Thursday, December 27, 2007

Issue Discussions

As both players and coaches adopt a postmodern world-view, they’re more likely to be interested in a discussion of issues that affect their lives as people of sport than they will a traditional Bible study. There have recently been developed some materials that can aid the chaplain in such discussions. Books like Born to Play, by Stuart Weir and Graham Daniels of Christians in Sport (UK) are invaluable in their ability to engage sport people in discussion of their lives in sport and the impact of their faith upon them. The discussions lead the group through a set of questions that evoke their experiences, thoughts and emotions about an issue related to their lives of sport, and then relate a similar situation from the Bible to their situations and issues. This sort of ministry seems less direct than a simple talk, but is much more effective in leading players and coaches to a more fully integrated life of faith in Christ.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ministry To or Through Sport, continued...

A note of caution – Ministry Through Sportspeople often displays a utilitarian attitude which engages the sportsperson for what he or she can bring to a person, an organization or a cause rather than simply as people in God’s Kingdom.

Some characteristics of such a utilitarian attitude toward sport and sportspersons are:
· Cultivating relationships with the high profile players while neglecting those less well known ones.
· Seeking the player or coach out only when you need something done.
· Players begin to avoid you because they think you will want something from them.
· Soliciting donations for your ministry from the players and coaches you’re serving.
· Using your position with the team to generate publicity for yourself or to promote your personal agenda.
· Sharing info with the media to enhance one's public profile (being seen as an insider).
· Using your position with the team for free tickets, gear, etc… Even worse is to abuse such privilege for personal gain.
· Engaging a person long enough to share the Gospel message with him or her and then withdrawing from them when your personal mission is accomplished.
· Seeking out high profile players so you may tell others, "Player X attends my church. You should join us." This may be true, but the sportsperson can feel like a pawn for one’s ambition for growing church attendance.
· Saying, "Sport is a good tool for ministry." It certainly is, but such a statement betrays an attitude which does not value sport in its own right.
· Saying, "Sport is a good platform for sharing the Gospel." It certainly is, but saying this can make the sportsperson feel used.

Whether your ministry is primarily ‘to’ sportspeople, or primarily ‘through’ them:
· Be wise and intentional about your ministry.
· Examine your motives and adjust your methods.
· Guard your heart from pride.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ministry Through Sportspeople

Ministry through Sportspeople can be defined as ministry efforts which primarily seek to leverage the influence of a coach or athlete to share the Gospel of Christ with those within the sportsperson’s sphere of influence. One can do such ministry effectively and faithfully if the personal development of the player or coach is his primary goal. To seek God’s purposes in the life of the individual must supersede one’s goals for ministry extended through the player or coach.

Below are some examples of such ministry efforts -
· Helping the sportsperson to develop his or her life in Christ through prayer, study, community and training him or her in sharing one’s faith as a part of that development.
· Teaching a sportsperson about the Christian discipline and responsibility of stewardship in all areas of life, including one’s sport, influence and finances.
· Providing properly chosen opportunities for a sportsperson to share his or her growing faith with others.
o In public events.
o In church services or ministry events.
o In printed materials.
o On television, web sites or radio.
o In sports events, camps, etc…

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ministry To Sport or Through Sport?

During a recent conversation with Cameron Butler of Sports Chaplaincy Australia, I began to incubate some thoughts on the distinctives of ministry to the people of sport and ministry through the people of sport. How are they defined? How are they similar? How are the different? What are examples of each? What are wise values for each? Some of our collective thoughts are in the email notes for the next couple of weeks. Bless you.

We who are engaged in Sports Ministries would do well to ask ourselves some questions for evaluation and contemplation on a couple of important issues. Many of us would characterize our ministries as being to the people of sport. Others would say that their ministry extends through the people of sport to the world at large. Others would rightly say that they do some of both. I would like to challenge all of us with the same definitions and questions I regularly ask of myself as I analyze and adjust my ministry with people in sport; coaches and athletes alike.

Important Note: Ministry to Sportspeople and Ministry through Sportspeople are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Often they work together. This document examines the ‘primary’ driver of our sports ministry.

First, let’s define Ministry to Sportspeople in the simplest terms. It is selflessly serving the sportspeople and God's purposes in them with no ulterior motive, no matter how noble.

Below are some examples of such selfless service -
· Assisting in the whole-life development of the sportsperson.
· Offering help to players' and coaches' families when they are new to the community.
· Assisting support staff when they need help with a task.
· Visiting players who are injured, ill or are grieving a family loss.
· Helping a coach or player who wants to share his faith by training and encouraging him about it.
· Offering hospitality and community to these people often displaced from family and friends.
· Speaking privately with a player or a coach about his or her relationship with Christ.
· Maintaining confidentiality re: injuries, illness, family situations, contracts, etc...
· Protecting private information about players and coaches, such as phone numbers, email addresses, etc.
· Praying for a coach or athlete when a request is shared in confidence.
· Sending encouraging notes, emails, text messages and phone calls.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Notes on Coaching Staff Transitions

At this time of year in college football, there are dozens of changes among head coaching positions, multiplied by their staff’s transitions. This displaces hundreds of coaches and their families each year. We can serve them by understanding the situation and positioning ourselves for effective ministry.

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, November 23, 2007


Here in the USA, we just completed our annual Thanksgiving Day celebration. This time of year always prompts me to think about everything for which I am thankful.

The list below is reflective of a few such matters related to my role as a Sport Mentor:
· A calling from God to work with coaches and competitors.
· A passionate love for both sport and Christ Jesus.
· A mentor, colleagues and friends who encourage me in my calling.
· God’s favor with people of influence in the world of sport.
· A world-wide network of sport chaplains and sport mentors from which to learn.
· The Holy Scriptures which inform our minds and hearts of God’s will concerning sports people.
· Relationships with Christian coaches and athletes.
· Relationships with coaches and athletes yet to become Christians.

Who and what are on your Thanksgiving list? Take some time to consider your list and express your thanks to the Lord and even to those who would be encouraged by your saying a simple, “Thank you.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

More proclamation ideas

Be ready to intervene in a crisis – In the course of any season of sport there are plenty of crises that develop. Many of them could be ideal opportunities for discussions of faith. My friend Charles Lynn says that, “When people’s need becomes greater, their resistance becomes lesser.” Simply put, when people encounter crisis, they’re much more ready to receive help from the Lord. Watch for injury or illness. Be aware of situations related to deaths in the families of coaches and players. Be close at hand when someone falls into a gross error or a character flaw becomes apparent to everyone. When their need becomes greater, their resistance will become lesser. Max Helton of World Span Ministries, a chaplain on the NASCAR (USA stock car racing) circuit, asks this question in moments of stress and crisis, “Is your faith working?” Such moments reveal a great deal about the strength of one’s faith.

Friday, November 9, 2007


Make room for a testimonial talk from someone whom the team would respect – If there is a player or a coach from your sport who is a believer and can deliver a credible talk, this can be a valuable tool. If the person cannot do both, you might be better off not having him/her do the talk.

Provide opportunities for believers to freely express their devotion to Christ – Part of good fellowship is when believers are able to share their lives in Christ with other people of faith. Here is a brief list of ways in which you can help that happen.
o Sharing with other believers on the team.
o Sharing with others in the community.
o Verbal expressions in groups, small or large.
o Written expression in the form of an essay.
o During a time of prayer.
o Through discussion of issues in the sport.
o A testimonial given aloud or on paper.

