Friday, June 29, 2012

Volunteer Sport Chaplains and Character Coaches

Here in the USA, there has been tremendous growth in the number of men and women who volunteer as sport chaplains or character coaches with high school and club sports teams. In southeast Georgia and more recently in Northern Virginia and Maryland, this form of ministry is growing exponentially with great effect. There are certainly others who are developing this sort of ministry in areas of which I am not even aware.

There are some common elements for this sort of ministry and its effectiveness. Some of those elements are listed below:

• Visionary leadership by a ministry staff person.

• Solid relationships with coaches facilitated by the staff person and developed by the volunteer.

• Volunteers with a heart for coaches and competitors who will sacrifice time and convenience to serve.

• Wise leadership by ministry staff who will facilitate volunteers in ministry without stifling them with unrealistic expectations or too great a need for control.

• A simple system for training and mentoring the volunteers.

Many of these are using the FCA Sport Chaplain and Character Coach Training manual to assist in the training and development of the volunteers’ ministries. The manual was revised in the fall of 2011.

Many others are using copies of Transforming Lives in Sport for their training and development. It can be acquired from Cross Training Publishing or through my office. This book is also available in Spanish for free. Simply email me for a pdf of the material.

I would like to encourage you to consider this form of ministry in your area. Wise and effective leadership of volunteer sports chaplains or character coaches can be a dynamic and life-changing part of your ministry. I would love to help you serve coaches and competitors through such vital ministry. Drop me a line and I’d be thrilled to discuss it with you.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Credentialing Sports Chaplains in the 21st Century

On Saturday June 23 I participated in a panel discussion titled: Credentialing Sports Chaplains in the 21st Century Matters: A Panel Discussion on Pathways to the Certification Mainstream at the annual conference of The Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) in Schaumburg, Illinois. The session examined issues surrounding the certification of sport chaplains working at the amateur, collegiate, professional sport and Olympic levels. Current research has revealed that several organizations credential sport chaplains and that there is a wide variance in certification requirements. APC members are invited to participate in a dialogue with chaplains working at the collegiate, professional (NBA, NFL, NASCAR), and Olympic levels to discuss the implications of certification. Representatives from the United States Council for Sports Chaplaincy, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Sports Ministry Program - Truett Seminary at Baylor University and the International Sports Professionals Association will also participate in the conversation.

Participant Goals:

1. Elaborate on how sport chaplains support players, coaches and families with their ministries.

2. Compare and contrast the certification requirements of one alternative credentialing organization against those of APC.

3. Discuss the implications of sport chaplains remaining uncredentialed and working as professional chaplains.

Participants in the discussion were:


• Steven Waller Ph.D., D.Min.
Associate Professor
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN


• Roger Lipe
Chaplain Southern Illinois University Athletics
Southern Illinois FCA
• John B. White, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Practical Theology
Director of Sports Ministry Program
George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University
• Madeline Mims
Chaplain, Tulsa Shock, WNBA
Executive Director - United States Council for Sports Chaplaincy
• John Mayer
Executive Director
International Sports Professionals Association
• Rev. Dr. Harold Cottom III, D. Min.
Daytonview Church of the Nazarene
Dayton, Ohio

The discussion was lively with some opening remarks from each of the panelists regarding the present landscape of sports chaplaincy in the USA and some of the issues which both illustrate the need for a standard of service which should be required of sport chaplains, training and certification or credentialing. It seems that the world of sports chaplaincy is very similar to what was happening with hospital chaplains forty years ago. Those who joined the panelists for this discussion were very helpful in that they had experience with chaplaincy in hospitals, prisons and the military. We found several points of commonality with their service, but we were quick to describe the situations which are unique to the world of sport. Everyone left with a sense of movement. The people in the room, some who represented major USA sports ministries and others from academia and still others from the APC, left the discussion with a greater sense of unity than before and the sense that if we were to collaborate well, we could form a set of standards which would lead to certification of sport chaplains in a way that would find acceptance and even endorsement from sports organizing bodies at the highest levels in USAmerica.

Each panelist spoke of his or her personal experiences as a sports chaplain, the process of training they received for serving in this role and the need for an established code of requirements for those who will carry this title in the future.

I spoke briefly of the model employed by our colleagues in Australia. Sports Chaplaincy Australia has done a phenomenal job of developing sports chaplaincy across the continent through training, certification, continuing education, networking and mentoring. Their model may be one which we should examine for ideas and wisdom as we progress.

