Wednesday, December 24, 2008


III John 13-14

As the year nears its close, I want to thank you for taking time to read these devotional thoughts. It is a great privilege and an honor for me to have such favor with you. I deeply appreciate it.

The Apostle John expresses well my feelings in his third letter at verses 13 and 14, “I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.”

We all have friends who have been displaced over the years. Whether childhood friends, teammates from our years in school or coworkers from adulthood, we’ve been separated by time and the circumstances of life. It’s important to maintain these relationships, even if just by email.

There is, however, no substitute for seeing each other face to face and enjoying the sweet communion of dear friends.

As valuable as writing to you is to me, speaking with you face to face is even better. I hope to do so very soon and to greet you, my friends, by name. Thanks again for all you, and all the people of sport, mean to me.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sports Chaplaincy USA survey

These past 12 months have been phenomenal for me personally as I have witnessed the global growth of Sports Chaplaincy first hand.
· Our email network of sports chaplains and sports mentors has grown significantly and I really enjoy sending these weekly notes to hundreds around the world.
· In July, I made a trip to Jamaica and worked with dear friends in training sports chaplains for their sport communities. They now continue to do further training with the books we left in country.
· In October, I was privileged to speak to and do training with the best developed network of sports chaplains on the planet – Sports Chaplaincy Australia.
· In November I met with the International Sport Coalition’s Serving the People of Sport Coalition and we further grew our global network of sports chaplains and sports mentors.
· I am now anticipating a trip to Singapore in January to work with our friends there to help train sports chaplains for that country, for others in Southeast Asia and for the Youth Olympics to be held there in 2010.
· I’ve been in conversation with men and women in the world of academia who are seeking to add their expertise to the world of sports chaplaincy in the USA.
· I’ve been hearing from others across the USA who are feeling the same sense of God’s movement in relation to sports chaplaincy and we’re trying to hear clearly what our Lord wants for it.

All these factors lead me to ask some questions of those of you who are in the USA about helping to develop a network which would provide training, certification and ongoing resourcing and encouragement to sports chaplains around the country. The model we see in Sports Chaplaincy Australia would seem to be a great fit in the USA and this network would probably be very similar to that one.

If you’re reading this from beyond the borders of the USA, please pray for us as we seek to grow and develop Sports Chaplaincy as well as you have.

Please take a moment and reply to this questionnaire. Your insights and opinions can help us discern whether such a network is ready to develop or if it’s still a few years away. Please reply to Thanks very much.

1. Would you participate in a course of training which would result in an official certification of your qualifications as a sport chaplain? Yes or No?
2. Would you lead others in your organization or within your influence to participate in such a course? Yes or No?
3. Would you be willing to pay a nominal annual fee for participation in a national network of sports chaplains? Yes or No?
4. What amount would be the most your would annually invest in such a network? $50 $100 $150 $250
5. Would you participate in annual national or regional meetings of sports chaplains for ongoing training, networking, encouragement and resources? Yes or No?
6. How great a deterrent would it be to such a network if it had any particular Sports Ministry’s name on it? (Choose one.) None A little A lot I would simply not participate
7. How important would it be to you for this network to include sports chaplains from a wide variety of different sports, different sports ministries and church affiliations? Not at all A little A lot It must be so
8. Would you like to be involved in the formation and establishment of such a network’s course of training and structure? Yes or No?
9. Would you like to serve as a member of an Advisory Board of Sport Chaplains for such a network? Yes or No?
10. Please indicate any or all of your affiliations in sports ministry from the list below.
a. Athletes in Action
b. Fellowship of Christian Athletes
c. Chaplains Roundtable (Charlotte, Indy or Lansing)
d. International Sports Coalition
e. Motor Racing Outreach
f. World Span
g. Hockey Ministries International
h. Baseball Chapel
i. Nations of Coaches
j. Champions for Christ
k. Church Staff ___________________________________ (name)
l. University or seminary ____________________________ (name)
m. Other _________________________________________ (name)

11. Comments: ______________________________________________________________________________________

Your name and contact information: ___________________________________________________________________

Thanks once again for your valuable insight as we try to discern the Lords’ will re: Sports Chaplaincy in the USA.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

SPS Ministry with Coaches

Ministry Ideas –
Develop relationships with them through:
Visiting them at practices and/or in their offices.
Attend their coaching conferences and conventions and serving them while there.
Speaking with them at competitions, camps or tournaments.
Hosting or attending a coaching clinic.
Host a performance enhancement camp or clinic and invite area coaches to attend.
Purchase and give books to them re: coaching, leadership, etc.
Network sports equipment and other resources to their teams.
Hold a Coaches and Parents meeting during a sport camp to help the parents learn about the game and to become familiar with the coaching staff.
Personally mentor a coach re: a part of his or her life which the coach believes needs attention.
Be a friend, confidant and sounding board for the coach.
Host a Coach’s evening (social event with a brief talk) at a tournament.
Host a Coaches and Spouses Appreciation event to honor area coaches and their spouses.
Support the coach’s family – spouse and children.
Help develop a support team for those who also carry lots of administrative duties.
Help develop recognition for what they do as ministry and as mission within their church and local churches.

Challenges – Timing (on-season, off-season, vacations…) and resources (physical and financial).

Network Coaches –
Invite coaches from other countries to train in your city or with your team.
Send coaches to other regions of the world. They will need these qualities:
Technical ability and a holistic approach to sport and faith
Retired coaches are ideal for long-term assignments (1 month to 1 year).
Active coaches are ideal for short-term assignments (1 week to 1 month).
Get coaches together for coaching development in schools or universities.

Challenges – Timing (on-season, off-season, vacations…) and finding the right people for each situation.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Sounds of Sport

I love the sounds of sport. There are powerful echoes in my mind from decades of competition and playing my heart out.
I love the sound of….
· the crack of a baseball from a wooden bat, whistling into the outfield grass and thumping off the wall.
· the loud explosion from my racquetball racquet as it crushes the blue ball into the corner.
· the swish of a basketball as it drops through the nylon twine of the net.
· the crashing thud of shoulder pads and helmets as a linebacker collides with a running back in the A gap.
· the stillness of pre-game locker rooms as the players and coaches prepare for competition.
· the murmurs of a home crowd after their team has committed a game changing turnover. Especially if I’m with the visiting team.
· the off-key, lung straining, joyous singing of the team’s fight song in celebration of a hard fought victory.
· the endless string of clichés emanating from the dugout on a sunny afternoon at the baseball park.
I love these sounds because they are full of life and energy. As we play our hearts out, these sounds ring in our ears and carve deep memories in our souls. Let’s compete and listen to the sounds of life.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ministry with Coaches

Below are some notes from last week’s Serving the People of Sport Council meetings in Orlando Florida. These are some notes related to ministry with coaches. Check out the web site at

Ministry Ideas –
Develop relationships with them through:
· Visiting them at practices and/or in their offices.
· Attend their coaching conferences and conventions and serving them while there.
· Speaking with them at competitions, camps or tournaments.
· Hosting or attending a coaching clinic.
· Host a performance enhancement camp or clinic and invite area coaches to attend.
· Purchase and give books to them re: coaching, leadership, etc.
· Network sports equipment and other resources to their teams.
· Hold a Coaches and Parents meeting during a sport camp to help the parents learn about the game and to become familiar with the coaching staff.
· Personally mentor a coach re: a part of his or her life which the coach believes needs attention.
· Be a friend, confidant and sounding board for the coach.
· Host a Coach’s evening (social event with a brief talk) at a tournament.
· Host a Coaches and Spouses Appreciation event to honor area coaches and their spouses.
· Support the coach’s family – spouse and children.
· Help develop a support team for those who also carry lots of administrative duties.
· Help develop recognition for what they do as ministry and as mission within their church and local churches.
Challenges – Timing (on-season, off-season, vacations…) and resources (physical and financial).

Network Coaches –
Invite coaches from other countries to train in your city or with your team.
Send coaches to other regions of the world. They will need these qualities:
. Technical ability and a holistic approach to sport and faith
· Retired coaches are ideal for long-term assignments (1 month to 1 year).
· Active coaches are ideal for short-term assignments (1 week to 1 month).
· Get coaches together for coaching development in schools or universities.
· Challenges – Timing (on-season, off-season, vacations…) and finding the right people for each situation.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Notes from Adrian Despres

This week’s notes come from Adrian Despres, a chaplain at the University of South Carolina in the USA.

