Friday, July 29, 2011

Through What Lens Do You View Sport?

Through what lens do you view sport? I’m not asking how good your seats are for viewing sport at the arena or stadium, rather when you’re thinking about sport is your perspective one from the seats, through a television camera, from the luxury box at the stadium or from the sideline at field/court level? The answer to this question has powerful implications for how one does ministry with people of sport.

If one sees sport through the sports fan’s lens he tends to see the players and coaches as celebrities, valuing the spectacle and seeing sport like other forms entertainment. While he seems loyal to the team; paying for expensive seats, wearing team gear and cheering loudly, his experience is as the consumer of the event. The implications for ministry are that celebrities and entertainers often seem rather distant and even unapproachable to fans. That makes for surface level ministry, at best. It also lends itself to using the Christian player as a part of “the show” at Church or we capitalize on her celebrity status for our magazine, our radio or television show, sometimes without respect to the development (or lack of it) of her life in Christ. If you see sport primarily as a fan, be very cautious about your motives as you serve sportspeople.

If one sees sport through the television camera’s lens he often values comfort, instant replay, availability of multiple games and slow motion for maximum enjoyment of the game. Sitting in the recliner, remote control in one hand, favorite beverage in the other and bountiful snacks at his side, the arm chair quarterback and coach enjoys the game without any relationship with the sportspeople and sometimes without even relationships with other spectators. At its worst, this perspective leads the viewer to see the sportspeople like video game characters. They’re dehumanized, criticized and stripped of all human dignity when they fail. When they succeed they’re lionized, adored and even worshiped as demigods. The implications for ministry are rather obvious. If this is one’s view of sport, the first hurdle is to simply deal with the people of sport as human beings and not images on a screen. To connect with and to speak to their hearts is a huge leap if we’re accustomed to seeing them as two dimensional characters on our living room TVs. If this is your usual view of sport, get ready to make a huge shift in your thinking before you start serving sportspeople.

If one sees sport through the privileged glass of a luxury box at the stadium or arena, she sees it almost like a chess match. The players seem to be laid out on a game board and they almost appear to be plastic figures moving across the grid. The box’s occupants value luxury, prestige, power and influence. The coaches look like the kings and queens of sport and the players vary in value from bishops to pawns, but they’re all subject to the will of the masters in the box. Ministry implications for this viewpoint are severe. From here it’s easy to control people, but difficult to care for them. It’s easy to influence them, but difficult to inspire them. It’s easy to manipulate them, but terribly hard to nurture their lives in Christ. It’s not impossible, but immeasurably more difficult to care for the hearts of the players when your voice is muffled and face obscured by the luxury box’s glaring glass.

If one sees sport from the sideline or even from the pitch, his or her values are most closely matched with the players and coaches he or she seeks to serve. Those who are privileged to be and pay the cost to be in this position become fully aware that these are real people with real virtues and vices. Their relationships are real, both flawed and flourishing. Their emotions are real, anguish and exhilaration. Their pain is real, emotional and physical. Their exertion of effort is real, not plastic like a chess game, not like a video game electronic image and not rooted in “school spirit” like a fan might think. If one has this perspective and is willing to fully embrace these sportspeople, full of virtues and vices, he or she is in a perfect position to care for, to nurture, to speak to their hearts. If this is your perspective, wrap both arms and your whole heart around the sporting community and love them with Christ Jesus’ sustaining power.

If you are privileged to serve the people of sport as a sports chaplain, as a character coach or as a sports mentor, be mindful of your internal lens on sport. Be diligent to adjust your view to one which most properly serves those for whom you care. Seeing sport through their lens will help you communicate more clearly and connect most directly with their hearts.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Using Technology in Sports Ministry

During the fall of 2009, I made a presentation to the Sport Chaplains Roundtable in Lansing, Michigan (USA) re: the use of technology in Sports Ministry. An outline of that presentation with some comments follows. I hope it is of value to you as you consider what technologies to employ and the values that shape how you use them.

Using Technology in Sports Ministry

• What to do? Which technologies can enhance our effectiveness in ministry with sportspeople?

• What should I NOT do? What is there about such technologies which could actually harm our ministries?