A significant challenge to this movement will be to get the buy in of the USA’s largest and most influential sports ministries. Most of the sports chaplains in the nation’s schools are affiliated with either the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or Athletes in Action. Beyond the campuses are those who serve through Baseball Chapel, Motor Racing Outreach, Hockey Ministries International, Christian Surfers International and more. The challenge will be to get all these organizations to buy into a system of training, certification and/or credentialing which bears a brand name besides their own. I believe that a unified effort which leads to a universal set of principles and best practices can be of tremendous value to all concerned and even more importantly, can lead to wider and deeper service of the men and women, boys and girls of the USA sports community. Please join me in praying that this can be accomplished, whether quickly or slowly.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What follows is the transcript of a talk which was delivered at a recent FCA Power Camp by one of my summer interns. Jessica Anderson is about to be a senior swimmer (200 and 400 Individual Medley) at Southern Illinois University (USA). J shared her heart with our campers in such a remarkable way that I felt compelled to ask her to turn her talk into text and to allow me to share it with you. Please take a few moments to read and to then reflect upon her expression of identity as a sportsperson.

For Whom Are You Playing?

Finding Identity outside of sport.

For years when people would ask me who I am, I would answer with the same generic statement: daughter, student or athlete. However true those titles were, I found my most important identity as an eighteen year-old, as a child of God.

Until I gave my life over to Christ, I had a one dimensional identity—I only defined myself as an athlete and it owned me and it overtook me, my every thought and decision was focused on how to become a better athlete. I made many sacrifices to try and achieve as much as I could through sport and because of that, I found success. Although, it was never as fulfilling as I thought it would be. In high school, our team won three state championships, won a national-runner-up title, and I got a Division I college scholarship, but I always found myself wanting more. I wanted to be faster, I wanted to win more races, and no matter how much success I had, I always was left feeling empty. I was never satisfied with who I was as an athlete because although I didn’t know it, I was incomplete. I was missing the most important member of my team…Jesus Christ.

Although I grew up knowing about Him, I didn’t give my life to Jesus until my freshman year of college. I then began to find completion and joy through sport. I realized, for the first time, that He created me as an athlete to glorify Him. Now, for the first time, I wasn’t competing for my teammates, my parents, or myself. I was practicing every day and swimming every yard for Jesus and He never failed to meet me in the pool.

I fully realized where my identity truly lied when after my sophomore year I underwent a reconstructive shoulder surgery that kept me away from sport for about nine months. There was no guarantee I would ever be able to compete again. However, I found more joy and completeness in those nine months than in the years I had spent swimming prior to that. Jesus never left my side and he showed me I was not just a swimmer, I was so much more than that, I was HIS and that is the greatest gift that has ever been given to me.

I was blessed with a miracle recovery that not even the doctors could understand and was able to get in the pool only three months post-surgery. I was again able to compete in the sport God designed me to do. Although, I now do not compete for myself—every day I choose the identity of Jesus before all else and rather than using swimming as only a sport, I now use it as a form of worship. Most days, the pool serves as my church. I feel God’s presence most often when my face is in the water staring at the line on the bottom of the pool than in any other place in my life. I constantly feel His favor and grace during sport now and I know He is pleased when I compete for Him.

I have also learned how to look for Christ’s presence within the world of sport. I constantly look for reminders so I can remember for whom I am competing. I try to look for crosses in my sporting venues. Sometimes it’s where two lines intersect on a field or where a net crosses, but most often it is the way the lines cross on the pool walls that are a constant visual reminder of my Savior.

I encourage all people of sport to look for their true identity in Christ, to choose every day to worship Him through sport and to use their gifts as athletes to glorify Him. I promise them they will find it is the most fulfilling and satisfying way to compete and live. To live everyday with Christ’s name imprinted on your heart reminding you for whom you compete. Joshua 1:9- “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and so not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sport in Ministry Map - Part 5

This is the fifth 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.


One of the more challenging aspects of the Sport in Ministry Map is the contrast between “Mass Appeal” ministry strategies and “Specialized Appeal” sorts of ministries in sport. In most ministries, sport ministries included, there is a strong value on counting numbers and reciting statistics which validate our ministries. Like or not, it’s true. More often than not, the emphasis on statistics is to impress donors and to make comparisons with past years, other ministry methods and even to compare ourselves with other ministries.