At the University of South Carolina, I teach our Chaplains that there are four Commandments of Chaplaincy. Here they are:

Commandment 1. Never Coach! I played in college. I know football, but the coach has probably forgotten more than I know. Coaches do not want us coaching.

Commandment 2. Never get in the way. Do not talk to players at practice if there is the slightest chance that a coach wants them paying attention. Talk to them at breaks and after practice.

Commandment 3. Never be a fan. We are allowed to cheer a little and encourage, but fans yell at the guys when things are not going well and fans even yell at the refs!!!! NEVER!!

Commandment 4. NEVER deal with the media. The media will twist just about everything we say. Like the guy in Florida who had the headlines in USA Today saying all Jews are going to Hell. He was probably misquoted, but the next week of articles asked the question, "Should sports have Chaplains after all?" USA Today said NO! The ACLU is looking for us and they find us in the paper!!!! We do not want to get our coaches sued.

So as nice as it would be to have our pictures in the paper (Stroke our pride), do not do it - EVER.

Adrian Despres
Vice President Kingdom Building Ministries
Itinerant Evangelist
Chaplain USC Football

Friday, November 7, 2008


The Jags team chaplain on faith in the locker room.
by Anthony Johnson, Chaplain for the Jags (As told to Anna K. Clemmons)
Preston Mack
1. FAITH COVERS THE WHOLE FIELD. "Each team has a chaplain. A degree, but not seminary, is required to land the job. I played in the NFL for 11 years, and when I started this job in 2003, I was one of only three former players serving, but the number has nearly doubled. My focus is biblical, but I make it inclusive. No matter what a player's faith, I'll talk to him. And I'm not afraid to engage with players who are atheist or agnostic. Those can be great talks, too."2. PART OF THE JOB IS CLERICAL … "We hold chapel during camp and the night before a game; as many as 35 players attend. We're also available for pastoral care—baptisms, wedding preparations, deaths—and we lead a variety of Bible studies: There's a coaches' study group; my wife leads a wives' study; and in some years, we've had a couples' study. We also have one for the front office that continues in the off-season."
3. … AND PART IS PERSONAL."A lot of what I do is one-on-one counseling. Most questions are about juggling life as a Christian and as a player, but we talk about anything. One guy recently asked about how to resolve conflicts in his marriage. I wouldn't say infidelity comes up a lot, but enough. These young men may wind up in situations deemed illegal or inappropriate. I try to help them understand how that would affect them and their loved ones."
4. PERSPECTIVE HELPS."I don't discourage players from praying for wins. But I do stress that if God doesn't answer that prayer, it doesn't say anything about His purpose for the guy."
5. WE'RE A BARGAIN."None of us are paid by the teams. Some, like me, are on staff with Athletes in Action, a global sports ministry, or the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Others are local chaplains who get paid by their parish. The Jags do pay for my travel and give me an office."
6. I HAVE A GAME FACE TOO."I'm on the sideline on Sunday. I offer some encouragement, but mostly I stay out of the way. I know what it's like to be focused on the field."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chapel – Unified

1 – Introduction – If we will compete in a unified way today, we will do very well.

2 – Take encouragement from this story in Genesis chapter 11. Read the text – Genesis 11:1-8.
· There are two main points to take from this text: They were one people and everyone spoke the same language.
· God Himself observes, “Now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.”
o God believes in the unlimited potential of unified people who communicate effectively. (Repeat)
o This is what God saw in these people and I see that in this team. Nothing you purpose to do will be impossible for you.

3 – In today’s game-
· Be unified! When adversity arrives:
o Don’t criticize teammates, rather challenge them.
o Don’t avoid failing teammates, embrace them.
o Don’t withdraw from others, encourage others.
· Communicate effectively! All day.
o In meetings
o In the locker room
o During pre-game on the field
o In the huddle
o During each moment of the game
o On the sidelines
o At half-time
o As we finish strongly
· Play today as a unified team, communicate wisely and effectively and we’ll witness first-hand the unlimited potential of our team.

4 - Prayer

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Why do people ask athletes for their autographs? It happens all the time and all over the world. Players are asked to autograph footballs, baseball bats, helmets, bases, tickets, shirts, soccer balls, game jerseys, hockey sticks, gloves, and seemingly every except jock straps. Why?

I’ve thought about this a little lately and I think I have an answer. Competitors in sport, players and coaches, are achieving in a way that most people do not and many more will not. These competitors have pressed through the discomfort which comes with rigorous training, they have battled the twin demons of fear and doubt, they have taken on real opponents and have won, while most of the world shrinks back from competition altogether.

In the autograph the seeker is seeking to participate in the competitor’s achievement. Thus the premium for “game used” memorabilia. The autograph seeker experiences the thrill of the game’s passion and pain vicariously through the object with the player’s signature serving to personalize the moment.

I have seen autographed footballs on the shelves of offices of men who have never put on a helmet. I have seen autographed baseballs on the desks of people who would be afraid to even step into the batter’s box. They seek to share in the experience of those who have achieved at the highest level in sport and to draw inspiration for their own pursuit of achievement.

So, the next time you’re asked for an autograph, understand that you are tremendously inspirational to the person asking for your signature. Please give it generously and thereby lead him or her to heights as yet unvisited.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Opponent ≠ Enemy

From my earliest days in sport I can recall the attitude, held by many, that opponent = enemy. When competitors are stating the score, I have heard and said, “Good guys up 10-7.” I remember a long-time college and professional football coach saying in very explicit language and without any pang of conscience, “They are the enemy!!” Many of us would join him in such statements. Most of us would have to confess to a less than charitable attitude toward our opponents. Let’s investigate this a little further.

Practically speaking, a competition without a worthy opponent is just a practice. Without an opponent one cannot fully compete. In a very profound sense, we need our opponents just to have real competition. The opponent is a necessary component to the whole process. An opponent is needed and should therefore be respected, whereas an enemy is hated and life is better without them.

An opponent makes a competitor better and the more competent the opponent, the greater the improvement for all concerned. Enemies aim to destroy each other and that only results in harm to both.

A worthy, respectful opponent helps bring out the best in sport for those who play their hearts out. A contentious, ruthless, enemy-oriented attitude only serves to bring out the worst in everyone involved.

Play your heart out with a wise attitude that displays respect for your opponent and you will find such character reflected toward you. Compete foolishly as if opponent = enemy and you will devalue the beauty of sport for yourself, your teammates, your opponents, the officials and the spectators.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sports Chaplaincy Australia Conference

Greetings from Melbourne, Australia. The annual conference for Sports Chaplaincy Australia ( just concluded on Thursday afternoon and I was privileged to share with them for the last three days on “Transforming Lives in Sport.” Below are some thoughts on what they do particularly well in SCA.
· This is an association of Sport Chaplains from a wide variety of sports. We worked with chaplains from Australian Rules Football, Rugby Union, Rugby League, Cricket, Motor Racing of various kinds, Basketball, Tennis, Bicycling, Soccer, Net ball, Athletics (Track and Field), Life Saving and more….
· They offer training and certification to sport chaplains and then support them with resources, encouragement and further training opportunities.
· They are building some strategic partnerships with the organizations which they serve. During our conference we made a visit to the Victoria Institute of Sport, the Richmond Football Club and the Australian Football Players Association. With each of these groups we heard from their leadership about how the SCA Chaplains can further serve them and how they can be most effective.
· They network with people who have remarkable insight for their chaplains. We interviewed the wife of one of the country’s most high profile sports figures and learned a lot re: how to serve the high profile competitor, his family and more.
· The leadership of the SCA is engaged as chaplains and are therefore well in tune with everyone’s daily life and responsibilities. Cameron Butler – CEO of SCA serves as the chaplain to the Melbourne AFL team.
· They move their conference to various cities across the continent to gain a more complete view of Australian sport, its facilities and its cities.
· They had some of their own do various parts of the training. The president of their board led our daily devotions, their national training director shared with us daily and other board members served during their chaplain of the year banquet.
· They rewarded their long-term chaplains for their faithfulness in service. 5, 10 and 15 year veterans were celebrated and given a plaque for recognition and they each shared about their experiences as chaplains.
· During their chaplain of the year banquet, they had a panel discussion which featured a presently playing professional soccer player, a retired Aussie Rules Football player who is now a radio commentator and a sport chaplain from the USA.
· During one evening of the conference, they split the chaplains up into teams and played a sports trivia game. The competition was fun and built community among these folks who are normally separated by thousands of kilometers across the continent and only see each other annually.
· Next Monday, there will be two days of Certificate Training for prospective chaplains in Melbourne and I’ll be excited to share with that group as well.
· They are creating exciting new resources which share the Good News of Christ Jesus with those in and around the world of sport in Australia. These include Sport New Testaments and DVDs of sport persons’ testimonies.
· Check out their web site at
In summary, the SCA is doing a tremendous job of training, equipping, resourcing, encouraging and overseeing sport chaplains all across Australia.

