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.