenure with your team, but others will cut off all ties to this place and you could be cut off as well. 
· Communicate respect and thankfulness for their time with your team as well as hope for their future. 
· Assure them of your prayers and availability to serve.
· Written communication is very good and can be an enduring encouragement to them. Send a card, an email and/or periodic text messages to stay in touch with them.

Related to the incoming staff:
· Pray for favor with the athletic administration and the new head coach.
· When a new head coach is announced, send a letter of congratulations immediately (keep it to one page).
· When the coach is settled into the office, get an appointment to welcome him/her and to offer your assistance. 
· Bring a gift (a book) that is reflective of your desired relationship with the coaching staff and team.
· A wise attitude is reflected in offering to do, “as much or as little as the head coach believes appropriate.”
· When discussing a role with the team one can reference his/her role with past coaching staffs, but don’t lock into those methods or activities exclusively. 
· Let the coach paint the parameters for your role and work to build trust and credibility from there.
· It is always wise to offer to serve with no strings attached. Guard your attitude from presumption.
· Come prepared to discern the coach’s perception of his/her, the staff and the team’s needs.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Radio Interview with @SalukiChaplain

On Monday of this week I was privileged to be a guest on our Head Football Coach’s weekly radio show, “Lennon Live.” Mike Reis, SIU’s radio voice for over 30 years, does the interview with me and Coach Dale Lennon adds some comments related to my service of Saluki Football for the past twenty seasons.

Here is a link to the almost 9 ½ minute interview. I hope it is of value to you.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Prayer in the Life of a Sportsperson

Occasionally I am privileged to speak at a local church. Sometimes I even get to speak about matters of faith and sport. One such occasion was this past Sunday at my home church, Lakeland Baptist Church, in Carbondale, Illinois (USA). I spoke about Prayer in a sportsperson’s life. The talk included many aspects of a sportsperson’s life and how prayer may be helpful in it.

This is a link to the site where I have been posting prayers for people in sport to use.  

As Jesus gave His disciples a model for prayer, we must also provide some models to assist them as they learn to pray and to thereby welcome the Lord Jesus into each day’s training, conditioning, and competition. I hope the prayers are of some benefit to you and those you serve.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Inaugural Global Congress on Sports and Christianity

In light of the dramatic increase in academic research activity and practical initiatives on the topic of sports and Christianity over the last decade, the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at York St John University (YSJU), York, UK are hosting an Inaugural Global Congress on Sports and Christianity (IGCSC), 24-28th August, 2016. The Bible Society and YSJU are collaborating in the development and delivery of this global event.

Keynote Speakers include Professors Stanley Hauerwas, Shirl Hoffman, Michael Novak, Bishop James Jones and Anne-Wafula Strike MBE.

York St John University campus is at the heart of the beautiful and historic city of York (see

A part of the congress is a sport-themed service in York Minster, one of Europe’s finest cathedrals  (see

The attached Pdf. Brochure and website provide further information on the congress:  

If you are interested in receiving further information about this event, email the congress convener, Dr Nick J. Watson (, who will add you to an email-contact list.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Student-athlete Testimony

On occasion, I am privileged to hear one of the student-athletes in whom I invest my life express his or her faith in a unique way. One such instance occurred a couple of weeks ago as we held a Fellowship of Christian Athletes large group meeting on campus at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. This was the first one we have even tried to do in the twenty years of our service with the university’s student-athletes and coaches.

The notes below are from the talk prepared by a senior swimmer from Wisconsin who has been attending weekly FCA meetings in my home since she was a freshman. It has been a joy to watch her develop in every facet of her life. I trust you’ll sense some of that development and the process of it in the notes. I am very proud of Holly and her heart-felt, candid talk with her teammates and other peers.