Friday, October 3, 2008

2006 Journal Excerpt

October 27 – After a tough week of unanswered questions about Coach Kill’s condition and the causes of the seizures we loaded the buses this morning for the trip to Missouri State University in Springfield. I stayed in touch with Rebecca while they were in the hospital in St. Louis until they returned home last night.
We left the Arena at 8:00 am, stopped at a rest stop on I-44 for lunch from Wendy’s and arrived at our hotel just before 2:00. I proctored a test for two players shortly after arrival and then moved into my room. I prepared a copy of “The Five Love Languages” for Bryce Saia and Erin Castro and then made my way to the walk through prior to going to dinner.
We loaded the buses and went to the Bass Pro Shops for dinner at Hemingway’s Restaurant and their seafood buffet. Wow! After dinner we came back to the hotel and I watched the World Series game 5, which St. Louis won 4-2 to take the championship. During the early innings I prepared my chapel talk and I believe I’m well prepared to say something that fits the day and the events of the week. I fell asleep after quite a while of trying to get my mind to shut down. At 12:45 in the morning the fire alarm was going off so I went out to the hallway to see what was going on. There was nothing so I went back to bed and eventually fell asleep again.

October 28 – I was awake at 5:30 and made my way to the hotel lobby with my Bible, “Orthodoxy” by G. K. Chesterton and my iPod. At 6:00 the coffee was ready and I continued my reading and prepared my talks for the Baseball camp in North Carolina coming up in December.
I showered and prepared for chapel which started at 9:15. I spoke from II Corinthians 4:7-10 with reference to Coach Kill’s situation and those among us who have encountered injury or illness in our earthen vessels. I further talked about the attitudes that would help us to press through adversity. The pre-game meal followed that and we loaded the buses at 11:00 to go to the stadium. I was counted on to guide us into the right place at the stadium as I’m the one with the most experience in traveling to many of these stadiums.
Coach Kill made an appearance in the locker room prior to the game and made some brief remarks. He looked terrible and was maybe at 20% of the energy and intensity that we expect from him. The game was well played in the first half and we went to the locker room with a ten point lead. Coach Kill also spoke briefly with the team during the half-time and then returned to the press box for the remainder of the game. The second half was again a struggle, but we fought through some adversity and prevailed 27-17. Coach Kill met us in the locker room and spoke with the team. Coach Matukewicz gave him a game ball and called him the M.I.P – Most Important Person for the game. The players all stood and gave him a warm ovation. After that we took a knee and said the Lord’s Prayer. We hurried to get out of that very crowded locker room, loaded the buses and were on the road just prior to 5:30.
During the ride home we learned that Western Illinois beat Northern Iowa in the dome and that Youngstown State beat Illinois State. That gives everybody in the Gateway at least one loss and we sit here with two. To win or share the conference championship we’ll have to win out and get some help. We arrived in Carbondale at 11:00 pm.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

2008 Chaplain’s Roundtable Ministry

The Chaplain’s Roundtable Ministry desires to encourage, train and provide networking opportunities for sports chaplains and sports ministry leaders. This is accomplished through one day annual conferences featuring workshops, panel discussions, resource materials and of course, prayer.
Register for the Roundtable(s) of your choice at

· Tuesday October 15th in Charlotte, North Carolina

Joe Gibbs Racing Headquarters

Joe Gibbs Racing will be the site of the 2008 Charlotte Chaplain’s Roundtable. It all gets underway with a time of prayer at 8:30am for those early risers and then we officially kick off the day at 9am with a challenge from God’s Word with Bob Dyar, Joe Gibbs Racing Chaplain. Who knows what other dignitary by stop by for a visit in Charlotte! Workshops will be offered throughout the day. Topics and speakers for all cities are as follows:
* Ministry of Encouragement—Staying in the Game Tom Rust-Face 2 Face Ministries will lead this workshop in Charlotte, Indy and Lansing
* Resources in Sports Ministry Les Burleson of the Carolina Hurricanes will lead in Charlotte…Roger Lipe of FCA will lead in Lansing
* Empowering You to Deal with Crisis in Sports Ministry Bob Hills-Chaplain - Indy Racing League will lead this workshop in Charlotte, Indy and Lansing
* Empowering Your Ministry to Go Beyond the Playing Field Bob Dyar - Joe Gibbs Racing in Charlotte, Kathy Malone of WNBA’s Indiana Fever in Indy and Joe Lane of the Muskegon Thunder in Lansing
*Striking A Balance—Take Care of Yourself, Your Family & Your Ministry Ron Peagram - Executive Director of Samaritan’s Feet in Charlotte and Indy and Mike Hurn - Chaplain with the Arena Football League’s Chicago Rush in Lansing.

· Tuesday, November 11th in Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

In Indianapolis, we meet at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Roundtable event on Tuesday, November 11th. Each year this Roundtable grows in number and impact. David Martin of On-Track Ministries will be our keynote speaker. If you would like to arrive the evening before, you have the option of staying at the Brickyard Crossing Motel at the track for the unbelievable price of just 50$ per night! Just mention that you will be attending the Chaplain’s Roundtable Conference to receive this rate.
Just dial 317-241-2500 for the Brickyard Crossing Inn. They also serve breakfast on the morning of the Indianapolis Roundtable.
· Tuesday, December 2nd in Lansing, Michigan

South Church-Lansing, Michigan

Our keynote speaker in Lansing will be Robby Richardson…son of former New York Yankee great, Bobby Richardson. We’ll also hear from Larry Patton of Hurdling Handicaps Ministry, Joe Lane from the Muskegon Thunder and Mike Hurn, chaplain with the Arena Football League’s Chicago Rush. Comfortable and convenient overnight accommodations are also available for this conference. Please contact Marilyn Oldham at South Church for information. You can reach her via email at or by calling 517-322-2000.
If you have not registered…please do so today. There is no cost to attend. You’ll receive helpful resources, be challenged, encouraged and equipped. Each day provides wonderful fellowship and networking opportunities. The 2008 Chaplain’s Roundtables…it all begins when you register for the Roundtable(s) of your choice at

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to give me a ring or shoot me an email.

By His Grace,
Bill Houston
Sports Spectrum Radio
Chaplain’s Roundtable Ministry
616-974-2583-office #

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sport Chaplain’s Game Day

This is an account of a normal game day during a college football road trip in my life as a sport chaplain at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.

I am normally an early riser, but even more so during such trips. I will get to be very early on Friday evening and awaken well before dawn. I’ll gather my Bible, iPod, notebook and coffee cup. I’ll make my way to the hotel lobby or, weather permitting, outside for some reading, solitude and contemplation of the coming day. I’ll take some time for intercessory prayer for each player and coach related to their assignments and personal development. I will also put the final touches on my chapel talk which I would have drafted the evening before.

I will dress and prepare for the chapel by arriving early and distributing a devotional letter to the team at each place setting for the pre-game meal. I greet the players and coaches as they arrive in the room and then begin the chapel at the head coach’s prompting. This is typically 4 hours and 15 minutes prior to kickoff.

I will ask a player or coach to open the meeting in prayer and then will begin my talk. It’s usually 5-7 minutes long and begins with a statement related to today’s situation followed by a scripture reading which parallels that situation. A summary of the scripture’s main points forms the outline for the applications which follow. I will take my last minutes to apply the scriptural principles to this day’s situation, to challenge and to encourage, praying to finalize the talk.

A season of prayer will follow the talk, either by the whole team saying “The Lord’s Prayer,” in unison or by having different players or coaches to pray for the offense, defense, special teams, coaching staff, officials and our opponents. I will finish the season of prayer and thereby conclude the chapel.

After chapel, we will have our pre-game meal and a brief talk from the head coach. From there it’s back to the room to make final preparations for the trip to the stadium and the painfully long wait for game time. I will make my way from the room to the bus early and we’ll drive to the stadium. I’ll often use the time after arrival to review the travel list and to pray for each player on the roster by name. I’ll stretch and prepare for pre-game warm up activities. I’ll catch and return the footballs kicked by punters and kickers, speak with a number of players, challenging them to lead well and to play their hearts out. I’ll often pray with individuals who request it.

