Friday, January 25, 2013

Effective Ministry Strategies

Back on 4 January, I asked for your responses to this statement: “Describe briefly three of the most effective ministry strategies you have used with your sport club or team.” Below are the first responses from various men and women who are serving as sport chaplains or character coaches as well as some who are overseeing others who volunteer with teams or clubs. I hope their examples are both encouraging and challenging to you.


From Robbie Gwinn- Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at the University of Illinois (USA)

1. Connecting with the coach and explaining to them that I have their best interest in mind.

2. Writing the coach notes.

3. Stopping by practices and handing snacks to players, etc.


From Stuart Weir – Verite’ Sport in the United Kingdom

1. Weekly devotionals. I have never done anything which has been more appreciated and has provoked more response. Secret is to keep it short and practical. I know one ministry that sends out 1000 words of theological jems but I wonder how many read it. Doing a daily, focused, Olympic devotional was also very well received.

2. Use the technology. Keep in touch with the athletes you support - using their preferred method; be it Facebook, Twitter, email, messaging, texts. Many of my age are more comfortable on email, BUT the athletes are probably more into Facebook and Twitter. If your athlete is on facebook, you need to be too!

3. Prayer. It is a very powerful thing to be able to say to an athlete, "I pray for you every day" - but then you have to do it!


From Mark Stephens of FCA in Maryland (USA)

1. Running pre game meetings or chapels.

2. Serving coaches: listening, resources, inviting to events, etc.

3. Ministry of presence.

From Bill Houston of Sports Spectrum Radio (USA)

1. For what it is worth, I have found that a ministry of presence means a great deal to the athletes I have had the privilege of serving. Just being at a practice or walk-through session.

2. The simple idea of placing a phone call just to "check in" and say hello. Letting the athlete or coach know I am praying for them has meant a great deal.

3. Providing a special resource, be it a magazine, CD, book, etc. Most of the time, team members who rarely or never take part in a chapel session will ask for a copy of the resource which opens up yet another door for later conversation.


From Randy Chambers of FCA in Delaware (USA)

1. “Life story session” – separate team into twos, then each athlete is given five minutes to share his or her story including accomplishments and adversity. Bring the team back together and ask the listeners to share how they were impacted. Then ask athletes to share their story with the team. This can be executed in secular or spiritual capacity. We have experienced profound results at both high school and college levels. I have never seen a session that did not generate tears from everyone. Amazing.

2. “Outside the Lines” videos and video clips that focus on the absence of fathers. This leads to amazing discipleship and freedom sessions.

3. One-on-one discipleship.

4. Dinners in our home.

5. Athletes stay with our family of 6 for a summer or for “seasons.”

6. Summer discipleship experience focused more on being versus doing.

7. Prayer meetings.


From Richard Garza

1. Pray, pray, pray.

2. Be there consistently be on time and do what you say you will.

3. Be a good listener and respond with God’s Word.


From Tim Schneckloth of IllIowa FCA (USA)

The single greatest chaplain strategy we have used to date is the “Be With” method. Just showing up to practice (after getting the ok from the coaches), setting up meetings with coaches in their offices or with athletes outside of practice, it’s the power of just being with and taking the time to be in their lives within their world of sport and beyond.


What type of ministry is done when we use the Be With method you ask, we call it the ministry of “Shut Up and Listen.” If we earn the trust and respect of the coaches and athletes that we serve by being with them then they start to open up and share their lives with us. This may take a few day or a few years, but if we as Chaplains are consistent and come with no agenda or alternative motives we actually become the person that God wants us to be to them, a real friend (salt & light).


This does not mean that we as Chaplains do not set goals or have a vision for our ministry but these methods that we have used puts God’s will first not our own which means we pray constantly for those coaches and athletes he has put into our lives and truly minister to their spiritual needs instead of signing them up for our ministry program.


It’s all about the relationships with these very special people as Christ intended us to have as His disciples. I am blessed to be a part of that type of ministry, one that is more concerned about people rather than numbers.


Friday, January 18, 2013

A Note from Romania

Below is an email I received this week from a colleague in Romania. Emanuela (Manu) Traica is a young coach and chaplain for women’s basketball and handball teams in Romania and a key member of the Serving the People of Sport Council (  She is doing a tremendous job of serving those in her sporting world. We both hope these notes will be an encouragement to you.


I have written below a kind of testimony of the way how I have served a few basketball players in Romania. I hope it will encourage others.

In Romania there is a great opportunity to serve the foreigner players who are coming to play in my country. I will refer to basketball because for the last 2 years I have served a few basketball players who came to play in Romania. They didn't know anyone else here. The only person they we all knew in common was a lady (who is not living in Romania) who knew one player and also knew me. I started to connect by email, skype and mobile phone with this player. Then through her, I met another of her teammates. Both are Christians.

I saw their needs: there were many.

• Being in a totally different culture,

• Learning a new language,

• Playing with a new team,

• Playing for a new coach,

• Being far away from home, family, friends, church...

• Everything was different and new and they were completely alone here.

• Just trainings and traveling for playing the games. That's all.

We started to talk more about their everyday lives, challenges at trainings or games and then started to do devotionals together through skype, to read together from the Bible and talk about it.

I was looking for opportunities to travel to the cities near mine where their team played just to meet with them before and after the game. I was just there and was available for them for anything they needed and I could help.

Another way of serving was just giving information about how different things are going on in our culture. How to navigate public transport for example, different websites for planning some trips. These were small things that helped to build a relationship with these players.

One of them is playing now in a different country where I knew a person involved in sport ministry. I gave her contact information and put them both in contact with one another. Again small things, but sometimes it’s so important for them to meet another Christian who understands their world of sport.