Friday, November 2, 2007

On line resources

This week I’d like to pass along some on-line resources for your perusal.

This is a link to the Serving the People of Sport Council of the International Sport Coalition. The SPS is a tremendous group with which I serve and with which I will meet next week in Thailand. Please take a look at this site, its training and resouces. Every time I’m with this rich network of sport ministry professionals, I learn and take away more than I contribute.

In 1990, Ambassadors In Sport (AIS) began in Bolton, England, founded by a group called Missionary Athletes International USA. From the beginning, the aim of AIS has been to partner with churches and Christian groups to develop grass roots football ministry.
The work goes on through football camps, clinics, prison ministry, school ministry, men's and women's teams, international tours and major sport event ministries.
AIS now has offices in the UK, USA, Spain, South Africa, Japan, Brazil & the Czech Republic. They also have satellite workers in Nigeria, Zambia, Kenya, Iceland, Haiti & Guatemala.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Proclamation - continued...

Encourage genuine expressions of faith in your team – When you see a player or coach expressing his/her faith or even an interest in spiritual things, encourage and feed them. Find ways to steer conversations to spiritual matters. Ask a good question about what you see. Feed their interest and watch their responses. Here are some simple things that often are indicators of faith or at least an interest in spiritual matters:
· Carrying a Bible.
· Attending a team chapel.
· Soliciting prayer for some matter.
· Attending church services or asking you about where to attend.
· Praying at meals.
· Asking questions about faith, even sarcastic or cynical questions.
· Reading anything with spiritual content.
· Family members who ask you about chapel, prayer, etc…

Thursday, October 18, 2007

15 Minute Chapel Format

· Welcome by chaplain (30 seconds)

· Opening prayer by a player or coach as solicited by chaplain
(30 seconds)

· Introduction of guest speaker by chaplain (if applicable)

· Chapel talk (5-7 minutes)
o 50% inspiration (love God) 50% motivation (compete greatly)

· Prayer by players and coaches as facilitated by chaplain (5-7 minutes)
o For the Coaching staff
o For the team’s Offense
o For the team’s Defense
o For the Special Teams
o For the game Officials
o For the team’s Opponents
o Closing prayer by chaplain
(Categories from American football, adapt to make appropriate to other sports.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Proclamation, continued...

Express the message of Christ Jesus in terms relevant to the team’s sport culture – It may help if you think of yourself as a cross-cultural missionary. While most of the Christian world thinks of how to communicate about faith in Christ across various language barriers, your task is to clearly communicate in the culture of sport. This will mean that your vocabulary should be full of the words and expressions that are common to the sport. This is the language they speak. Al Miller, Chaplain to the national football (soccer), net ball and track & field teams of Jamaica, says it this way, “Speak the language of your sport.” Your illustrations of spiritual matters should also come from the sport in which they compete and to which they have given so much of their hearts. Your witness to the love of Jesus Christ must be shared in the context of sport to be most readily understood and most strongly integrated into their lives as a whole.
Asking good questions is especially important to the process of proclamation. Well considered questions can help determine a person’s level of spiritual development and his/her orientation toward sport so that the Chaplain or Mentor can speak most appropriately to the hearer’s life.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Express God’s heart for the men and women of sport – This is your high privilege and sacred duty. You are both the prophet and the priest for this community and you are charged with the expression of God’s love and will for them. You can make your expression through at least three ways:
o Through your speech - You can be used of God to inspire, to challenge, to correct and to comfort.
o Through writing – You can write cards, letters, notes, prayers, thank you notes, email messages and more.
o Through physical expression – Sometimes your posture, a gesture from the sidelines or a simple touch is the most profound form of communication available. An arm on the shoulder after a tough loss, a hug in celebration of a victory, handshakes, pats on the back, kneeling in tears, holding a hand on an athletic trainer’s table, sobs, guffaws, sweating and even bleeding speak loudly to people of sport and communicate messages that words are too weak to bear.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Books to recommend

In response to my solicitation of materials a couple of weeks ago, I have two books to recommend.

The first is by the chaplain for Auburn University Football, Chette Williams. "Hard Fighting Soldier"
Publisher - Looking Glass Books ISBN # 978-1-929619-31-3 Available at, local bookstores and Books-A-Million.

The second is a collection of illustrations and chapel talks condensed into a daily devotional book. Things that Ben Johnson of FCA in Waco Texas has used with many pro, college, and high school teams. The title is, “Tools of the Trade: Competing on God's Team.” This book and many other good resources are at

Thursday, September 20, 2007


My mentor in ministry, Fred Bishop of No Greater Love Ministries, simply says, “Our witness is a shadow of our relationship with Christ.” On the days when my relationship with Jesus is strong, I cast a strong shadow in sharing my faith with others. When I’m not doing so well, neither is my expression of Christ’s love. As we love God and those He’s given us, our lives become conduits for the expression of God’s love and compassion for those on and around the team.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Still more study...

Notice the books and authors on the shelves of your coaches and read them – Look to see who his/her favorite author is. What sorts of books do they read? Ask to borrow a book from his/her shelf. Buy that book to study for yourself. The point here is that if you read what they read you stand to understand them better and that frame of reference will aid your understanding and will fuel discussion on matters of greatest interest to the coach.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

More Study

Read, suggest and buy books with relevance to your coaches and athletes – You can be a valuable resource to your coaches especially. If they will read, feed their minds with materials that will feed their souls as well as their minds. Visit Christian bookstores and scan the shelves for these sorts of books: Leadership principles, sport devotional books, biographies of faithful people of sport or books on issues related to their sport.

Friday, August 31, 2007


Read books, magazines, journals and articles related to your sport – Take the time to become a student of your sport. Learn all you can. Read material like these: Sports magazines, coaching journals, sport history, and articles on contemporary issues within the sport. These items for study help you understand and communicate better with your subjects. Avoid materials which have sports fans as their primary audience. Sport Mentors must maintain a competitor’s approach to the sport, as opposed to a fan’s mentality.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Taming the Tongue

“What did I just say?”

How many times have you been in the heat of competition and heard words coming out of your mouth that you weren’t proud to have said? Maybe it’s a pattern of coarse speech or cursing that you’ve had since childhood. Some of us accept this kind of language as a part of sport culture and never really think about it. Many of us however see it as a real problem and carry loads of guilt in our souls because we have no good solution for the habit we’ve developed.

For others of us the problem is not cursing but sarcasm and other forms of speech that belittle those at whom we direct it. This kind of abusive speech is just as injurious as cursing, but is somehow more culturally acceptable. Worse still, the sarcastic ones even congratulate themselves for not cursing, resulting in an even more prideful, self-righteous attitude.

Some coaches fall into a habit of critical speech and suffer the division and loss of trust that comes along with it. Second-guessing of their superiors and finding fault with their circumstances is terribly divisive and diminishes loyalty and respect among the coaching staff. Further, gossip is not limited to housewives over the back fence, but is a terribly destructive pattern for some coaches. Often among Christian coaches this takes the form of “sharing prayer concerns” for fellow coaches. Though coated in spiritual language, it’s simply gossip; it wounds people and destroys relationships.

