Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sport in Ministry Map - Part 3

This is the latest in a series of thoughts concerning the Sport in Ministry Map which was developed by Lowrie McCown and was detailed in “Focus on Sport in Ministry” by Lowrie McCown and Valerie J. Gin. (ISBN 193261100-2) For more information visit and to acquire a copy, email Lowrie at The more I have come to understand, to implement and to rely upon the insights of the Sport in Ministry Map, the more I have been effective with the various sorts of people we encounter in our ministry in sport.

Another dimension of ministry in sport that must be understood is the proper use of sports illustrations or stories with Quadrant 1 and 3 people versus the centrality of sport experience to Quadrant 2 and 4 people. By way of review, Quadrant 1 is comprised of people whose approach to sport we have described as spectators, novices or leisure participants who have yet to trust Christ with their lives. Quadrant 3 is made up of people of the same mindsets toward sport, but who are in relationship with Jesus. Quadrant 2 contains men and women who have yet to be apprehended by Christ and view their lives through sport as players, elite participants and high profile sportspeople. Quadrant 4 is occupied by those of the same mindsets as Quadrant 2, but these folks are growing in their faith in Jesus Christ.

Let’s begin in Quadrants 1 and 3. For decades of the modern world and even in the Bible, men and women have used sports illustrations to help people understand spiritual truths. There are several such occasions in the New Testament in Paul’s epistles and the book of Hebrews. The use of illustrations from sport is most common in popular culture and many in the Church employ this method of communication. This is highly effective with spectators and even novice and leisure participants in sport. Simply tell one Tim Tebow story or mention Jeremy Lin to Christian sports fans and they’re riveted to your every word. Make parallels between football and faith, baseball and prayer, cricket and communion, racing and evangelism and you’ll have everyone’s ear. Such illustrations rapidly lose their effectiveness when one’s audience is in Quadrants 2 or 4.

Tell these people the same stories and they’re likely making judgments about Tebow’s passing technique or Lin’s role on his team. They’re not so impressed. Rather, to speak to their hearts, one must engage them in discussion of their experiences in sport. I have found this to be best done by asking good questions. Rather than telling the player or elite player about another player, I ask them questions about their daily life in sport. I ask questions about practice, circumstances of their lives as sportspeople, relationships within the team, the spiritual implications of their sport lifestyle and more. To tell a high profile sportsperson a story about another athlete has little relevance and less impact. To ask a poignant question related to his or her life and how Christ makes a difference is of real value to us both. Illustrations and stories break down quickly with people in Quadrants 2 and 4 and even more so with elite and high profile men and women. Stick to wise conversation related to their daily experience in sport and life and you’ll find their hearts open and engaged.

Most of those we serve as Sport Chaplains, Character Coaches or Sport Mentors live in Quadrants 2 or 4. Let’s consider wisely the ways we communicate with them. Let’s search for ways to creatively engage their hearts and minds through their daily experiences of life in sport and thereby share the love, the truth and the claims of Christ Jesus as they make their way to Him and then grow in relationship with Him.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sport in Ministry Map - Part 2

This is the latest in a series of thoughts concerning the Sport in Ministry Map which was developed by Lowrie McCown and was detailed in “Focus on Sport in Ministry” by Lowrie McCown and Valerie J. Gin. (ISBN 193261100-2) For more information visit and to acquire a copy, email Lowrie at The more I have come to understand, to implement and to rely upon the insights of the Sport in Ministry Map, the more I have been effective with the various sorts of people we encounter in our ministry in sport.

As you will recall, the Sport in Ministry Map consists of two lines which intersect at ninety degree angles. This creates four quadrants of area which we will today number 1, 2, 3 and 4. Quadrant 1 will represent the lower left area which is populated by Spectators, Novices and Leisure participants in sport (Recreational approach) who have yet to commit their lives to Christ Jesus. They will have numerical values from -10, those who don’t even believe in the spiritual dimension of humanity, to 0, the point of conversion and trusting Jesus as Savior. Quadrant 2, immediately to the right, will also describe those “yet to believe,” but it is full of Players, Elite and High Profile competitors (High Achievement approach). Quadrant 3 is above Quadrant 1, again populated by Spectators, Novices and Leisure participants in sport, but these range from 0, having just trusted Christ to +10, those most fully formed and mature believers in your church, family or community. To the right of Quadrant 3 is Quadrant 4 which is made up of believers in Jesus Christ who have strong identities in sport, being Players, Elite competitors and High Profile performers in sport. Defining these quadrants will be helpful in our further discussions.