I am trying just to show my availability to talk, to listen, to pray, and to support...


Friday, January 11, 2013

Journal Entry - Game at ISU

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, “What do you do in a typical day?” I have to answer that no day is all that typical, but there is a rhythm to most weeks. The paragraphs below are an excerpt from this past season’s journal of Saluki Football. This was my nineteenth season to serve in this capacity with the coaches, players and support personnel of Southern Illinois University. I hope this gives you a glimpse of how I approach this opportunity and may even spark an idea for how you serve.

Friday October 5 – Due to a very busy work schedule, I was only able to attend practice on Wednesday afternoon this week. I met the buses at the parking lot just after 7:20 this morning and settled in for the ride to Normal, IL and the game vs. Illinois State University. They are ranked #9 in the nation after their first 5 and 0 start since the 1960s.

The bus ride was quiet as most of the players were sleeping. I read a book most of the way to our lunch at the I Hotel in Champaign. The lunch was quite good and we were soon back on the bus for the remainder of the trip. We arrived on time and had a 20 minute turnaround for practice at the stadium. It was quite chilly and breezy as we were on the field and some of us were ill prepared for the temperature. The practice ended with good energy and Coach Lennon shaped expectations with his final thoughts on the field.

We returned to the hotel, had some down time and then meetings prior to dinner. Dinner was at 5:30 in the hotel and the usual team meeting followed in the hotel auditorium. Coach Lennon told a story, made his final remarks for the team and challenged them regarding “Attitude” and his expectations. That helped shape my chapel comments. Then Sharon, Mark Scally, Casey True, Adam Bortz and I went to Coldstone Creamery for some ice cream.

I returned to the hotel to prepare for chapel and to watch some baseball on television. I looked at several texts for my chapel talk, but could not settle on one and finally decided to nail it down in the morning. I turned in early, as is my routine on road trips, and was soon asleep.

Saturday October 6 – I woke up just after 4:00, but stayed in bed and dozed until around 6:00. I gathered my things and moved down to the lobby to read and to prepare. I did some reading and then set out to find the best possible text for the best possible attitude to challenge the team for this game. I wrestled with this for more than 90 minutes and finally settled on the attitude of being “relentless” as illustrated by I Corinthians 16:8-9. As I further prepared, I determined that I would tell a story about former Saluki linebacker, Ryan Hallahan, and his relentless nature.

After returning to the room briefly, I headed to the banquet room to lay out the devotional letters for today. Chapel began at 8:45 and I launched into my Ryan Hallahan story, read the scripture and then challenged the team to be relentless. The pre-game meal followed and then I returned to the room to finish preparations for the day. I dressed in layers, knowing it would be about 46 degrees and windy all day.

We arrived at the stadium on time and I went to the stadium, then back to the locker room to stay warm for a while. I layered up and went back to the field for the warm up period and pre-game was pretty much as usual. We returned to the locker room for the final moments and then back to the field to begin the game. I spoke briefly with Marion native and ISU starting quarterback, Matt Brown, after the coin toss, wishing him well. I had no idea how bad this day would be for him.

We took the ball first and were soon punting the ball. On one of ISU’s first possessions, our defense held them and forced a punt. Cameron James, who was a punt return substitution for Jayson DiManche, rushed from the right end of our line and blocked the punt. Anthony Williams scooped it up and scored a touchdown. We were up 7-0 and we had lots of momentum. In the second quarter we had a good drive which stalled at the 16 yard line and we successfully kicked a 33 yard field goal. The half time score was 10-0.

At half time we had great enthusiasm and solid confidence, but knew we had to put together another good 30 minutes of football. We had exactly that. We made a strong offensive drive and scored a touchdown. The defense was stifling, intercepting Brown 4 times on the afternoon. ISU was 0 for 12 on third down on the day. We finally made a big play on third down as we had a third and short situation and we completed a play action pass to Mycole Pruitt down the middle for 32 yards. The punting game was excellent again and helped us win with field position all day.

After taking a knee twice in Victory formation to end the game, we ran to the northwest corner of the stadium and celebrated with our fans by singing, “Go Southern Go.” We then jogged back to the locker room to celebrate. Coach Lennon stood on a chair and spoke to the excited players, affirming his expectations and congratulating “the best defense in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.” We sang, “Happy Birthday” to Miss Sharon (my wife) and then we took a knee to say, “The Lord’s Prayer.”

I went outside and spoke to Connor James and his family as well as a few other fans, then returned to the bus, gathered my post-game dinner from KFC and then relaxed on the bus, checking scores from other games on my phone. The bus ride home was relaxed and full of laughter. We watched two movies and arrived in Carbondale a little after 9:00.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Please share your most effective ministry strategies

I have recently been asked to help guide the development of Sport Chaplaincy around the world through the Serving the People of Sport Council and one of the key principles to how I see this being done is the sharing of the vast knowledge held by those in our wide global network. Over the next few weeks I will be asking some questions to which I hope you will reply. These questions are meant to seek your thoughts and the best practices you have employed in your service of the men and women of sport. I will be sure to attribute your contributions to you with your name and organization.

Please send me your thoughts via email and I will collect the ideas as shared by our partners around the world and will then report a summary to you as well as posting them on the SPS web site in the resources section.  I believe that sharing our hearts with each other will result in each of us being better equipped to serve effectively.

Describe briefly three of the most effective ministry strategies you have used with your sport club or team.

That’s it. Simple and direct. Please reply with your thoughts and we’ll share the replies we receive soon. Reply to: Thanks.