Many of us in the world of sport genuinely love God, but our speech would lead one to assume otherwise. We may have developed a habit of vulgar or abusive language over a long time and have found it to be a very difficult flesh pattern to correct. This discord between our expressions of love for Christ and our more coarse expressions of frustration or disgust lead many to discount the validity of our faith and our devotion to the Lord Jesus. Worse still, those prone to judgment will label us as hypocrites and will turn away from the faith blaming our inconsistency as the reason for their unbelief.

Many of us have struggled with this flesh pattern by trying to outwardly regulate our flesh with varying levels of success. Some people simply make up substitute curse words. Others impose fines or forms of punishment on themselves and those around them for the utterance of offensive words. While these may seem to deal directly with the behavior, they are sometimes just our vain attempts to punish and discourage a stubborn pattern of our flesh.

The problem with this strategy and the reason for the resulting frustration is that the root of the issue is much deeper than one's flesh; it is a matter of the heart. Jesus said it this way, “For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34b NKJV) Thus no amount of external control of one's flesh can be truly effective; we must deal with the heart. The Apostle Paul expressed this same frustration in these words, “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.” (Romans 7:18 NKJV)

God has but one agent for dealing with the deepest matters of the heart and the transformation of our souls, the Holy Spirit. The key to life-changing power for overcoming such powerful habits is the application of God’s Word to our lives. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

The following is a simple plan for taming our tongues through the transformation of our hearts:

1) Begin with the understanding that a healthy motivation for such life change is a genuine love for God and a desire to please Him, not just a desire to avoid the consequences of improper speech.

2) Understand that if you are in relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, you are already forgiven and are pleasing to God because of your relationship with Christ. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 NASB) Because of these truths, you are now free to choose speech that is also pleasing to Him.

3) When you fail, confess it to God as sin. Don’t rationalize or excuse yourself. Don’t beat yourself up or wallow in self-pity. Agree with God about it and move on. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9 NASB)
If it’s helpful to have someone to whom you give account for your speech, share your successes and failures with that person on a regular basis. Above all, be faithful to share your failures and frustration with God in prayer. “He who conceals his sin will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes it will find compassion.” (Proverbs 28:13 NASB)

4) Memorize strategic scriptures to transform your mind. Many times we default to our vulgar vocabulary because there’s simply nothing else that comes to mind. By memorizing scriptures specifically about speech, we invite the Holy Spirit to shape our lives through His work of calling the words of God to our remembrance. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:26)
Work on one verse at a time, beginning with the ones that most strongly speak to your heart. “Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:105 NKJV) Do whatever it takes to get these scriptures into your mind. Print them out and tape them to the bathroom mirror to read as you prepare for the day, tape them onto your computer monitor or on the dashboard of your car. Write them out on paper several times. Repeat them out loud several times a day. Find a partner to memorize them with you and test each other.
Whatever it costs, pay it and you’ll see the changes begin. There is a suggested list of scriptures for memorization at the end of this article.

You should expect it to take a while to make lasting changes in your speech patterns. Habits that have formed over years or decades seldom disappear overnight. Live daily in the disciplines of worship, confession, prayer and scripture memory and you can expect to see transformation of your heart, your mind and your tongue. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NASB)

Suggested scriptures to memorize:

· Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

· Proverbs 10:19 – “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

· Proverbs 15:1 – “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

· Proverbs 17:27-28 – “He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is counted prudent.”

· Proverbs 21:24 – “Whoever guards his mouth and his tongue keeps his soul from trouble.”

· Proverbs 25:11 – “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”

· James 3:9 – “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of Go; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

· James 1:26 – “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”

Thursday, August 16, 2007


The Apostle Paul challenged Timothy with these words, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a worker who needs not be ashamed.” (2 Timothy 2:15) The same admonition challenges us as Sport Chaplains and Mentors. Systematic study of the Scripture and our sport will combine to uniquely equip us for this most important ministry.

· Read Scripture in light of sport and team situations – Learn to see the situations related to your sport which are in the Scripture. The Bible is full of principles that relate to sport. Some of the recurring themes are: Player/Coach relationships, team dynamics, competition, sacrifice, loyalty, fear, courage and more…
o Prepare thought provoking questions for discussion - Think through a few questions that would help relate Scripture to situations in sport and the issues relevant to your players. These may be formal discussions with competitors and coaches together. They can also be times of informal discussion with an individual over a meal or during some free time.
o Apply the Bible to the needs and issues of your sport – Be sure that your study is directly related to the sport context and not simply a cute “Sunday School” story. What might sound like a dynamite devotional thought inside your mind could fall on deaf ears if it’s not well connected to the sport orientation of your audience. Let the issues and situations drive your thoughts, and then apply the Scripture to them.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Building Community

· Relax and enjoy the simple joy of communion with the people of sport – There are few joys greater in my life that spending time with coaches and athletes, especially those who love Christ as I do. It’s fun. Relax and just enjoy it. Charles Lynn says, “Let the Lord pay you. He pays in ways better than money.” Take time at several points during a season and reflect on how many people would pay any price to be where you are and to be with these people. Yours is a highly privileged position, don’t take it lightly. Enjoy every minute of it.

· Attend a church service together. Al Miller of Jamaica occasionally arranges for members of his teams to attend church together. It provides a shared experience in a fresh setting which helps teammates to further bond their relationships.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Community Building Notes

Grieve with the team as they experience loss – As important as genuine celebration is for wins, authentic grief due to a loss may be of greater value. It’s best to talk little and to mirror the posture and expression of the team leadership. Do not minimize the importance of the loss. Don’t you dare say, “It’s just a game.” You should genuinely feel the weight of each loss and experience it with them.

Write notes of encouragement to those who demonstrate their love for God – There are few opportunities for ministry better than when you “catch them doing it right.” When you see godly expression of character in a coach or a player, encourage them strongly. Here are a few ways in which you may express encouragement for a person of sport:
o A hand-written note to say, “Thank you,” or, “I noticed.”
o Take a minute to send an email message of encouragement, mentioning specifically what you perceived in the person.
o Drop a post card in the mail while you’re away on a trip.
o Send a letter of encouragement to strengthen and to inspire.
o A simple expression like, “Here’s what I see in you.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Some people of sport are already good at community; they’re usually the ones who are winning. Those that struggle to win often have a harder time getting everyone on the same page. The hallmark of Christ’s disciples is that “they love one another.” (John 13:35) Christian love is one essential element that you can bring to this team through your love of Christ and an understanding of how to build community among them.

Rejoice in the success attained by your team – It’s important that they perceive that you’re genuinely interested in them. It’s important that they see that losses hurt and wins feel great! Celebrate victories with them. Give the players and coaches lots of “attaboys” or “attagirls” when they have achieved well. Recognize the value that they have for the sport, better yet, hold that same value in your heart.

Arrange for visits to your home – This is a great opportunity to model for your players and coaches the values and principles that rule your life. In your home, they’re on your turf and your rules apply. You can model hospitality and familial love. Having players or coaches to your home for a meal is a dynamic form of ministry that is not soon forgotten.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

More Prayer Ideas

  • Provide opportunities for competitors and coaches to pray for each other – There are several simple ways for doing this.

Prepare small sheets of paper for each one to write a couple of prayer requests, then gather all the papers and redistribute them to those present for prayer through this week.