After our pre-game warm up activities are completed, the team will return to the locker room where I’ll have the stadium countdown clock on my wrist watch so the head coach will know the timing. We’ll hear a final pre-game talk by the head coach, we’ll take a knee and the hands of those near us and I’ll lead the whole team in saying “The Lord’s Prayer.” We’ll then take the field and play the game.

I am the team’s “get back coach,” meaning that it’s my responsibility to keep the sideline area clear for the officials to move freely and for our team to not incur a penalty. I’ll also help gather special team units to the sideline according to down and distance situations. At half-time I also keep the countdown clock on my wrist and advise the coaching staff as to the time remaining prior to the second half kickoff. When the game resumes, so do my on field responsibilities. If we’re behind, I’ll work to encourage and to inspire a comeback. If we’re leading, I’ll work to challenge our players to finish well and strongly.

At the end of the game, I encourage our players to treat their opponents with respect as they greet them on the field and then we gather in the locker room. We’ll either celebrate or console each other, depending upon the outcome, and then we’ll again take a knee for “The Lord’s Prayer.” After a final talk from the head coach we shower, change and exit the locker room for the buses. I meet the players and coaches near the buses and help distribute the post-game meals. I speak to them to encourage and to praise their performances, their effort, attitude, etc…

Once the buses are loaded, we travel home and I listen to music, watch the movie, write in my season journal or all three. I occasionally even sleep. This is how I spend half of my Saturdays throughout the fall and I dearly love it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Coach Josh Franklin

It’s the best-case scenario for a coach. You resign from coaching immediately after winning the highest level championship for which your team can compete. That was the scene for Coach Josh Franklin of Cobden Appleknockers Softball.

Having known and worked with Coach Franklin for fourteen years, I was amazed when he announced that he would be leaving teaching and coaching to become an associate minister at his church. Josh had been a highly achieving athlete in high school and in college. He was an Academic All-American as a baseball and basketball player at Missouri Baptist College in St. Louis.

He coached boy’s basketball and later girl’s softball at Cobden. A year ago he was telling me that his softball team had a chance to be really good next year. He was right. I saw them play in the Illinois High School Class 1A Regional tournament and their pitcher threw a no-hitter. They progressed through the tournament and made their way to the championship game, won it and brought home the first state championship to this small, southern Illinois community, ever in any sport.

Coach Franklin had earlier told his team, the school board and others that he would resign at the end of the season. His successor had been chosen and everyone knew that this moment would come. They didn’t know the end of his coaching career would come equipped with a midnight caravan to the high school and a State Championship victory celebration.

Throughout his career as an athlete and as a coach, Josh played his heart out and now both sport and the Lord are paying him deeply in his soul. Do the same today and watch for a similar dividend paid in your heart.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sport As Worship

Am I the only person who gets more spiritually enthused by pre-game warm up exercises at a college football game than by any overly dramatic worship service at church on Sunday morning?
Am I the only one who gets a little bored at church because things are moving a little too slowly? I keep waiting for someone to get sweaty or bloody or for someone to get knocked down.
Am I a complete reprobate because I feel God’s presence more profoundly on the field of competition with sweat dripping from my forehead than I do in the air-conditioned comfort of my home church’s beautiful sanctuary?
Why am I this way? Am I totally out of touch with God’s idea of worship? Or is it possible that the real meaning of worship is broader than the cloistered connotation most of us encounter on Sunday mornings? Let’s consider a powerful and liberating scripture as we seek the Lord’s heart for worship.
Romans 12:1
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Throughout the Old Testament, a sacrifice was made by a person in worship of the Living God. The sacrifice may have been grain, liquid or an animal which would be ritually killed and burned. The sacrifice was given for God’s pleasure. The sacrifice was killed and burned to atone for sin, to restore fellowship or to express thanksgiving.
Upon Christ Jesus’ complete fulfillment of the need for burnt offerings, we find the Church and the Apostles speaking of a new kind of sacrifice, one that is living and vibrant. Men like the Apostle Paul lived each day as a living sacrifice and their scars bore witness to their commitment to please their Heavenly Father. Such men and women took incredible risks to honor the Lord Jesus and lived each day sacrificially. Many sacrificed their fortunes, their social standing, and their very lives as they declared the worth of their Lord to a hostile world.
On this side of Christ’s resurrection, holy, pleasing and spiritual worship is not a matter of killing and burning a sacrifice, rather it is the daily offering of our bodies as a living sacrifice. A living sacrifice is a person given totally (body, mind and spirit) to pleasing God, his or her whole person selflessly dedicated to honoring the Father.
The 17th century Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence, has challenged centuries of Christians through his book, “The Practice of the Presence of God.” His descriptions of transformational worship while performing such tasks as doing the dishes cut deeply into our hearts and cause us to question our narrow notions of what is pleasing to God as worship. “It is a great delusion to think our times of prayer ought to differ from other times. We are as strictly obliged to cleave to God by action in the time of action as by prayer in the season of prayer.” Washing the dishes does not seem terribly “spiritual” to our dualistic, compartmentalized minds. Brother Lawrence shares a unique and powerful insight for us through the simple words of this book.
Twenty-first century Christians have a well defined list of ways to offer our bodies as living sacrifices which are readily accepted by the Church. Most of them happen within the confines of church services.
· Playing a guitar, a piano, organ or other musical instrument.
· Providing a service as an usher, a minister, lighting candles, serving communion, or even collecting the offering.
· In some churches this even means dance, drama and other media.
Some of us have already joined Brother Lawrence in his view of seeing daily life as a spiritual act of worship and every activity as service to Christ.
· Walking to class, sensing Jesus’ presence along the way.
· Making dinner for my family is Christ-honoring service.
· Reading a book can be God-pleasing sacrifice.
· Driving to my job is a holy activity as I fellowship with my Lord.
We, who identify ourselves as coaches and athletes, have rich opportunities for holy, pleasing and spiritual worship as we train and compete. Our daily activities in sport are perfectly pleasing to our Lord as we dedicate ourselves to Him in loving service. Consider a brief list of ways to offer your body as a living sacrifice:
· Kicking a soccer ball
· Throwing a baseball
· Conducting a practice
· Hitting a volleyball
· Vaulting over a pommel horse
· Rehabbing an injury
· Catching a football
· Training with a team
· Shooting a basketball
· Swimming in a pool
· Lifting weights
· Running a race
· Coaching competitors
To be sure, God is properly worshiped through music, preaching and ritual. I believe He is equally honored by the people of sport as we compete, train and love our teammates. All of life is our spiritual act of worship, holy and acceptable to God as we offer our bodies as living sacrifices thereby practicing the presence of our Living Lord through our lives in sport.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Earth is the Lord's

Throughout this summer I have been thinking about a scripture which Percival Palmer of Caribbean Sport Reach (Jamaica) quotes often when speaking with people about faith and sport. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (KJV) Percival’s point is that the whole world, including sport and the people of sport, are clearly in God’s view and a matter for His care.

Most of the people in the sport world live in total denial of the Lord’s dominion or in total rebellion toward Him. Sadly, many people in the world of sport who have a relationship with Christ seem to put it on the shelf when they walk onto the court, pitch, track or field. They have forgotten the truth of Psalm 24:1. The earth, everything in it and all those who dwell in it are the Lord’s.

It is our task to proclaim this truth to Christian and not-yet-believers as well. The denial of Christ’s rule in the world of sport, particularly among believers in Jesus, is a major source of the worst parts of sport. It distresses us when we hear of Christian players who have used performance enhancing drugs, have taken shortcuts around training rules, have taken unfair advantage of their opponents or display boorish character on the field of competition. We must remind people of this truth and its implications for their lives in sport.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Opportunities to Serve

This week’s notes come again from a conversation with some other sport chaplains in the USA. Thanks Josh Gilreath, Chette Williams, Derrick Moore and Wes Yeary for this discussion.

These moments are opportunities to serve:
1. When the coach initiates conversation with me.
2. When the coach asks questions about spiritual matters.
3. When the coach or his family has a crisis of any sort.
4. When the coach expresses a need or dissatisfaction with some facet of his life.
5. When the coach has a player with a problem.
6. When the coach has a new opportunity and needs counsel.
7. When the coach is feeling pressure.
8. When the coach encounters success.
9. When the coach attends chapel, carries a Bible, reads a book with a spiritual message, speaks of his church, etc…
10. When the coach raises an objection to someone’s way of doing Christian ministry.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Servant Attitude

In a conversation with some other sport chaplains, we were discussing the primacy of servant-leadership for our role in ministry. It may seem like a backward way of discussing this, but we made a list of items which can destroy such a servant’s attitude.