A very important value for effective ministry in sport is to understand and to employ wisely various ministry resources and strategies as they best fit the respective quadrants and the people therein. There is a tendency in sports ministry to take a “one size fits all” mentality to our strategies and methods. This is a terribly misguided approach and will result in frustration for both the ministry leaders and their intended recipients of ministry. Let’s discuss some of the distinctions by quadrant.

In quadrants 1 and 3, Programmatic approaches will be effective, but in quadrants 2 and 4, a more Relational approach will be required. A well-crafted program of Bible study, video presentation, testimony or analogies to sport will have its desired effect with Spectators in particular and even with the Novice and Leisure oriented people. However, the farther to the right one’s audience for ministry is (Player --> Elite--> High Profile) the more effective Relationship will be to ministry impact. No glossy, slick or “can’t miss” program will impress those in quadrants 2 and 4. You have their ears when you invest in their hearts. If they learn to trust you, they’re ready to hear you, with or without a polished presentation or program.

Pressure, distrust and a progressive loss of privacy causes the quadrants 2 and 4 people to narrow their list of trusted friends and confidants. If you win a place within their circle of trust, your relational capital is more valuable than the best program on the planet. Whether with quadrant 2 people, those who have yet to trust Christ or quadrant 4 competitors, those who are growing in Christ, your relational approach will have the greatest effect and deepest impact. Please don’t take shortcuts and apply methods which fit spectators well to your quadrant 2 and 4 people. This can undermine your relationships and diminish your effectiveness. The numbers of participants will be lesser, but the depth of impact will be much greater.

Two instances from my recent weeks of ministry may help illustrate these approaches.

1) A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a local high school’s Girl’s Sports Banquet. The room was full of people from all four quadrants. There were lots of quadrant 1 and 3 people, both the student-athletes and parents. There were a few quadrant 2 and 4 people, mostly Players (coaches and student-athletes) and even one or two elite competitors, one a believer the other not. Given that crowd, I determined to speak most directly to those nearest the center line. I told a story of a women’s college basketball player whose life was emblematic of Proverbs 3:5-6. The stories of sport kept the quadrants 1 and 3 people engaged and I spoke about my friend’s life in sport enough to keep the quadrants 2 and 4 people from tuning out. My tone was to encourage and to challenge and I was brief, which made everyone happy.

2) This coming Sunday night I’ll be doing pre-game chapels for two minor league baseball teams. These will be entirely quadrants 2 and 4 competitors. As I’ve been developing relationships with these players for a few weeks, I’m getting a handle on how many already know Jesus and which ones have yet to trust Him. My talk with them will include zero stories, it will be direct and challenging and our setting will be the dugout. That is a perfect setting because it’s where they are most at home and is off limits to fans and others. I’ll stand close to them and will talk in a very relational style as we discuss the effect of the truth of scripture as applied to their lives in baseball.

Please continue to walk with me through the Sport in Ministry Map as we sharpen our skills and heighten our awareness of the distinctions in the lives of the men and women of sport.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sport in Ministry Map - Part 1

The next few weeks will feature a series of thoughts concerning the Sport in Ministry Map which was developed by Lowrie McCown and was detailed in “Focus on Sport in Ministry” by Lowrie McCown and Valerie J. Gin. (ISBN 193261100-2) For more information visit and to acquire a copy, email Lowrie at The more I have come to understand, to implement and to rely upon the insights of the Sport in Ministry Map, the more I have been effective with the various sorts of people we encounter in our ministry in sport.

Many in sports ministry either think that “one size fits all” and they apply the same ministry strategies and methods to sports fans as to elite competitors or they simply don’t understand the broad range of attitudes and mentalities which are held by their widely varying constituencies. The Sport in Ministry Map is a tool to help one understand and then to design ministry in sport which is best suited to a particular individual or group to be served.