During a chapel or similar meeting, solicit prayer requests from those present and then ask for a team member to pray for each of the requests mentioned as you all pray together.

  • Team Meal prayers – Many teams travel en masse’ and eat their meals in one large group. If the Head Coach values a prayer prior to meals, this may be an opportunity for you to pray for the meal and briefly for other matters of preparation for the competition. Keep it brief and to the point. They came here to eat, not to hear you pray.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More on Prayer

· Team Prayer – Many teams make room for a team prayer immediately before taking the field of competition and/or after the contest is completed. This may be an opportunity for you to lead with this and to thus serve the coach and the team. As always, let the Head Coach set the parameters of how and when to do the prayer and stick closely to his/her wishes.

· Individual Prayer with Coaches or Players – At various times, there may be opportunities to pray with individual coaches or players who find prayer to be helpful to their preparation for competition. Do your best to determine what is desired from this prayer time and focus there. Be sure to pray in direct relation to the coach or athlete’s role in this competition. Pray about issues like teamwork, leadership, communication, performance, honorable competition and personal discipline. Both Dietmar Ness and Andrew Wingfield Digby mentioned that contacting players who are injured or are otherwise struggling in their sport is a wise and effective strategy for ministry.

· Write a note or letter to inform someone of your prayers – A simple, hand-written note that assures a coach or an athlete of your prayers and even mentioning what you’re asking God for on his/her behalf is of infinite value.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Oswald Chambers said in is devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, “Prayer is not preparation for the work of God; it is the work of God.” I have found no other spiritual discipline to be of greater value in ministry with people than prayer. Even the most secularized person, with whom I may be speaking, if I ask him/her if we can pray together, will agree. Prayer can be a most powerful tool for both your ministry of solitude and intercession for the players and coaches and for direct ministry with them as you are together.

· Pray for favor with the leaders of your sport. The coaching staff and the other leaders in your sport will determine in large part the access you will have with the rest of the coaches and the competitors of their team. If they see you favorably, you’re in. If they don’t, you have a much more difficult assignment. I often pray for favor with such leaders and trust the Lord to provide it. (See Proverbs 21:1.)

· Prayer through the Team Roster or Batting Order - Acquire a team roster and pray for your team. That roster could come from a game program or a team media guide. However you get it, take full advantage of it and pray for each team member by name. Take note of other information like hometown and family background that is often in a media guide.
o You can pray through the roster or the batting order on game day in intercession for each of the competitors and the coaching staff.
o You can pray for those on the team when you visit practice sessions. This is a great opportunity to work on memorizing uniform numbers and names as well as praying for them.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Interesting article

Below is an excerpt from an article which recently ran in the London Times. It is an interview with recently retired Triple Jumper – Jonathan Edwards. Edwards’ life changed in 1995, when he set three world and seven British records, achieving the unprecedented feat of two world records in his first two jumps of the final of the World Championships in Gothenburg. His 18.29 metres that day remains the world record. His wind-assisted 18.43, to win the European Cup in Lille, is the longest triple jump on record.

“I never doubted my belief in God for a single moment until I retired from sport,” he says. “Faith was the reason that I decided to become a professional athlete, in the same way that it was fundamental to every decision I made. It was the foundation of my existence, the thing that made everything else make sense. It was not a sacrifice to refuse to compete on Sundays during my early career because that would imply that athletics was important in and of itself. It was not. It was always a means to an end: glorifying God.
“But when I retired, something happened that took me by complete surprise. I quickly realised that athletics was more important to my identity than I believed possible. I was the best in the world at what I did and suddenly that was not true any more. With one facet of my identity stripped away, I began to question the others and, from there, there was no stopping. The foundations of my world were slowly crumbling.”

This is a cautionary note for those of us who are engaged with people of sport. They may be saying all the right things in public, while internally they are dealing with crippling doubts and confusion. The difference between Edwards and thousands of others may simply be that he has expressed his doubts openly and now in the press.

Edwards may have been treating the Lord and Christian faith like a superstitious rabbit’s foot all along. Let’s lead wisely as we shape the faith of those whom we serve.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Coaches and Sport Mentors

Basis for Relationship
· Developing Complete Players
· Help the coaches to coach the hearts of their players
· That’s better than the coaching of hearts being relegated to the mentor only

Profile of the Sport Mentor
· Sport background and/or experience
· Player mentality is best
· Respect for the sport and a growing knowledge of it
· A desire to serve the coaching staff and their players
· One who is trustworthy and with no selfish agenda

Relationship with Head Coach = key
· Understand and reflect the coach’s values in the sport
· Speak in terms of the coach’s points of emphasis for the sport / players
· Communicate with the head coach about values, heart and intangible elements of sport

The Sport Mentoring Process
· Hear the head coach’s heart
· Observe practice sessions and competitions
· Discuss observations and possible activities with the head coach
· Execute activities and evaluate with the head coach
· Refine and continue

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Major Event Sports Chaplaincy

This information is taken from the International Sport Coalition’s Serving the People of Sport Council. They serve the international sport community by training, qualifying and choosing chaplains to serve at major sporting events. You may see their web site at:

Historically, some major sports events have sought to provide for the spiritual and pastoral needs of those involved. Thus, the Olympic Charter seeks provision for spiritual support of the competitors. Other major sports event organizers have also sought to incorporate “chaplaincy” into their support structures.

Over the years some brilliant ministry has taken place at Olympics and other large sports events. We thank God for it. Equally history will record many failures and embarrassments. These include:

· chaplains with no ongoing relationships with sportspeople seeking appointment for personal kudos;
· chaplains wishing only to evangelise competitors in the village;
· chaplains who see their mission as distributing as many Christian products (Bibles, tracts, DVDs etc) as possible;
· chaplains whose explicit purpose is to persuade Christian sportspeople to make themselves available for testimony-type interviews during the event.

We wish to propose the application of a sports-mentoring approach to sports events. Sports people need to be served 52 weeks a year, not 2. Thus the person best-equipped to serve sportspeople during a sports event, is the sports mentor who has served them during the previous 50 weeks.

Chaplaincy to a sports event has sometimes been seen as a 2 week in the year (or 2 weeks every 4 years) experience. We passionately believe that the effective sports mentor is the one who has seen the competitor, at training, at minor and local competitions and built up a relationship. The chaplain who turns up at a major event with no ingoing relationships is unlikely to develop them at that event.

Sports mentors who serve the People of Sport during sports events have a tremendous opportunity to deeply impact their lives. For many that sport event may be the culmination of a long period of training and its results may significantly shape the rest of that person’s life. The mentor can effectively serve if they understand the situation and can apply the grace of God to the life of the sportsperson and to those who surround them.

The approach that we are outlining works at the level of the Olympic Games. However Olympic chaplaincy is beyond the expectancy of most of us. What we are proposing works just as well, if not better, at any sports event. At a regional youth sports event, for example, access, needs and opportunity may be much greater than at a more “high profile” event.


In a formal, major event there is a need to adhere faithfully to the constraints of the organizing committee on religious activities during the event and to understand that failing to do so could exclude one from the very ministry they have so eagerly sought. With a major event, these instructions will be in written form. At other events, they will be much more informal and will require greater personal judgement.