1. Asking for free tickets, sideline passes, etc.
2. Going places on the field or court where you haven’t been invited.
3. Walking into offices, locker rooms, etc. without express permission.
4. Expecting to travel with the team or other such privileges.
5. Asking for team gear.
6. Any such presumption of privilege or access.
7. Using your position to gain prominence or profile in the community.
8. Using your position to raise funds from those whom you’re serving.

Let’s be wise and avoid these behaviors which betray a selfish heart. Thanks Josh Gilreath, Chette Williams, Derrick Moore and Wes Yeary for this discussion.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Heart of a Servant

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:2-4
Have you ever noticed that there are a lot more people who want to be a chaplain at the Olympics than to the local sports team. At first reading many of us would say that we would never distinguish between people in the way James described. Are you sure that the prophet Nathan is not waiting outside to say, "You are the man"? (2 Samuel 12:7).
Even when we serve, our motives are not always pure. Let us be honest, it is more fun to be a chaplain to an Olympian than to a club player. But in God's eyes the two are equal. Some of us are called to be Olympic chaplains, others to serve at the local level. The motivation is the same – to show God’s unconditional love to sportspeople who need Jesus.
Jesus cares as much for the player who is not in the starting line-up, who is injured, who has not had his contract renewed as he does for the millionaire superstar. Our ministry to the two should be the same. The chaplain who also spends time with the youth team players, the reserve team players, the admin staff is likely to be more respected than the player who just spends time with the first team.
Stuart Weir
Verité Sport

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Invest in Coaches and Support Staff

After fourteen years of ministry in sport, I am more convinced than ever that investing in the coaches and support staff is a key component to a chaplain’s or mentor’s effective ministry. If one only concentrates on the competitors, one can miss some insight the coaches, trainers (physios), equipment managers, and such may have about the player and his or her needs. These people are often with teams for a long time and could help you weather the changes that come in the world of sport.

Here are some ideas for building and maintaining such relationships:
· Learn their names and call them by name when you see them on the field, pitch or court.
· Occasionally drop them a call, email, or card to express your thanks or to tell them that you’ve observed their good work.
· Encourage them when you see them doing well.
· Give them hope when you see them failing.
· Ask good questions about their work and their perceptions about the players you serve.
· Care for their families.
· Share books, web sites, articles, etc. which can be helpful to them.
· Serve these people by offering to help carry something, to drive them somewhere, anything which they need and you can provide.
· Be with them, love and serve them in times of crisis.
· Pray for them, their needs and pray with them if the opportunity arises. Nothing communicates compassion and the presence of Christ more than praying with another.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

F.C.A. Chaplain Models

A) Full-time Chaplain on a university campus. (100% in chaplain role)
a. 1 or more sports per season.
b. Coaches Ministry:
i. Mentoring coaches
ii. Studies with coaches
iii. Assist the staff with the team
c. Campus Ministry:
i. Lead the campus huddle
ii. Attend practices and games as permitted/assigned
iii. Team chapels
iv. Player studies / meetings
v. Roles of service to the team as assigned
vi. Travel with team as assigned by coaching staff
d. Community:
i. FCA events
ii. Game Days, etc…
e. Camps:
i. Serve as Camp staff
ii. Network players to camps as huddle leaders
iii. Network coaches to camps as staff / clinicians

B) Area Representative / Director and Part-time Chaplain (50% in chaplain role)
a. 1 or more sports per season. (Similar opportunities, but with less time invested.)
b. Coaches Ministry:
i. Mentoring coaches
ii. Studies with coaches
iii. Assist the staff with the team
c. Campus Ministry:
i. Lead the campus huddle
ii. Attend practices and games as permitted/assigned
iii. Team chapels
iv. Player studies / meetings
v. Roles of service to the team as assigned
vi. Travel with team as assigned by coaching staff
d. Community:
i. FCA events
ii. Game Days, etc…
e. Camps:
i. Serve as Camp staff
ii. Network players to camps as huddle leaders
iii. Network coaches to camps as staff / clinicians

C) Area Representative / Director and Chaplain (10% of time in chaplain role)
a. 1 sport per season.
b. Coaches Ministry:
i. Mentoring coaches
ii. Studies with coaches
iii. Assist the staff with the team
c. Campus Ministry:
i. Lead the campus huddle
ii. Attend practices and games as permitted/assigned
iii. Team chapels
iv. Player studies / meetings
d. Community:
i. FCA events
ii. Game Days, etc…
e. Camps:
i. Serve as Camp staff
ii. Network players to camps as huddle leaders
iii. Network coaches to camps as staff / clinicians

Note: All opportunities, strategies and resources must be shaped by the chaplain’s gifts, passions, and personality as well as by the Head Coach’s level of interest, values, the amount of access granted, the Athletic Director and NCAA compliance officer’s attitudes, the local culture and more…

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008 Chaplain’s Roundtable Ministry

The Chaplain’s Roundtable Ministry desires to encourage, train and provide networking opportunities for sports chaplains and sports ministry leaders. This is accomplished through one day annual conferences featuring workshops, panel discussions, resource materials and of course, prayer.

Good Morning,

I trust your summer is going well. If you are like me, you have said on numerous occasions…”I can’t believe how quickly these months are passing by!”
Well, with that in mind, I thought I should get some information off to you about this year’s Roundtable events. Our first annual Charlotte Roundtable will be held October 15th at Joe Gibbs Racing. JGR chaplain Bob Dyar will be our keynote speaker. You will not want to miss his challenge from God’s Word.

The Lansing and Indianapolis events are set as God has certainly provided some wonderful speakers for us. Among our guests in Indy will be Olympic gold medalist Shelby Wilson. Lansing will welcome for the first time Robby Richardson as a featured speaker. Robby is the son of former Yankee great Bobby Richardson. We’ll also have the privilege of hearing from Larry Patton of Hurdling Handicaps Ministry. You’ll be blessed and challenged from Larry’s story and heart for our Lord.

As always, there is no cost to attend a Chaplain’s Roundtable event. You can register on line by visiting
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to give me a ring or shoot me an email. Enjoy your summer but please do no forget to register for the 2008 Chaplain’s Roundtable.

By His Grace,
Bill Houston
Sports Spectrum Radio
Chaplain’s Roundtable Ministry
616-974-2583-office #
616-648-3564-cell #

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sport Chaplain Training in Jamaica

All this week I’ve been in Jamaica working with Percival Palmer of Caribbean Sports Reach and Andre Virtue of Whole Life Sports for a series of Sport Chaplain and Sport Mentor training sessions. We did one-day sessions on Monday in Kingston, Tuesday in Montego Bay, Wednesday in Mandeville and Thursday again in Kingston.

After church on Sunday I watched cricket all afternoon on television. That was more cricket than I had seen in my 52 years previously, combined. Wednesday afternoon we stopped by a football pitch and observed the Reggae Boyz (Jamaican National Football Team) U17 and U20 teams working out. We enjoyed good conversation with several of their coaches and players as well.

We have been thrilled at the participants’ responses to the simple principles for this sort of ministry and their ability to immediately translate them to their particular relationships with teams, coaches and competitors.

We would be pleased to do similar workshops with people in your corner of the world. If you have interest in such, simply email me and we’ll discuss the possibilities.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Jill Perry - UGA Sport Chaplain

Last week I enjoyed a conversation with Jill Perry who serves as a sport chaplain with women’s sports at the University of Georgia in the USA. She has done a great job there for years and has both broadened her influence with an increasing number of sports and has deepened it with greater impact within each one.

She has recently found opportunities with members of the swimming and diving community and we discussed some unique characteristics of that group of sportspeople. Jill is doing a number of things to grow her understanding of swimming technique and strategy, of swimmers’ approach to their sport and their spiritual influences.
· She’s reading books about swimming.
· She’s taking lessons on swimming technique – in the pool getting a feel for it.
· She’s spending more time with swimmers and asking good questions.
· She’s building relationships of trust with the coaching staff.