• How to do it? What are some values which should guide how we approach technological advances?

o Email – many of us use email all the time, but it’s used less and less by people under 30 years of age.

o SMS Text Messages – many people now prefer this mode of communication over all others.

o facebook – there are many ways to use this wisely and many more to use it foolishly.

o Twitter – what of value can be expressed in 140 characters?

o LinkedIn – with whom do you connect on this site?

Guidelines for use of technology:

Consider the purpose for your writing.

o To encourage

o To challenge

o To console

o To inspire

o To inform

Use proper etiquette.

o bcc: in emails – few things are more annoying (and insecure) than seeing hundreds of addresses in the header of an email.

o Please use proper grammar – writing badly does not enhance your ministry nor does it inspire confidence in you.

o Check spelling – this is pretty easy, but if not done can lead to embarrassment.

o Use photos and video wisely – especially in international relationships. There are a number of ways to use photos poorly and thereby jeopardize one’s friends in oppressive countries.

Errors to avoid

o Personal information of coaches or players – Don’t share personal information about sportspeople, ever.

o Injury information – Your sharing of this kind of information can be used by gambling interests and in the USA is even illegal in itself.

o Critical thoughts re: team, coaches or players – This is an express ticket to the loss of your privileges with the team or club.

o Items meant to build your status – Don’t be a name dropper. Don’t post photos with high profile players.

Inspire and encourage

o Coaches – speak to their hearts prior to competitions and then afterward.

o Athletes – challenge them to be their best before game time and then either congratulate or console once you know the result.

o Chaplains – lead and encourage your colleagues as you know they are preparing to share the Lord’s heart with those in his/her charge.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ministry Strategies with Sports Professionals

Below is the final installment from an interview with Walt Enoch, long-time sports chaplain to professional athletes and coaches in St. Louis, Missouri – USA. I pray that his insights are of value to your ministry.

Prayer points of emphasis –

o Prayer is modeled in the Bible study.

o Prayer is offered by the chaplain and players at chapel.

o Prayer takes place in a prayer circle at the conclusion of chapel.

o Prayer is done in the locker room before taking the field.

o Prayers are said on the sideline with players as they request it.

Bible study points of emphasis – “Teaching the Scripture has always been what I have stuck to and has kept the men coming over the years. I cannot emphasize that enough.”

o Once a week meetings are best.

 Coaches Study

 Players Study

 Couples Study

 Game Day Chapel

o Verse by verse studies work very well. Walt’s Tuesday study, now in its 30th year, is on its third trip through the entire Bible.

o Walt uses inductive Bible study method and develops his own study guides. His studies are not necessarily directly tied to their sport experiences.

o Emphasize Matthew, Mark, Luke John, Acts and Romans.

o Allow the group studies to prompt opportunities for individual meetings with players or coaches.

Devotional points of emphasis –

o Walt has distributed countless thousands of copies of the devotional periodical, “Daily Bread.”

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ministry Strategies, Methods and Resources with Sports Professionals

Below is another installment from an interview with Walt Enoch, long-time sports chaplain to professional athletes and coaches in St. Louis, Missouri – USA. I pray that his insights are of value to your ministry.

Strategies, Methods and Resources –

• I asked Walt about the most effective strategies, methods and resources he has used in his almost forty years of ministry and he listed these:

o Serving people

o Chapels

o Prayer

o Bible studies

o Devotionals

Chapel service points of emphasis –

o Arrange the time and location as directed by the head coach or manager.

o Prepare guest speakers

 Don’t act like a fan.

 Don’t bring guests with you.

 Don’t talk about yourself. They don’t need to hear your high school sport stories.

 Bring a Biblical message. Remember, this is their weekly worship service.

 Be very time conscious. Stick with the time allotted to you.

 Former players and coaches are often the best because they understand the culture and its values.

o NFL teams do their chapels separately.

o MLB teams do their chapels separately.

FCA Sports Chaplain Principles and Best Practices

for serving Professional Sportspeople

Walt Enoch – as told to Roger Lipe on November 24, 2009

Walt Enoch began serving professional athletes in 1970 when only the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs had chapel leaders. He was already serving the St. Louis Cardinals when Baseball Chapel began its ministry. Walt also served the St. Louis Football Cardinals before their move to Arizona and has served the St. Louis Rams since they arrived in town. For two years he had a ministry with the NHL’s St. Louis Blues. For many years he worked to oversee all of the baseball chapel leaders in the Cardinals minor league cities.