Chaplains provide support when the occasional crisis comes to a competitor, volunteer worker or organizer. For example, in the past chaplains have provided support when a parent has died suddenly, when a major accident occurred during competition, when the emotional strain of homesickness became too great, or when a neutral sounding board was needed. In one sense, the service is peripheral to the competition, but to those in need, and for those who avail themselves of it, it is a vitally important provision.

A chaplaincy team also displays a caring, concerned, organizational ethic to a sports event. If it is a help to a number of those involved – competitors, officials, volunteers, and organizers – then it proves itself to be worthy of being part of the support structure for the games.

Here are six practical questions chaplains could ask themselves before an event

1) Who are the particular teams, persons, groups I should seek to serve during this event?
2) When and where are they most available?
3) What are the particular needs they have that I could faithfully serve?
4) What are the resources at hand to further such service?
5) With whom should I network to best serve those I have identified?
6) What sorts of methods will be best received by them and allowed by the host agency?

Choosing suitable chaplains

Advice should be sought from a wide range of individuals and agencies before choosing the chaplaincy team.


The following characteristics, which should be sought in any potential chaplain, as set out in the previous session are equally relevant for event chaplains:

· They must be knowledgeable about sport and the needs of competitors at the event’s level.
· They must be willing and able to work together with a sportsperson's personal and team coaches, family members, and personal spiritual advisors in order to enhance his or her spiritual stability.
· They must be willing and able to develop ministry all aspects of the world of sport – players, coaches, administrators etc.
· They must have a love for people and be willing to serve them in any way possible.
· They must be trained in Biblical matters and able to communicate spiritual insights, with application to sport.
· Finally but most importantly, they must have an ongoing relationship with people competing in the event.

The following additional characteristics apply specifically to major event chaplains:

· The person shouId currently be involved in ministry to elite level sports people.
· The person should be endorsed by their denomination and any local church or organization to which they are accountable.
· The person should have had previous sports event chaplaincy experience.
· For an international event, the person speaks significant languages.
· The person has a capacity for self-funding their involvement and to offer their services on a volunteer basis.
· The person will function as a team player and to fulfil their rota commitments with diligence and integrity.

The following criteria were used to select chaplains for the 2006 Winter Olympics

former sportsperson/ different sports to cover (summer/ winter)
important languages, different countries (3 Points per language)
Experience as Chaplain at MSE, or high profile level event
ongoing ministry in serving the people of sport/ follow up
contacts in the event/ insider
gifting: mentoring
church background, different denominations, ordained pastor
gender (female ratio of the Chaplain team)

Total Score

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes has launched a new web site for sport chaplains. It has some very basic training information and a page of resources which are at this link.

Please take a look at the site and you are welcome to any and all of the resources listed there.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Your presence after losses is worth more than it is after victories.

The world is full of bandwagon jumpers. It seems that when a team is winning, people who haven’t seen a single competition in years are suddenly super fans. They seem to appear from nowhere. The coaches and players quietly say to each other, “Where were they when we were losing every week?” The latecomers, no matter how loudly they cheer or how much money they spent on their team logo gear, do not impress them.

The whole team will remember you and will respect you if you’re the one who hangs around to encourage and to console after bitter defeats and not just after exhilarating victories. Your credibility will be built on your knees while you sob with them after a painful loss. Then you’ll know real joy and excitement when you share the fun that comes with winning.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Your presence in the locker (changing) room is worth more than your presence in the newspaper or on television.

While you may perceive some value in being noticed by the TV camera or the newspaper writer, there is a far greater value in your being available to the players and coaches surrounding the competition’s beginning and ending. Watch as the coaches and players during pre-game preparations and as they leave the locker room or the field and pay attention to their emotions. You might be in perfect position for a very important conversation or to just sit with them in silence.

There have been several instances where the privileged information that I had would have made a real scoop for a sportswriter or television reporter, but to leak the story would have violated the trust I was building with the coaching staff and competitors. It would have also put me in the worst possible situation with the writer or reporter. They’d begin to view me as simply a source for information or stories and not as a part of the support system to those for whom I profess to care.

Let the media get their stories from someone else, you’re here for the sport participants. Avoid the temptation to be seen as the person with “inside information” or “the friend of the program.” Those designations are usually ones assigned to privilege seekers, influence brokers and athletic wannabes. You must keep your focus on the needs of your coaches and athletes.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Global Sport Chaplain Sites

Below are some links to organizations around the world which are doing a good job with sport chaplains. You may take a few minutes to see what they’re doing, to reflect upon the merits of their ideas and possibly adopt some methods, strategies or tools in your ministry with the people of sport. This is sports chaplaincy in Australia. This is the site for SRS Pro Sportler in Germany. Most of the site is in German. This is Score from the United Kingdom. They train sport chaplains across England. This is Good News Sports from Australia. This is a new site just now being launched by FCA on which I’ll be loading resources, training materials, announcing chaplain oriented events, etc… Watch for more about this.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Your presence in the coach’s office is worth more than your presence at the stadium or arena.

Taking some time to informally visit the coaching staff in their offices is often a very fruitful time. This is often a more relaxed atmosphere than on the field of competition and you can learn a lot about their values by what’s on the bookshelf, from the photos on the wall, etc… Be observant and take some time to build the trust that will be most valuable to you down the road.

In thirteen years with our (American) football team, I have had conversations with two different head coaches as they considered job offers with other larger and more prestigious programs. In both cases, our private conversations about the most important matters of life helped shape their decisions. One chose to leave, for the best possible reasons. The other coach chose to stay, for many of the same reasons. The values and priorities that we discussed in those meetings cannot be shared in a noisy stadium or in the busyness of a practice session. I’ve had numerous lunch meetings with basketball coaches desperately trying to solve staff conflicts and looking for motivational keys to certain players. We could never have had these discussions at courtside or outside the locker room. Some things must be discussed behind closed doors and with absolute confidence.

Your presence in the coach’s office will be most important when there are decisions to make about career moves, about personnel hiring and firing, about player discipline questions and more. Be respectful of their time and if you’re not invited, get an appointment. When invited to the office to meet with a coach, let him/her set the agenda and tend to their questions first. As you’re faithful to help where invited, you’ll find freedom to pursue other matters that are on your mind and heart.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Presence: a Key to Effective Ministry

If you’re not present, you don’t have a chance for ministry. Establishing a presence with the team or individual competitors sets the tone for all the ministry opportunities that could follow. Your regular presence with the players will create an identity for you among the coaches and the competitors. The following points are meant to help you establish a presence with them in the most important places. Once you’ve established your identity through presence, you can have influence with them without even being there.

Your presence at practice is worth more than your presence at competitions. Dozens, hundreds or sometimes thousands of people attend the competitions, to scream, second-guess and support the team. Who comes to watch practice? Only those most highly committed to the team are at practice. If you are there, your presence communicates commitment. The coaches and players are at practice every day and they know exactly who’s there. They also take note of it. There is nothing that builds loyalty and establishes your relationship with the coaches, players and the team as a unit like simply attending practice.

One afternoon while watching a Women’s basketball practice, an assistant coach approached me at courtside. She said, "Coach has something that she’d like to have you pray about." I was thrilled to see anything spiritual come from the head coach, so I asked her to tell me more. "She thinks she cusses too much and wants to stop," was the request. I assured her that I would pray for her about that and I did so. That day was a real turning point in my relationship with that coach and the whole team. That relationship continues to be strong to this day, three head coaches later. The opportunity came to me because I was there at practice.