For Jill, a volleyball player at heart, it’s not easy to make these adjustments, but she’s doing the right things to learn and to connect with the swimmers. The results of her diligence will no doubt be transformational.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Devotion / Chapel Talk Writing Process Outline

1) Study and pray
a. Devotional reading
b. Personal study of Scripture
c. Sport related books and periodicals
d. See the sport related situations in Bible texts
i. Game-day situations in competition
ii. Player to player relationship dynamics
iii. Player / coach relationship dynamics
iv. Leadership issues
v. Pain / injury / loss / isolation
vi. Victory / passion / excitement / community
vii. Teamwork vs. individualism
viii. Work ethic / sacrifice
ix. Respect for coaches, teammates, opponents, officials
x. Personal development
e. Identify particular texts and their sport related “front doors.”
f. Simply outline scriptural applications of the scripture to the sport situations.
2) Write and pray
a. Develop a question or a series of questions related to the “front door” which will help the reader to recall an experience from his/her life in sport.
b. Within the opening paragraph, write a sentence which builds a bridge from the sport situation in the chosen text of scripture to the “front door” situation which it illustrates.
c. In a new paragraph, insert the Bible text in quotes and then paraphrase it in sport vernacular if it seems necessary or helpful.
d. In a new paragraph, insert the simple outline of application points directly to the sport situation.
e. Summarize in a final paragraph including a suggestion for prayer.
3) Notes
a. Write in light of your readers and their particular sport culture.
b. Write with a clear understanding of the mode of delivery. (Will this be read privately, read out loud or delivered by a speaker?)
c. Communicate respect and passion for the sport as well as for the scripture. Help them love God and compete greatly.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

2008 Chaplain’s Roundtable Update

The Chaplain’s Roundtable Ministry desires to encourage, train and provide networking opportunities for sports chaplains and sports ministry leaders. This is accomplished through one day annual conferences featuring workshops, panel discussions, resource materials and of course, prayer.

Good Afternoon,
Information regarding the 2008 Chaplain’s Roundtables is coming fast and furious these days! Here’s the latest…
· The Charlotte Roundtable is scheduled for Wednesday, October 15th at Joe Gibbs Racing. Our thanks to Bob Dyar, chaplain with JGR for helping us secure this wonderful facility.
· The Indianapolis Roundtable is slated for Tuesday, November 11th at the Indy Motor Speedway. Bob Hills, chaplain with the Indy Racing League always does a wonderful job in helping coordinate this event.
· The Lansing Roundtable will be held at South Church in Lansing, Michigan on Tuesday, December 2nd. Marilyn Oldham with the South Church staff always coordinates a first class day for us.

Speakers include Ron Pegram with ST Motorsports, Bob Hills of the Indy Racing League, Kathy Malone of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, Robby Richardson-son of former Yankee great Bobby Richardson and Mike Hurn of the Arena Football League’s Chicago Rush.

Note: Be sure and check out the website for specific speakers at each location

We’re still putting the finishing touches on the website for 2008 registrations. In the meantime, if you would like to register early, simply hit reply on this email and let me know which event(s) you will be attending. Also, don’t forget to invite other sports chaplain’s and sports ministry leaders you know about who would benefit from a Chaplain’s Roundtable.

Have a great summer! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

By His Grace,
Bill Houston
Sports Spectrum Radio
Chaplain’s Roundtable Ministry
616-974-2583-office #

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chapel – Discipline

1 – Today’s characteristic of Successful People and Successful Teams is
· To achieve the success we all want, we will have to grow increasingly more disciplined.
· To be well disciplined is to be self-controlled in all areas of one’s life.

2 – I Corinthians 9:24-25 gives us a strong understanding of a life of
discipline (read the text).
· They all run, but only one is the winner. ½ of all teams who compete today will lose.
· Many coaches say, “There is a winner and a loser on every play of the game.”
· “Compete in such a way as to win.” The Apostle makes no apology for this statement.
· Competitors exercise self-control in ALL things.
Physical discipline – Technique, effort, skill – all are under your control.
Mental discipline – Strategy, assignments, responsibilities, knowledge of the sport – all are under your control.
Emotional discipline – Not too high, not too low. Not overcome by elation or disappointment. Not overly subject to momentum shifts. All this is under your control.

3 – The rewards of discipline.
· There are both short-term and long-term rewards.
The ability to both compete successfully and live successfully comes from a disciplined life.
Living a disciplined life builds trust among one’s teammates and among one’s family, friends and colleagues.
As you live a disciplined lifestyle, your game and your team will consistently grow. Your whole life will also consistently grow as you live in a self-controlled manner.

4 – Today’s challenge.
· Compete to win. No apologies, no excuses.
· Exercise self-control in all things.
Be physically under control.
Be mentally under control.
Be emotionally under control.
· Exercise discipline and we will reap both the short-term and long-term rewards of self-control.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Leadership Lessons from Jesus of Nazareth

Mark 10:41-45

Mark 10:43
· Who are some GREAT leaders that come to your mind? (3 names)
o Add some quotes from great leaders in history or sport…

· What are some characteristics of such leaders?

· List the names of three GREAT leaders from your sport experience.
o (What made them GREAT leaders?)

· Read the text (Mark 10:41-43)

· What were the defining marks of the Gentile leaders and their high officials? (Lording it over and exercising authority – power plays.)
o Who would the people be to whom He’s referring? (Roman troops.)
o Jesus says, “Not so with you.”

· Instead, what does Christ say is the defining mark of greatness in leadership? Being your servant. (Serving those on your team.)
o Who is on your team (can you see their faces)?
o In what ways do you / can you lead them by serving them? (Let’s make a list…)

Mark 10:44
· Who are some PREEMINENT leaders from history? (3 names)
o Alexander the Great
o Moses
o Napoleon Bonaparte
o George Washington (USA)

· What were the qualities that made them the first among their peers?

· List the TOP THREE leaders from your sport experience.
o (What put them at the top of your list?)

· Read the text (Mark 10:41-44)

· If leadership greatness is defined by serving our teammates, what does Jesus say is the mark of being FIRST among leaders? (Being slave to all.)
o Who was on Jesus’ list of being slave to all? (Let’s make a list… Judas is on that list!)
o Who is included in your list of ALL? (FCA teammates, family, donors, church family… Whiny people, complainers, second-guessers, people who get on your nerves, all…)

· What kinds of situations allow you to demonstrate this Slave to All level of leadership?

Mark 10:45
· List the names of three CHRIST-LIKE leaders you’ve known personally.

· Who are some CHRIST-LIKE leaders from your sport experience?

· What about each of them is a CHRIST-LIKE quality?

· Read the text (Mark 10:41-45)

· If service to our team is the measure of greatness in a leader and being the slave to all is the mark of being a preeminent leader, what does it take to be a leader like the Son of Man? (Service and Sacrifice)
o Why would Jesus speak of Himself in third person here?
o Why would He prefer to serve than to be served?
o What is a ransom? (Price paid to free someone from slavery.)

· What sorts of things do you regularly sacrifice that free the people you lead?
o Preferences
o Pride
o Privilege
o Convenience
o Time
o Efficiency
o Style
o Form

· Here’s the final challenge – in your leadership do you want to be great, to be first or to be like the Son of Man?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Hungry Players

I was recently in the Central American country of Honduras. While there I met a number of men who compete in fast pitch softball in the two largest cities of the country. They are hungry, even desperate to compete.

Their fast pitch softball looks a lot like what I played in the 1970s and 80s. It’s mostly played by men in their twenties, thirties and forties who do it because they love the game. Their facilities are generally poor; their bases aren’t even tied down. They wear mismatched uniforms and play with whatever equipment they can afford. The holes created by the pitchers’ plant feet become vast craters of dust and inhibit their pitching efficiency. The batters’ boxes become deeper and wider by the inning.

The lack of training for pitchers and umpires keeps the game from progressing and their lack of time to practice limits their performance level. In spite of all this, they play their hearts out and sacrifice greatly to compete.

So what’s the point? They are hungry. They will sacrifice to play the game because they love it. Convenience and personal privilege are not a part of the equation. Their hunger to compete overrides every inconvenience, missing piece of equipment, and lack of facility.

How hungry are you to compete? Does everything have to be perfect for you to perform well? Are you put off by inconveniences, less-than-the-best facilities or poor attendance at your games? Develop a sense of genuine hunger for competition and experience the sweet fulfillment which comes from playing your heart out.