My Faith in Sport
·        Holly Johnson - Senior, Major-Science
·        Thank Roger and my FCA members for this opportunity to speak none the less at the premier large group meeting, very much along the theme of this as a night of firsts, this is also my first time speaking about my faith in sport. It really makes you think about what you believe when you will be sharing these thoughts with an audience of young adults.
·        Before I dive into the thick of it, I’d like to take a few moments to highlight my favorite things about FCA.
o   Number one is the relaxing environment- I look forward to being able to sit among people I am comfortable and discuss ideas that aren’t brought up in my chemistry class, without having to worry about whether or not there is a solutions manual online.
o   The people- Roger is the man, Sharon is a domestic diva (there is food, and I’m not sure if it is my age or my sport, but I have no shame in eating more servings than the football players, and I have connected with athletes that I wouldn’t have otherwise even thought to say hi to in passing.
o   The conversation- outlooks on things I couldn’t understand on my own, people sharing their individual wisdom to provoke thinking of the entire group.
o   The understanding. As college athletes our lives are demanding, and even though it may seems like an easy commitment especially when there are delicious desserts involved 1 hour a week is one less hour you can spend on studying or Netflix if we are being realistic. So there have been many times over my three years so far that I have missed a Tuesday or maybe a couple in a row, but what I truly love about this group is that they understand, no questions asked and welcome you back with open arms and sometimes peach cobbler.
·        Now, I’d like to discuss my faith and how it has helped shape my athletic career.
o   For the majority of my life thus far I believed what I was told and sat in religion class, thinking its only purpose was to make us suffer in the best way they could imitate Jesus having to cross the desert with people that doubted him so many years ago.
o   But at some point in the previous few years, it finally clicked. I decided that I didn’t have to believe the same exact things that were written in some book of catholic rules for how to kneel on a tiny bench thing and not look uncomfortable, but instead that I could take all the knowledge I had gathered from different people, events, and the Bible to decide what it all meant to me. After figuring this out, the rest seemed so simple.   From my interpretation, everything came down to the idea that there is something out there bigger than myself. I like to refer to that something as a someone and call him/or her God. I owe these realizations not only to FCA, but to swimming.
o   As I stand behind the blocks before a race there are many things running through my head. For example, dang these straps are really tight, boy is that last 25 going to a hurt, I wonder what new flavors they have at Chill, why did I pick a sport that has me half naked waiting to flail until my muscles give out in a freezing pool of shame and chemicals, you get the idea. But before my best races, there is always one thing on my mind. This happened for the first time my sophomore year at our midseason invite, I was standing behind the blocks blasting Spanish music to liven the mood when I started contemplating how lucky I was. I was truly happy, I felt loved and secure, and I knew I was about to have a great race, and I did. I decided, this overwhelming feeling of contentment was a product of my faith. Now, as I compete for my final season, my faith is greater than ever. I am so overcome with thankfulness for the opportunity to swim at this level surrounded by people that have a common goal. I owe everything I have to the great mastermind behind constructing this horrible but wonderful world we live in. After attributing my success in and out of the pool and my newfound mental toughness as an athlete, to my faith,  I began to use this to help myself become a better friend and team mate.
o   As an individual sport, swimming can be cut throat. It is easy to blame your failures on your coaches, but ultimately the pressure is always on yourself. In the same competitive way, teammates can lose site of the camaraderie aspect and lean toward selfish tendencies. As an athlete that now relies on her beliefs and upstairs onlooker to get her though the day, it becomes easier to put things in perspective. Just taking a few moments to reflect on a situation whether good or bad, is a type of patience that counts on faith. When I think about how much I love my team mates, even though I know one of them just skipped half of warm up, or beat me in a race, or took my spot on a relay that is because of my faith. It taught me that the love I have experienced for my team and for the sport is the most real emotion a person can have. And that feeling is why we all show up for “20” hours of practice a week and feel blessed because of it. When you try to really capture how lucky we all are to be playing a sport at a division 1 university, decked out in free clothes, surrounded by people that want us to achieve our absolute best, it is impossible to deny that there is something else out there that really knows what’s up. In the big scheme of things my reliance on something that is more than I could ever be, keeps me humble and reassured. When you think about how many seconds or tenths of a second separate world class athletes from someone like myself, it’s almost laughable. That hilarity captures everything that seems unexplainable, and defines it in one word. Faith. Have I had doubts? Of course! Do I pray all the time and ask questions? Absolutely. But no matter what, my core beliefs never waiver.

o   My hope is that by sharing my thoughts today, you can walk away with a sense of confidence that this life we are living is about experiencing as much as we can before what comes next. In this way no experience is bad or good, but rather exactly what we needed to become who we are. As soon as you are confident in your beliefs, even the most major issues become trivial and swimming an event as terrifying as the 200 fly becomes a piece of cake.