You don’t have to do anything, but be there. It’s a perfect time to become familiar with those on the team, the coaching staff, the support personnel and more. It need not take lots of time. Most times, my visits to practices are brief and when I’m on the way to somewhere else or at the end of a workday on the way home. To simply observe practice and to pray for those you see is a dynamic ministry that will produce fruit with perseverance.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

New website:

wired4sport promotes the value of, integrity in and love of sport. My earliest memories of competition took place almost daily at the neighborhood playground.

I remember delightedly hanging in mid-air, reaching and grabbing, reaching and grabbing, metal bar after bar, my legs wildly swinging, going from one end of the monkey bars to the other. The official scorekeeper, my dad, would count out loud how many bars I conquered. When my arms gave out, I would rest and have him start the count all over again.

The set a new world record by going one bar further than the last time. As a young child, my competitive drive and spirit was alive and well. There is no doubt in my mind that I am wired4sport. My need to run, jump, shoot, hit, slide, throw, go one further, have the most points at the end, run one second faster was there from the beginning. I've had a love affair with sport ever since I can remember.

wired4sport promotes the value of, integrity in and love of sport. The writers for wired4sport are all folks who acknowledge and value that we are designed to play and compete. Being wired4sport is a vital part of who we are. All of us played sport as children and sport continues to be an important part of our lives.

It's been many years since I competed in the Monkey Bar World Championship but I remember the value of counting each bar correctly. When the hands would slip and the world champ fell off, the count had to start back to zero. As a child, the integrity of counting correctly demonstrated my true love and respect for the monkey bar competition. is a community of people who love and respect sport so much we can't help but count correctly, play fairly, and honor the spirit of competition. The valuable lessons and benefits we gained from sport compel us to tell our stories. We hope our personal narratives will resonate with your experiences and persuade you to share your stories, too. Feel free to visit often and contribute your memorable moments and perspectives in sport!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Focus on matters of the heart, not on the flesh.

People of sport are unique in society because their best days and their worst days are out in the public for everyone to see. Their flesh, its best parts and its worst parts, are the easiest parts of them to see. How often have you watched an important contest on television and just as an official makes a call that goes against the coach, the camera zooms right in on his face and all the lip-readers in the nation know he wasn’t blessing the official. His flesh is now on display for a national or even international television audience.

If I took offense to every curse word and profanity that I’ve heard in my years on the field of competition, I’d be forever upset. As it is, I’ve had to learn to see past such behavior and to pursue the hearts of our coaches and athletes without respect to their failings. Having a sober view of my own personal weaknesses has also tempered my reactions to others’ bent to outbursts of anger or other foolish actions.

It requires more insight and more faith to see their hearts and to know them below the surface. Everyone has their personal weaknesses, their particular flaws of character, but we must be careful to not have these become the defining characteristics of those with whom we do ministry. We must look beyond that flaw and see the heart that the Lord so deeply loves.

Friday, April 6, 2007


While attending the Illinois Football Coaches Clinic in Champaign last Thursday through Saturday, I observed some things about the coaches.
1) They love what they do. It’s almost an obsession with many of them.
2) Some of them seem very comfortable in their football environment, but much less so elsewhere.
3) Many of them are more controlled by peer pressure than the most insecure 13 year old kid.
4) When we talk with them about how their lives in Christ can shape their coaching, it’s sometimes seen as an intrusion (would rather not integrate those two) and other times they’re like little kids on Christmas morning unwrapping a huge gift.
5) When we talked about leadership development from Jesus’ model, it was energizing and fun for them. (Even with a 9:45 pm start…)
6) They will invest tons of time and energy to improve their knowledge, insight, skills and network for their teams’ benefit.

All these make me more committed to serving them well because when they are committed to Christ, they bring those same qualities to their lives of faith and service.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Talk about faith in the context of the game - don’t talk about religion.

Most competitors that I’ve known live with a constant tension between their lives in sport and their lives of faith. Many of them cannot justify the two and many more cannot live out their faith in the context of their sport experience. I’ve heard too many coaches or athletes say, “I’m a Christian, but I’m a coach/athlete.” BUT… In their minds those are contradictory. This must not continue to be so. Such attitudes are perpetuated when we simply import religion into the arena of sport and don’t work to integrate faith into the sport experience. This is not easily done, but must be pursued within the context of the sport culture. Thus we must speak of matters of faith as they appear in the fabric of the sport in which your team competes.

At the end of one college football season, I wanted to make one final, direct approach to an All-American punter who was about to graduate. I asked him to join me for lunch. I was all set to be very direct about his faith in Christ or the lack thereof, but as we talked over our pizza, he began to volunteer some information that was most amazing. He began to tell me that he now understood why he had chosen to play football in high school, why he had chosen to come to our university, why he had come to game day chapels so faithfully and why our relationship had become so important. He said, “I think it was so I could come to know God.” I agreed and he continued to tell me about the night before an important game how all these factors had become crystal clear to him and how he had committed his life to Christ. We went on to talk about how to pursue this new relationship with God and how it fit his life as a soon-to-be professional football player.

Look for the issues confronting your coaches and competitors as they compete and search the Scriptures and the Lord’s heart for His way of faithfully dealing with such. Speak the language of the game with your team. Use metaphors and similes that fit the sport’s culture and communicate the truth of Scripture through them.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Consistently encourage and keep your critical thoughts to yourself.

When you encourage good attitudes, enthusiastic competition, hard work and good behavior they will notice. When you silently endure foolish behavior, coarse language, bad attitudes and laziness; that too will be noticed. You will usually not even have to say anything, they’ll apologize right away. There’s no need for you to criticize. If they want your opinion, they’ll ask for it. When you’ve earned the right to be heard, they will ask directly.

Between football seasons one year, a player with whom I’d prayed individually each game day through the previous season, made a foolish mistake and received a ticket for driving under the influence of alcohol. I saw the notice in the newspaper and heard about it through the rumor mill, but he was racked by guilt. He was terribly embarrassed and had to face his parents with the matter. Later he summoned up the courage to call me for a lunch engagement. I knew what he had on his mind, but wasn’t about to cheat him out of the growth opportunity. We met and he apologized for letting me down. I assured him of my forgiveness and more importantly, the Lord’s forgiveness of him. We went on to talk at length about how to live a more disciplined lifestyle and how to honor the Lord in all of life. We remain great friends and he went on to play in the Arena Football League (U.S.A.) and has begun coaching college football, still following the Lord. A harsh, condemning attitude could have crashed our relationship and possibly soured him on following Christ.

When you offer your opinion without being asked, you are seen as presumptuous and often foolish. You may be found to be speaking without knowledge and one foolish comment could ruin your credibility for a long time. It’s always a good idea to encourage people when you catch them doing the right thing. It’s seldom a good idea to correct them when you’ve not been asked to comment.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Leading Volunteers

As I prepared my talk for an upcoming event, I gathered some thoughts about leadership with volunteers. As we serve the people of sport, many times we are in volunteer roles and we also find ourselves leading other volunteers in such service. Below are some thoughts about such leadership. I hope they are helpful to you.