Friday, May 23, 2008

This is the web site for the Serving the People of Sport Council, of the International Sport Coalition. It is a world-wide network of people and ministries who work directly with people in sport. They describe their Vision and Mission in this way:

Definitions and purpose
Purpose: We serve the sportsperson with unconditional love, helping them to grow to whole life maturity in Christ by:
helping the sportsperson to see sport and faith as integral parts of their lives;
walking with the people of sport in loving, nurturing and mentoring relationships;
releasing the people of sport into God’s authentic call on their lives;
Long term goal
Our long term goal is to:
Cultivate whole life ministry to the people of sport in each sport, in each country and people group worldwide.
Nurture a worldwide network to strategize, to resource and to serve the total wellness of the people of sport for transformation of their lives, their sport and their communities.
Encourage integration of faith in sport by developing broader training and materials addressing the spiritual issues of sport people in sport and life.
Help the church to understand how to minister to the heart of the sportsperson.
To present sportspeople mature in Christ, equipped to demonstrate their spiritual walk in sport and life.
The People of Sport
We define the people of sport as those who see the world and themselves primarily through their experiences as performance-based sports people. This is a mindset, which is not based on age, gender or current competence in sport
For those familiar with the Sport in Ministry map [devised by Lowrie McCown], the target group is quadrants 2 and 4.
The people of sport, therefore, includes sports players, coaches, officials and administrators and other sport professionals who are part of the world of sport. The sportsperson’s family members are also included.
“Serving” the people of sport means:
Establishing long-term relationships that put the needs of the people of sport ahead of the desires and agendas of those sports ministries and their organizations who work with them.
Modeling God’s unconditional love for the people of sport so that they learn to base their self-worth on Christ’s performance on the cross, not on their current performance in sport or in their spiritual activities.
Nurturing such a love for Christ among the people of sport that they grow into the full stature of Christ and their lifestyle reflects his Lordship in all areas of their personality and performance.
Walking with them through all the experiences of sport so that they encounter Christ in the world of sport and develop a biblical world view of it.
Helping them with the practical needs they have to fulfil, their obligations and opportunities in the world of sport.
Releasing them into the ministry God has called them in serving Jesus in the church, in sport, and in the world at large.

This site has a wealth of information, insights and a growing set of resources which could be of help to you and your developing ministry with people of sport. The resources page has materials in 9 languages, even English! Check it out.

Friday, May 16, 2008

High Profile Teammates

In a recent conversation with a former Major League pitcher, I asked him about one of his high profile teammates. The teammate was one of the greatest players in the history of the game, but has come under tremendous scrutiny in the last several years. He has been regularly accused of cheating the game, of being rather boorish toward the media and quite aloof from his teammates.

I was intrigued by the pitcher’s comment that he found him to be a great teammate. He said that what he valued was that the other player always showed up on game day. He was the guy he wanted in left field every time he pitched and he wanted that guy hitting third in the line up. In short, that teammate helped him win games. In addition, he said that when the game was over, all the media went to the high profile teammate’s locker rather than his. The pitcher was more than glad to have all that attention go to someone else.

Some of this high profile player’s youngest teammates were jealous of the media attention, extra space in the locker room and distance from team stretching and the like. This veteran pitcher would tell them to relax and to value the high profile player for his contribution to the team while the game was on.

As you compete, be mindful of your high profile teammates and the special set of pressures, responsibilities and inconveniences which they experience day to day. Be like this veteran pitcher and give them some space to be just a little different. Gauge their value to the team while the game is in progress and be thankful when they take some of the media’s spotlight off of you when you are at less than your best. Play your heart out and you may find yourself as the high profile teammate who is of great value to your lesser achieving teammates.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Why Compete?

Do you ever get a little frustrated with people who don’t want to keep score? I have friends who want to go play golf, but not keep score. I don’t want to play with those guys. I tell them, “Just go to the driving range and don’t clutter up the golf course.” What’s the point in playing the game if you don’t compete?

So what’s the big deal with competition? Is it, as some think, for one to show his superiority over another? For some this is probably true. For most of us however, the point is to test ourselves. That’s exactly the point in golf, as each one is competing primarily against the course. It is a test of one’s skills, not just a competition with one’s opponent.

How does competition test us? Let’s make a brief list:
· Competition tests us physically – technique, talent and fitness.
· Competition tests us mentally – focus, knowledge and insight.
· Competition tests us spiritually – self-control, faith and love.

Why compete? To compete well is to test oneself against an ascending scale of standards of achievement. This list of standards is borrowed from Dr. Jim Rimmer of Erie, Pennsylvania.
· Competing against the elements of the sport. (Fundamentals)
· Competing against one’s opponent. (To beat that person or team)
· Competing against an objective standard. (Statistics)
· Competing against one’s personal best. (Personal records)
· Competing to a mental image. (Like a video of the sport’s best)
· Competing “in the zone.” (Being in the flow)

Competition tests us in ways that move us beyond mediocrity and it challenges us to become all we are capable of being. Don’t let the test intimidate you, rather step up, play your heart out and feel the satisfaction of having done your level best in pursuit of an honorable victory. Win or lose, you have made progress in the life-long process of developing as a complete person.

Friday, May 2, 2008


This week I would like to feature some web sites which have Resources you can download and use. Most if not all of these are free of cost. The list of resources includes:
§ Brochures which explain Chaplain Ministry
§ Outlines for chapel meetings
§ Outlines for chapel talks
§ Descriptions of Serving the People of Sport ministries in various languages
§ Bible Studies for discussions with coaches
§ Bible Studies for discussions with players/athletes
§ Information and an application for Major Event Sport Chaplaincy
§ Tools to facilitate prayer among coaches and/or competitors
§ Complete books and articles related to the Theology of Sport
§ More….. Stuart Weir from Oxford, England has loaded this site with tremendous resources including his books, “What the Book Says About Sport” and “Born to Play.” This site is a treasure. This is the Free Download page from the Serving the People of Sport Council of the International Sport Coalition. It contains a number of resources in various languages. More will be added as further translation is done. This is the Resources page from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Chaplain Ministry web site. It contains a number of resources and you are welcome to contribute to this site if you would like. Simply email your resource to me and I’ll prepare it for uploading to the site.

Have a tremendous week of dynamic ministry and I pray these resources are valuable to you.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Values for Life in Sport

Last week I was to speak at a fund-raising event for a local sport club and sharing the program with me were two professional athletes. One is a now retired baseball pitcher who played for twelve years in the Major Leagues. The other is presently playing professional fast-pitch softball in both the USA and Australia.

As the program moved along I took notes on their talks and the answers to questions of these two outstanding people. Below are some of the items from their talks about the important things they have learned from sport at the highest level.
· Relationships are most important – they both value their friendships with teammates, road trip roommates, coaches, support staff and even opponents.
· Integrity – their values for sport, for family and for their faith guided their daily decisions in all of life.
· Competition – this is what makes them go. They can’t wait to get to game day and to compete. They are wired for sport in the truest sense.
· Privilege – they each understand the tremendous privilege that is theirs and the accompanying responsibilities of being a professional athlete.

They have both forged a wonderful life from the sports in which they have invested countless hours of practice, miles of running, and years of dreaming. Play your heart out, dream as greatly as you can, invest deeply in your sport and enjoy the benefits of honorable competition.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Hate Losing!

There is nothing to rival the emotional pain, grief and deep feelings of inadequacy which come with losing. If you’re a competitor, you know these feelings and you do all you can to avoid them.

I remember crying on the way to the family car after losing little league baseball games and going 0 for 4 at the plate. I remember feeling, “I’m just not good enough,” as I would lie on my bed replaying each pitch from a fast pitch softball game. I remember the knot in my stomach while receiving a second place wrestling trophy and comparing it with the first place winner’s trophy. I remember, just weeks ago, the painful realization that we were just a couple of plays away from the NCAA Division I Football Subdivision Playoffs National Championship Game, but came up short.

Many of us are driven by these feelings and they help us perform more highly. More than the exhilaration of winning, we work incessantly to keep the gnawing pains of loss at bay. Many more simply quit competing because they can’t handle the grief of losing. Rather than endure the occasional pain, these avoid it by not competing at all. Sadly, they forfeit all the benefits of competition in the process.

So how do we deal with these feelings? I remember thinking prior to one college football season that I, as their chaplain, would not get so emotionally involved and not suffer the grief which came with our frequent losses. I could not do it. When I spent time with the coaches and players, I was connected with their hearts and found myself caring deeply about the team’s success and their individual development. I determined that the risk was worth it. I would risk the pain of loss to enjoy the thrill of winning, no matter how rare.

