Friday, November 29, 2013

Your Most Effective Forms of Training and Preparation

Last week I asked you to respond to the following question, What have been the most effective forms of training and preparation for you in your role as a Sport Chaplain, Character Coach, or Sport Mentor?” A number of the responses I received are below. I pray that they are of value to you, that they either affirm the training and preparation you have received or possibly even inspire you to seek additional training to further prepare yourself for transformational ministry.
From Cristobal Chamale – Athletes in Action Latin America and Caribbean Countries
To go and visit the federations asking them for permission to visit the national teams and offer them conferences to motivate them through moral and Christian principles for their improvement in athletic skills and their spiritual area, then I began my preparation to teach them, I have been using books, my bible, and the Athletes in Action materials, my personal quiet time, etc...this has been the way for my training and now I have been bringing my volunteers to use the doors open and sharing with them all the materials that I have.
From Ross Georgiou – Sports Chaplaincy New Zealand
I have done the training in New Zealand and with Australia. For me it is having multiple trainers, solid but not too heavy material, role plays on real issues, using media / videos and especially having people who can give examples of 'what to do'.
From Dr. Steven Waller – University of Tennessee (USA)
1.   Seminary training
2.   Workshops through the Association of Professional Chaplains, American Association of Pastoral Counselors, Sport Chaplains Roundtable
From Johnny Shelton – Chaplain to the NFL Baltimore Ravens (USA)
·        I have been blessed to have a variety of training over the years. FCA’s annual chaplain training has been great along with the chaplains training during the coaches clinics that are held every year and chaplains roundtable as well.
·        As I look back on the most effective training, I’d have to say it was through my local church when I lived in North Carolina. We had a Men’s ministry that was very intentional about pouring into the lives of men through  discipleship. This is where I grew & learned life on life ministry! (getting into someone’s world) meeting a person where they are and presenting the Gospel in a non-threatening way.  
·        As chaplains, we have this tremendous privilege and opportunity to build these relationships on a daily basis. Something that we should not take lightly!
From Marla Williams – FCA staff at Georgia Tech University (USA)
There have been a variety of training forms that I am so appreciative of.
·        First- the chaplain training program I went thru under Wes Yeary at Auburn University. It was basically a school year-long apprenticeship for a 4 person cohort. In it we learned skills and attitudes that are necessary and then got the opportunity to have responsibility for a handful of teams with oversight from Wes and debriefing time with our cohort. In addition, we had a seasoned pastor that spent weekly time with us, training us in the Word and in general pastoring. 
·        Second- gaining a network of other sports chaplains, particularly with other organizations such as Athletes In Action. This has given me "safe people" to share encouragement and ideas with, as well as fresh thoughts outside of the organization for which I work. 
·        Third- various conferences on sports chaplaincy
·        Fourth- Reading. A lot. And in a wide variety (authors from different backgrounds than me). It keeps my axe sharp and causes me to grow and know how to articulate spiritual truths across various cultures. The best book has been "The Art of Listening Prayer" by Seth Barnes. The BEST preparation is knowing what God has to say about the day/season/year ahead of you. 
From Daniel Chappell – FCA staff in Eastern Illinois (USA)
·        Formal training in bible and theology at the university/seminary level in order to handle and teach the scriptures well.
·        Chaplain Training/Literature from you specifically addressing issues that face Sports Ministers that I never had access to in my formal theological training.
·        FCA Coaches’ Ministry Academy Training-understanding the importance of ministry TO and not simply thru the coach and providing useful tools and strategies to connect with and minister to coaches.
From Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR / Franciscan University / Steubenville OH (USA)
Training? Preparation? What are those? One you were ordained you were expected to be a master of everything, or so it seemed others thought. I wasn't so I had to read a lot from some great masters. My favorite authors who helped form my interest in character development are: Earl Nightingale, Denis Waitley, Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn, Og Mandino, Charles Swindoll. And then, drawing from former personal sports and life experiences, I was able to develop an understanding concerning personal development and sports ministry.
From Mark Stephens – FCA staff in Maryland (USA)
·        Fca chaplains conference
·        Monthly calls with chaplains/character coaches 
·        Asking the coach where I can serve best and improve.
From Bill Ray – FCA staff in Southeast Missouri (USA)
My only training has been the 2 FCA Chaplain's conferences and I have always got something good from it. However, now that I am working as a chaplain for the first time I have relied on calling you and Johnny Shelton for advice. What you are doing now, having people give their best practices, have been very helpful.
From Robbie Gwinn – FCA staff in Central Illinois (USA)
Small group discussion or conference calls with other sport ministers/chaplains have been the most meaningful to me.
From Tim Mellott – FCA Character Coach in Frederick, Maryland (USA)
My weekly coaches huddle which consists of about 8 coaches is a huge part of my preparation and training. Our discussions, relationships and love for each other drives my desire to grow in Christ. It supports me, helps hold me accountable and motivates me to be authentic as well as to face my sins. These guys are authentic and real. We genuinely love each and have each other’s back, no matter what! Through my journey with my brothers God prompts me towards topics, wisdom and methods to communicate with the young people.
From Coach Mike Berg – North Dakota (USA)
Primarily I've drawn from as many sources as I've been able to access: 
·        Your team building materials,
·        FCA materials,
·        on-line materials from such as Greg Laurie and God Pause (Luther Seminary),
·        American Football Coaches Association materials from attending the convention as well as manuals and journals.
From Ken Lewis – FCA in Nampa, Idaho (USA)
·        Prayer;
·        FCA training at the National Support Center in Kansas City;
·        reading your e-mails, ideas & thoughts;
·        my own reading on this process/strategy in reaching athletes & coaches;
·        Reading sports devotionals;
·        my experience of 19 years coaching wrestling & 7 years coaching girls lacrosse