Late last summer I was reading “Good to Great and the Social Sectors,” an addendum to Jim Collins’ tremendous book about business leadership which I had read a few years ago.

One of the main points in both books is to determine what drives the resource engine for an organization – whether that is the profitability of a company or the effectiveness of a non-profit organization like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a local church or something like a healthcare corporation.
· As I thought and analyzed how our ministry works, I came to the realization that our greatest resource was not necessarily money; rather it was the amazing team of highly committed volunteers we have gathered over these last 13 years.
· Volunteers are our resource of highest value.
· Obviously, finances are another highly productive part of our resource engine and that’s much of what tonight is about.
· I also saw that the areas in which we most effectively involve volunteers are the easiest ministries for which to find financial support.

Leading Volunteers well is a tremendous challenge.
· Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago area is quoted as saying that the Church is the most leadership intensive enterprise in the world, because most everyone is a volunteer. You can’t fire them, they don’t work for you. The leader has no leverage beyond his/her personal investment in the volunteers.
· As we lead volunteers in our respective ministries, we have to find ways to engage them in something significant, something bigger than just completing a task. If we’re too demanding – they’ll walk away. If we’re too soft – they’ll get bored and quit.
· I cut my volunteer teeth serving with No Greater Love Ministries, a short-term missions and leadership development organization, based in DuQuoin, IL. I have been serving with them for nearly 25 years and still do because they make me a better leader.The big question for me in leading volunteers is always, “Is this something in which this person can invest his or her heart, time and energy, and have it really count for something?” I pray that our work together has real significance.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Resources available

I would like to make available a number of written resources for discussions with coaches, trainers or competitors. You will see a title for the document and a brief description. If you would like to have any or all of these, simply email me at and let me know which ones are of interest to you and I will email them straight to you.

· Wisdom for a Young Head Coach – This is a verse by verse discussion guide for a coach’s group from 1 and 2 Timothy.
· Coaching Points – This is a verse by verse discussion guide for a coach’s group from Titus.
· Bible Studies for Athletes – This is a verse by verse discussion guide for athletes and/or coaches from James.
· Winners – This is a topical discussion for athletes and/or coaches with Bible texts related to characteristics of winners.
· Leading Sport Oriented Bible Studies – This is a simple guide for the leaders of such discussions with athletes and/or coaches.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Seek always to serve and do not seek privilege.

This is of premier importance. Whatever your role is with the players and/or coaches, you must fulfill it to your absolute best, then be ready to serve in whatever capacity is needed. If you do a team chapel, give them the best you have to offer every single time. Then do whatever you can to help the rest of the day.

While working with an (American) football team, I’ve spent countless hours retrieving balls for the kickers. At other times it meant dealing with tickets, logistics, hotel reservations, arranging meals or solving problems. I’ve spent lots of weekends distributing post-game meals on the team bus. Wherever there is an opportunity to serve, I’ll take it because it gives me one more opportunity to engage the coaches and players face to face. None of these are glamorous activities and most would not see them as part of “ministry,” but they’re vital to the process.

This is not a role in which you can simply do your thing and then bask in the glory of it. That kind of attitude will repel everyone and you’ll soon be wondering where they went. Employ Jesus’ attitude as seen in Mark chapter 10 and verses 41 – 45 and look for the opportunity to serve and to sacrifice.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Loyalty is of greater value than prestige.

If you will be loyal to the coaches and athletes on their worst days, you’ll have their hearts on their best days. They won’t be impressed with your resume’, your programs, ideas, money, friends or anything else you may think builds your prestige.
They’ll be impressed if you hang in there with them through losing streaks. They’ll trust you if you are loyal to them when their character is called into question.

I believe I won a great deal of loyalty points the season before I began traveling with the football team. During a painful, 1 win vs. 10 losses season, I drove up to the school to meet the team upon their arrival after winning that first game of the season. My wife, son and I listened to the game on the radio in eager anticipation of a desperately needed victory. It must have been well after midnight when the bus arrived, but just to be there to say, “Congratulations, we’re proud of you,” made it worthwhile for all of us.

The players will value you greatly if you make time for them when it’s terribly uncomfortable in preseason and you’re at practice. They’ll believe in you when you meet them upon their arrival after a rough road trip. When you display loyalty, you build deeply your bank of relational assets.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Conduct yourself with humility and watch out for presumption.

Nothing does more to tear down the credibility you need with the coaches and competitors than presumption. Presumption is demanding free tickets, foolishly inviting yourself into places where you don’t belong, assuming that you should be welcome on the sidelines on game day and expecting to be outfitted with team shirts, caps, etc… Though you might think that you’ve earned such privileges, that attitude could kill your ministry opportunity.

Presumption is an ugly attitude that coaches and players can smell a mile away. Show proper humility and you won’t have to worry about it. Jaime Fernandez of Spain says, “Have a pastor’s heart for the players and don’t be presumptuous.” Don’t assume anything. Ask permission. Ask the Head Coach to draw some parameters for you and then stick to them. If you’re given 15 minutes for a chapel, you’d better not take 20. If you’re invited to take part in an event, do not show up late. Fulfill your responsibilities as completely as possible.

I remember one gentleman who was the President of a group of investors and supporters for the university’s athletic department and he seemed to think that his having that title gave him instant access to everyone and everything related to the team. How wrong he was. I watched from the sideline as he would stroll uninvited onto the field during pre-game warm up activities. I saw the players’ eyes rolling with disdain as he would walk past. I saw the look of annoyance on the coaches’ faces. I also watched later that season when the head coach was so annoyed that he had him escorted by stadium security from the field. His presumption had pushed him way beyond the favor he thought his position was due.

Prove yourself faithful and reliable in the small details and you’ll be invited to take part in more weighty matters. As you show proper humility, you’ll be given favor and access that you could have only dreamed about before. If you presume your way around, you’ll alienate the whole team.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Be Available

Being a Sport Chaplain or Mentor for people of sport is not often convenient. Unless you do it as a full-time profession, it can be very inconvenient. This aspect of the role is most costly. Being available doesn’t mean just for periodic practices, competitions and such. It means making trips to the hospital to visit the ailing coach or player. It could mean a trip to the emergency room in an ambulance. It may mean painful visits to wakes and funerals.

Being there is most important. Noting can replace the investment of time and inconvenience that one pays when he breaks off an appointment or a dinner engagement to visit with a troubled young player. Nothing can devalue the hours spent over dinner in your home with a coaching staff or individual competitors.

During May of 2000, I received a call one evening from the head coach of the Men’s Track and Field team at the university. After some small talk he asked me what my plans were for the coming week and I shared them briefly with him. He then asked if I’d like to go with the team to the Missouri Valley Championships in Wichita. I asked why and the answer stunned me. One of the shot and discus throwers from the women’s team had recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia, had withdrawn from the team and the university and had just committed suicide that weekend. The coaches were really worried about their athletes and the administrators were very concerned about how the others on the team would react. I said, “Hey, I’m not a psychologist!” To which he responded, “Yeah, we already have one of those, but the kids know you and trust you.” After some quick consultation with my wife, I called him back and agreed to go. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I was willing to be of assistance however I could. I had several opportunities to speak with those athletes and their coaches about the real life and death spiritual issues surrounding this very troubling situation.

Being available to those in your care, on their schedule, is invaluable. If you’re not willing to be regularly inconvenienced for them, please don’t presume to be their Sport Mentor.

