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.