When we are involved in sports ministry, this becomes a point of real conflict when we understand the implications of the Ministry Map’s insight that in Quadrants 1 and 3, Mass Appeal can be quite effective whereas in Quadrants 2 and 4 a Specialized Appeal will be much more appropriate and effective. This means that if you’re driven by statistics, you’ll be much less frustrated by ministry with Spectators and Novices. You can find many more Leisure participants for your sport clinics and camps than Players, Elite and High Profile competitors. Mass Appeal oriented strategies and methods of ministry simply work better for the left side of the continuum. One can cram thousands of sports fans into a stadium for a “Faith Night” at a professional sporting contest and have a High Profile sportsperson to tell his or her testimony and it can have a profound effect upon many. This is the most prominent form of “Mass Appeal” ministry in sport.


In Quadrants 2 and 4, the numbers will be much smaller, the preparation much more intensive and the field of vision much more narrow. Instead of speaking with thousands in a stadium, this ministry may be with one person over coffee. It could be a set of Players at your home, a safe place away from media and fans, for dinner and conversation. One’s ministry with a high profile sportsperson may require hours of preparation, prayer, study and reflection to be sure that today’s meeting is on track with his or her personal needs in pursuit of God’s purposes for this one person. What one sacrifices in terms of numbers on this side of the continuum is overcome by immensely greater depth of impact and length of relationship. These people are worth the time, effort and investment, whether or not they ever become the ones who accompany you to a stadium to share a testimony with the crowds. Let’s be sure to emphasize that we do ministry in Quadrants 2 and 4 for their own merit, not simply as a strategy to prepare them for Quadrants 1 and 3 ministry. Christian sports ministries have been accused of this in the past and we’ve been guilty of it at times.


We who work daily with those who populate Quadrants 2 and 4 must be aware of the differences in mindset between the sports fans who attend competitions and that of the competitors on the court, pitch, course, track or field. Let’s not fall prey to the all too typical “one size fits all” mentality and thereby fail those whom we claim to lovingly serve.

Friday, June 1, 2012

This is the fourth 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 of the insights to be gathered from the Sport in Ministry Map is the contrast between an emphasis on Winning vs. the importance of Performance. Those in Quadrants 1 and 3 tend to emphasize and value winning sports competitions, whereas those in Quadrants 2 and 4 are more focused on their performance in sport. The following thoughts are meant to deepen our approach to ministry related properly to each set of people while employing this understanding.


Understand the emphasis spectators and novices give to wins and losses. These are the most readily understood and easiest results to measure in sport. Simply look at the scoreboard, there is the result. No mysteries, no questions. We have to tolerate the fans’ approach to sport when they ask us questions like, “How many games will the team win this year? Will they go all the way this season? Why can’t they win the big one? Do you think we’ll win tomorrow?” While we work to understand such thinking and can even converse with the folks in quadrants 1 and 3, we must not adopt this approach to sport or we’ll create a great distance between us and those we serve in quadrants 2 and 4.


Rather than speaking with Players, Elite competitors and certainly High Profile sportspeople in terms of winning and losing, we must find ways to engage them related to matters of their performance. Performance cannot be judged properly in the simple terms of a win or a loss. Quadrants 2 and 4 men and women scour their personal performance statistics to judge their development over time and their day to day level of how well they do their jobs and fulfill their roles with their teams. While it’s foolish to offer technical advice to those who daily achieve more highly than we ever could, it can be wise to ask good questions and to thereby engage the player’s heart. “How did you feel about your game yesterday? How have you been seeing the ball lately? How do you feel about your role with the team this season? Are you comfortable on the pitch so far? Are you achieving at the level you expect?” and similar questions can open a conversation with these people in a way that simply talking wins and losses never can.


In either case, with people who populate any of the four quadrants, talking about winning or performance simply opens the door to one’s heart, builds a relational bridge and enables the chaplain, character coach or mentor to probe more deeply into all matters of life. I often follow performance questions with relational questions (family, spouse, friends, teammates) and then deeper and more spiritual areas of the heart are much more accessible. Let’s be wise in our conversation and ask the most appropriate questions, leading to the most effective and heart-felt interaction with those who passionately love sport, whether spectator or high-profile participant.