Friday, February 2, 2007

On-line resources for Sport Chaplains and Sport Mentors

I would like to make you aware of some on-line resources that could be helpful in your work. Some of you will be able to open a new browser window to these sites by simply clicking on the underlined address. This is an organization in Australia which supports and trains sport chaplains. This is another organization in Australia which supports and trains sport chaplains. This is the site for an agency in Great Britain which trains and places sport chaplains, primarily with football (soccer) clubs and works with major sports events. This is the web site for the International Sport Coalition, with which I serve on the Serving the People of Sport Council. This is the web site for SRS Pro Sportler in Germany. This outstanding sports ministry has done Sport Mentoring for a long time and very effectively. This is the site for an annual Sport Chaplains Roundtable which occurs in the fall – one in Indianapolis, IN and another in Grand Rapids, MI. This is the site for Verite’ Sport in Great Britain. Stuart Weir is in my estimation the world’s best writer of material which serves to help athletes integrate their faith in to their lives of sport. This is the site for an issue oriented radio show / podcast by Gordon Thiessen of Cross Training Publishing and former Univ. of Nebraska Football Coach, now FCA Staff member – Ron Brown.

Sport Mentor Video

This is a link to a news story which was done about my ministry with Southern Illinois University Football. The reporter captured much of what I’m trying to do.

Relationships / Attitude / Presence

From my experience as a Sport Mentor, a competitor and a sport official, there are just a few key principles that make for good ministry with sport teams and individuals. Those principles are simply stated in three words: Relationships, Attitude and Presence. In the following pages we’ll address each one with more detail and a few illustrative stories.

It is often helpful to have a succinct, direct statement of purpose to help define a role of ministry. The following statement is my attempt at simply and briefly stating the purpose of a Sport Chaplain or Sport Mentor.
The Sport Chaplain or Sport Mentor serves the people of sport in the process of fully becoming the people whom God created them to be.
The Sport Chaplain or Mentor does this through:
· Redemptive Relationships
· Proper Attitudes
· Strategic Presence
· Effective Whole Life Training

Ministry with the People of Sport

For decades people who are actively engaged in the world of sport have been used by the world to promote products of all sorts and by the Church to promote various religious events and relationship with Christ Jesus. Sadly, we in the Church have often been as utilitarian in our relationships with the people of sport as the world has been. One group of people within the Church, and particularly in para-church Christian ministries, has sought to serve the spiritual needs of these people. The wisest of them serve them in a way that cares for their whole person and their development in all of life. These people are often referred to as “Sport Chaplains.”

We have observed a number of different emphases among those who are engaged in ministry with the people of sport. As ministry to people in sport continues to expand and develop, generic terms such as "sports chaplain" are becoming less helpful in describing the approaches to serving the people of sport. As sport chaplaincy has matured, different approaches have emerged. It may be helpful to refer to the terms defined by Lowrie McCown of 360sports. The following terms are used by the "Serving the People of Sport Council" of the International Sports Coalition to train people to serve in sport around the world.
· Evangelist Chaplain – His or her goal is conversion to Christ of people in sport and the proclamation of the Gospel through people of influence in the world of sport. They typically work with a team or a club, sometimes also at major sports events. They may hold chapel services and their ministry is primarily program, event and message driven.
· Pastoral Chaplain – This person’s goal is personal piety (Christ-like behavior) and spiritual growth in the people of sport. Their approach is more relational and they’ll employ methods like Bible studies and personal discipleship methods to further the spiritual lives of those whom they serve. They will usually not concern themselves with sport issues, but will emphasize the spiritual dimension of life with those they serve.
· Sport Mentor – The Sport Mentor’s goal is more comprehensive, seeking a wholehearted, Christ-honoring life in sport (relationships with the sport, with teammates, coaches, support staff, officials, etc.) and outside sport (relationships with spouse, family, friends, the Church, etc.). Their approach to Evangelism and Discipleship based on the individual’s personal journey with biblical application in the sport experience for faith and life. They will approach spiritual matters with a long-term focus, committed to the whole-life development process of each person. While evangelist chaplains and pastoral chaplains may simply tolerate sport as a way to minister to the people involved in it, the Sport Mentor must fully engage the sport, its culture and all those who participate in it to be an effective and transformational force in their lives.

Regardless of which of these roles is most like you, the issue is to faithfully serve Christ Jesus as we serve the people of sport. I pray that our weekly posts will assist you in that process.

Meet their Families

Below is another excerpt from “Transforming Lives in Sport.” It again affirms the centrality of building redemptive Relationships to our work with the People of Sport.

Meet their Families. For teams at the college, club and professional level, the players are mostly removed from their homes and families, so when the family comes to town to visit, it’s an important occasion. Many times they will want to meet the Sport Chaplain or Mentor and to visit with you about their child’s spiritual life. This can be a very valuable relationship for you. You may have the opportunity to invest in the life of not only the player or coach, but the rest of the family as well.

I’ve stood at practices many times praying with players whose mothers or fathers had recently been diagnosed with cancer or had been hospitalized with a heart attack. There have also been a number of players whose families have been shattered by divorce or infidelity and it has hit them very hard. Most of them have left their homes and are hours away from the people they love. Coaches and competitors are just normal people and their families are not immune from the struggles of pain, disease, heartache and death. Simply taking time for prayer and compassion means more to them than I can possibly express.

Meeting the families, even briefly helps build your bond with the players and coaches.

Ask Good Questions

Below is another excerpt from “Transforming Lives in Sport.” It again affirms the centrality of building redemptive Relationships to our work with the People of Sport.

Ask Good Questions. Learn all you can about the sport in which your charges compete. Ask good questions. Take time to learn from the coaches and the competitors about the sport and their points of emphasis within it.

They’ll be impressed that you care about and respect the sport and it will further aid in the integration process that we’re working to achieve. If they see you learning about the sport, they will feel freer to ask you questions about matters of faith.

I typically ask questions about what I see during the practice or competition which I’m attending. I’ll ask a coach, “Tell me about number 20. He seems like a good leader for your team.” I’ll ask a player, “What are some keys to your team’s success this season?” I’ll ask a coach about a particular game situation or a moment which I think will prompt a positive response. I certainly won’t say anything that can be construed as second-guessing or a negative comment. If we continue to speak only about religion and ignore their orientation toward sport, we’ll only further their conflicted thinking.

The Socratic method of asking good questions and thereby drawing out those with whom we speak cannot be overvalued. Asking good questions of competitors can quickly open conversations. A question asked in the right moment can open the heart much more effectively than making a dozen statements. The coach or competitor will be more deeply engaged when we ask a probing question and wait for an answer than when we do all the talking.

This is another entry for my colleagues who are engaged in ministry with people of sport. In particular they are for those of us who refer to our roles as “Chaplain” or “Sport Mentor.” Some of the material in these emails will be from my book, Transforming Lives in Sport – A Guide for Sport Chaplains and Sport Mentors. (Available through Other notes will come from my observations as I work with teams and individuals, still other ideas will come from some of you as you create new methods or devise new strategies for effective ministry.

If you would like to contribute to these weekly notes, please reply with your thoughts and I’ll consider how to best present them to our team of Sport Chaplains and Sport Mentors. Thank you very much.