The choice is yours. You may withdraw and thus avoid the feelings that accompany losing, but you’ll also forfeit the joy of winning. You may stay in the game and disengage emotionally, but in doing so you’ll be terribly incomplete. You can also take the risk to care deeply about your team and each one involved. You can share both the wins and the losses. You can feel the grief of the last second loss and the satisfaction of winning championships. Such feelings are the stuff of life. Feel them at the depth of your soul and experience the best part of sport.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why is Winning so Important?

I recently watched a Division I Women’s Basketball game from the visiting team’s bench in the gym of their strongest conference rival. This game and the brief moments after the game were a vivid reminder of why winning is so important.

This season had been one of great frustration, loss and division for our team. We entered the game near the bottom of the conference and the team we were to play was tied for first in the conference. (They eventually won the regular season and post-season conference tournament championships.) The whole game was an uphill battle, but our team had a short lead at half-time. In the second half we played very well and one could feel the momentum growing as three players made big shots and defensive plays.

This swing of momentum put down all the feelings of frustration, division, jealousy, bitterness and more as the whole team was focused on the win which was within their grasp. The team was unified, at least for the final twenty minutes of the game and we won a huge road victory.

As the players ran from the floor with smiling faces, excited voices and victorious gestures, one would never know the true nature of the team’s past three months. In the locker room, the celebration continued with the coaching staff congratulating players, affirming the way they played and smiling at their achievement. A couple of players commented in the hall shortly thereafter about how much fun the game is when we win.

This is why winning is so important. When we win, the selfish nature of people is more easily kept in check and it’s much easier to selflessly seek the best for our team and for each teammate. When we lose, it’s infinitely easier to self-protect, to shift blame and to “look out for number one.” It requires much more self-control to love our teammates and coaches when we’re struggling to succeed.

Play your heart out. Pursue wins strongly, because when you win the game pays you back for all the hours of hard work, the miles of running and the years of training you’ve invested. You experience the best of sport when you strongly compete for victory.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Injury and Isolation

I was watching a college football practice recently and saw a player pull up with a pulled hamstring. I watched as he limped toward the sideline, but collapse before getting past the numbers. He crumpled to the ground as the trainer reached him. I watched as his position coach moved the other players and their drill ten yards up the field and continued the practice. It was like nothing happened to most of them, but to the injured player time stood still.

I stood with him as he watched his team continued practice, as others ran the drills he suddenly could not and I observed the desperate loneliness he was feeling, just twenty yards from everything normal. He stood there with ice on his leg watching other players vie for the position which was his just five minutes ago. He was dying inside and his teammates wouldn’t even look that direction. They were each denying their own frailty.

I believe there are no lonelier places for a competitor than the sideline and the training room. If our body has let us down due to injury or illness we’re suddenly cut off from the activities which feed our souls. We stand and imagine how we would make the play which our teammate just failed to make. We grieve losses without the ability to prevent them. We hollowly celebrate victories without the satisfaction of having contributed to them.

When you encounter injury or illness, be aware that isolation and loneliness, twin thieves of joy, await your arrival on the sideline or the training room. When your teammates become injured, be near them and chase the pain of isolation away with your assurance of loyalty and support.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Starfish and The Spider

Here are some notes from a book I read recently. I was given the book by a dear friend and colleague. It has some remarkable ideas for implementation in our work with Sports people, teams and people on the fringes of our networks of relationships. “The Starfish and the Spider” is a good read with sharp insights. These are selected points from the last chapter followed by some thought provoking questions. Thanks.

1) The network effect. As our network grows by a person or a team, the whole network gets stronger. Each one who joins makes the network stronger. How does each of your players, coaches or teams make all the others better?
2) The power of chaos. In a decentralized world, it pays to be chaotic. Sometimes it will appear that no one is in charge. That’s okay. “Good ideas will attract more people and in a circle they will execute the plan.” Ever been to a team function where the coaches are not in charge? Chaos Central. They love it!!
3) Knowledge at the edge. “The best knowledge is often at the fringe of the organization.” I certainly believe that the ones who have the best ideas about serving coaches and players are coaches and players. It’s not necessarily in the minds of the chaplains or ministry organization people.
4) Everyone wants to contribute. In a decentralized organization, there is not only knowledge at the edge, but willingness to contribute also. Give those at the edge a chance to contribute and we’ll get their best.
5) Catalysts rule. “Although they don’t conform to the CEO role, catalysts are crucial to decentralized organizations.” This is because they inspire people to action, not because they run the show. Who are the people in your organization making things happen?
6) The values ARE the organization. “Ideology is the fuel that drives the decentralized organization.” Without the shared beliefs and core values, the organization would crumble. How clearly do we communicate what is most important to volunteers, ministry board members, staffers, etc…?
7) Flatten or be flattened. The authors see the trend toward flatter (less hierarchical) organizations continuing to gain momentum. There are also ways to shape an organization into what they call a Hybrid – a flat, decentralized organization with some central leadership, provided they understand the value of networking. How responsive are we as leaders to those at the most remote edges of our organization?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

End of a Career

Below is an article I recently posted on related to the end of one’s sport career. I hope some of these thoughts are helpful to those you serve in sport.

Through my 51 years of being a player, a coach, an official, a parent and now a sport chaplain / sport mentor, I have seen hundreds of careers start quickly, flourish powerfully, diminish painfully and end suddenly.

Millions of people watched Brett Favre’s career come to a tearful end yesterday on world-wide television. Imagine the fascination of people watching someone announce his retirement. Careers end with such finality, often with pain and even grief. Let’s think about why this is.

For us who are highly competitive and highly achieving, much of our identity winds up being found in the competition and those achievements. That’s not necessarily good for us. When we come to the end of our careers we have a terrible time figuring out who we are apart from those things which have characterized us for so long. Is there anything sadder than the washed up athlete who is still living in the glory of his sport career thirty years ago?

I recall a conversation with a college basketball player just a week after the close of her career. She said, “I woke up yesterday and wondered, ‘What do I do now? I don’t have to go to practice.’ I don’t know what to do with all this time.” Since fifth grade she had been a basketball player, but suddenly she was a former basketball player.

Here’s some advice from an old guy who has witnessed the close of hundreds of careers first-hand. Play every game of your whole career with the end in mind. Everyone’s career comes to an end at some point, whether due to injury, failure or simply the exhaustion of one’s eligibility. Understand who you are, in and out of the sport. Live your whole life with an understanding of who you were created to be and don’t let your sport career define all of who you are. Play your heart out and fully express your life in sport, while you have the opportunity.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Game Day Prayer

Today’s note is an excerpt from an article in the April 2008 edition of Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s Sharing the Victory magazine. If you would like a copy of the complete article, please reply to this email and I’ll send you a copy as a Word file.

“O Lord, Please Help Us Win Today.”

How many times have you uttered that prayer, either under your breath or out loud? How often have we asked the Lord Jesus to intervene in the course of human history so we could get a win and not a loss?
Does the Lord care at all about who wins and who loses in any given sport contest? If not, why should we pray at all prior to competition?
In the fourteen years I’ve served as a sport chaplain and sport mentor, I have seen a number of different approaches to game day prayer. I’ve seen players and coaches treat the chaplain like a good luck charm, thinking, “If that guy prays for me, God will bless me and I’ll play greatly.” I’ve seen teams treat their pre-game recitation of The Lord’s Prayer like the rubbing of a lucky rabbit’s foot. I’ve looked players in the eye and known they were bargaining with the Lord. I could hear their hearts saying, “Lord if you will give us this championship, I will give you the glory as I talk with the media, sign endorsement deals, get a new car, get a date with that beautiful girl and more, ad nauseum.” I have also seen my own approach to game day prayer change over these years. My prayers for coaches, players, game officials, and even our opponents have undergone a good deal of transformation over time as I have learned to hear the Lord’s heart toward sport and toward those engaged in it.
Let’s think through what might be some matters for prayer which we can be sure are items of interest to the Lord Jesus.
· Pray that each one in the contest competes honorably.
· Pray for matters of the heart related to competition.
· Pray for the Lord’s purposes to be accomplished in your subjects.
· Pray for all those involved in the competition.
· Pray that those who compete, experience the Lord’s pleasure and presence in the competition.
Simply said, I do not think the Lord cares at all about who wins and who loses any particular sport contest. I do believe He cares infinitely about how we compete in pursuit of the win. Our character, which will certainly be revealed by competition, is always His concern. I truly believe that a Christ-honoring competition which results in a loss is ultimately more satisfying than any dishonorable win with all its accompanying guilt and shame. Let’s commit ourselves to prayer and to honoring Christ in competition and leave the scoreboard results to those who compete.