Picture if you will a vertical line intersected at its center by a horizontal line (like a graph from algebra). Our vertical axis is a continuum related to the process of evangelism, coming to Christ and the process of discipleship, growing in Christ. We’ll assign numerical values to this axis from -10 at the bottom to +10 at the top with the point Zero marking the point of conversion, the moment when one commits his or her life to Christ Jesus. At each digit in upward movement, the person is moving toward knowing Jesus personally and then growing more deeply in relationship with Him. This is an adaptation of the Engel Scale of Spiritual Decision Making Process by Dr. James Engel and is explained in detail in “Changing the Mind of Missions” by James Engel and William Dyrness.

The horizontal axis is also a continuum related to one’s approach to sport. At the extreme left are those who aren’t even aware of sport at all. It’s simply not a part of their life experience. Just inside them, one notch to the right is the Spectator. Spectators occupy stadium seats, watch sport on the television and their approach to sport is purely second hand. They watch others who compete. Just to the right of the Spectator is the Novice. The Novice is simply new to the sport, whether he be a five year old playing soccer (football) for the first time or a thirty-five year old who just bought golf clubs yesterday. They are both new to the game. They have a different perspective than the Spectator, simply because they are actually engaged in playing the sport first hand. To the right of the Novice, just to the left of center, is the Leisure participant. This person could be involved in sport for a number of reasons including recreation, fitness, health benefits or even just for pure enjoyment. Let’s summarize this side of the horizontal continuum with the thought that for the Spectator, Novice and Leisure participant, their approach is Recreational in nature. Sport is not central to their lives and they do not identify themselves by their participation in sport.

As we continue to move across the horizontal continuum, just to the right of center is a mindset we’ll call Player. This person may not be any more skilled or highly performing as the Leisure participant, but his mentality is much different. He or she will spend much more mental energy in preparation for competition and much more time in reflection and analysis after the game is over. Competition is personal to them. To perform well is to feel better about himself and to perform poorly assaults her sense of well-being. Just to the Player’s right is a set of competitors we’ll call Elite. This person has all the qualities of the Player, but with added pressure and expectations. Often the added pressure is from within as Elite performers know they are more gifted and feel the responsibilities to their team to their coaches, parents and even to God. The Elite competitor finds himself making more sacrifices for his sport, shaping lifestyle choices and even relationships to support his sport performance. At the extreme right of the sport continuum is the High Profile participant in sport. This person has all the qualities of the Player and Elite performer, but has the added encumbrances of fame, loss of privacy, heightened scrutiny by fans and media and much more. The Player, Elite and High Profile competitors are in sport to achieve highly and not for recreation. Rather than seeking fun or fitness in sport, they’re seeking to perform at their best and to achieve all they can. These three approaches to sport identify themselves strongly by their performances in each practice, competition and over their careers.

The point to this article, simply an introduction to the Sport in Ministry Map, is to be sure we all see the differences in approach that people have toward sport and toward spiritual matters. One who is yet to trust Christ and in fact doesn’t even believe in spiritual matters at all will have a much different approach to life than will a person who is thirty years along in his life with Jesus. The same is true on the horizontal continuum as the spectator holding his television remote control while sitting in his easy chair has a much different approach to sport as does the elite competitor whose life is in turmoil as he’s scoring below average, is battling an injury and fears that his career may be near its end. The map helps us determine what sorts of ministry are most appropriate for each one, team or group related to both their spiritual condition and their approach to sport. One size does not fit all.

Please walk along with me as I try to unpack the riches I have found and continue to employ in ministry with the men and women of sport. I hope it is of value to you.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

3rd Annual FCA Sport Chaplains Conference

The third annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes Sport Chaplains Conference concluded yesterday in Kansas City, Missouri. Almost fifty people attended from places including Virginia, Georgia, Delaware, Maryland, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Indiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Iowa, and even India. Among the attendees were volunteers working with high school teams and club teams, a four-time Olympic medal winner and deeply experienced chaplain at the Olympic Games, FCA staff who serve full-time as chaplains, FCA staff who volunteer with university teams, FCA staff who serve professional teams, FCA staff who recruit, train and oversee volunteer character coaches, and even a young lady of Chinese descent who plays ice hockey in Spain. It was a widely diverse crowd of men and women, all passionate to learn new ways to be impactful in their ministries.

Scott Pilkington from Southern Illinois served as the chaplain to the chaplains during the conference. His first address included such challenging statements and questions as, “Find God in the ordinary and then you don’t have to rely on the extraordinary.” “Is your axe head chopping down trees in the right forest?” “What is your life presently communicating?”

Scott’s second address, on Thursday morning, emphasized “Clarity of the Gospel” and this penetrating question, “Are you serving from the Tree of Life or the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?” The former leads to life, the latter leads to legalism.

Tom Brawner led us in a tremendous session related to Performance-based Identity. He was wise to urge us to receive this instruction personally before making plans to share it with others. There is no doubt that sport chaplains, character coaches and sport mentors are just as prone to performance-based identity as those whom we serve. A few of the big points in his talk included the order of God’s creation of Man. 1) Creation 2) Blessing 3) Command 4) Rest. He said, “We work from our rest. We don’t rest from our work.” We would be wise to start from a place of rest. “Sometimes rest is the most aggressive thing we can do in our ministries.” His use of a triangle diagram to illustrate the proper flow of life, from the Father to Identity to Obedience was powerfully applicable to everyone plagued by this malady. The diagram is taken from “Covenant and Kingdom” by Mike Breen.

Dr. Bill Moore and Dr. Nicki Moore of the University of Oklahoma shared some Counseling Guidelines with our conferees on Thursday morning. “Aikido Conversations: Guiding Momentum for Change with Coaches and Athletes” was the theme of their insightful presentation. Nicki spoke of “Motivational Interviewing” as a method to help people discover and to implement change for their lives. They led us in an exercise to demonstrate the interview process and shared some potential pitfalls in counseling relationships.

Mikado Hinson, Chaplain at the University of Houston for the last 12 years, made a presentation about: How to Communicate Effectively with the People of Sport. Mikado’s presentation included a list of resources and a solid list of tips including: 1) Invest in people… Professionally, Personally and Spiritually. 2) Never compromise the truth, but share/live the truth in love. 3) Don’t have a sense of entitlement. 4) Don’t be easily offended. 5) Seek to be an active listener. 6) Pray.

Roger Lipe from Southern Illinois FCA and chaplain at Southern Illinois University made a presentation on “Ministry in Moments of Crisis.” This discussion included a wide range of crisis situations and culminated in three principles from Jesus’ ministry at the grave of his friend Lazarus in John 11: 1) Be Present 2) Be Hopeful 3) Be Authentic. The presentation was followed by small group discussions.

At the beginning of each general session the conferees watched a video about someone who was pioneering Sport Chaplain ministry in his era, sport or area as well as an interview. Madeline Manning-Mims and Carey Casey were interviewed on Wednesday evening. They were both chaplains at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea. Todd Worrell, former Major League Pitcher and the Pro Ministry director for FCA in Greater St. Louis, was interviewed on Thursday morning and Chris Rich from FCA in Maryland, an area which is exponentially growing the service of volunteer chaplains, was interviewed on Friday morning.

Scott Pilkington wrapped up the conference on Friday morning with a powerful address on, “Joy Stealers and Ministry Killers.” That list included: 1) Comparison 2) Regret 3) Insecurity 4) Fear 5) Anxiety – Communication Anxiety, Cash Anxiety, Conversion Anxiety, and Conflict Anxiety.

The FCA Sport Chaplain Advisory Team was wise to build the conference with plenty of open space between sessions. This allowed everyone time to process information, to network, to converse and to compare notes with their peers. Everyone in attendance was very appreciative of the efforts of FCA’s Jeff Martin and Jordan Barnes who facilitated and hosted the conference. Be sure to make time in your calendar for next year’s conference. It will be worth every minute of your time and every dollar you would invest to travel and to attend.