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ministry To or Through Sportspeople?

I was last week in a set of meetings of 400 people from 93 countries who all do ministry to or through sportspeople. Of late, the momentum has swung toward serving sportspeople more directly rather than seeing the primary emphasis of ministry in sport as working through them. I, for one, am very happy to see this trend.
Below is an article first sent to many of you in 2008 after some discussions with valued and respected colleagues. I hope these thoughts help shape the conversation and our service together.
This reflection is also included in the recently released book, Free to Compete – Reflections on Sport from a Christian Perspective. It is available in paperback and Kindle versions and can be obtained through or
Ministry To or Through Sportspeople?
We who are engaged in Sports Ministries would do well to ask ourselves some questions for evaluation and contemplation on a couple of important issues.  Many of us would characterize our ministries as being to the people of sport.  Others would say that their ministry extends through the people of sport to the world at large.  Others would rightly say that they do some of both.  I would like to challenge all of us with the same definitions and questions I regularly ask of myself as I analyze and adjust my ministry with people in sport; coaches and athletes alike. 
Important Note: Ministry to Sportspeople and Ministry through Sportspeople are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Often they work together. This document examines the ‘primary’ driver of our sports ministry.
First, let’s define Ministry to Sportspeople in the simplest terms.  It is selflessly serving the sportspeople and God's purposes in them with no ulterior motive, no matter how noble.
Below are some examples of such selfless service -
·        Assisting in the whole-life development of the sportsperson.
·        Offering help to players' and coaches' families when they are new to the community.
·        Assisting support staff when they need help with a task.
·        Visiting players who are injured, ill or are grieving a family loss.
·        Helping a coach or player who wants to share his faith by training and encouraging him about it. 
·        Offering hospitality and community to these people often displaced from family and friends.
·        Speaking privately with a player or a coach about his or her relationship with Christ.
·        Maintaining confidentiality re: injuries, illness, family situations, contracts, etc...
·        Protecting private information about players and coaches, such as phone numbers, email addresses, etc. 
·        Praying for a coach or athlete when a request is shared in confidence.
·        Sending encouraging notes, emails, text messages and phone calls.
Ministry through Sportspeople can be defined as ministry efforts which primarily seek to leverage the influence of a coach or athlete to share the Gospel of Christ with those within the sportsperson’s sphere of influence.  One can do such ministry effectively and faithfully if the personal development of the player or coach is his primary goal.  To seek God’s purposes in the life of the individual must supersede one’s goals for ministry extended through the player or coach.
Below are some examples of such ministry efforts -
·        Helping the sportsperson to develop his or her life in Christ through prayer, study, community and training him or her in sharing one’s faith as a part of that development.
·        Teaching a sportsperson about the Christian discipline and responsibility of stewardship in all areas of life, including one’s sport, influence and finances.
·        Providing properly chosen opportunities for a sportsperson to share his or her growing faith with others.
o   In public events.
o   In church services or ministry events.
o   In printed materials.
o   On television, web sites or radio.
o   In sports events, camps, etc…
A note of caution – Ministry through Sportspeople often displays a utilitarian attitude which engages the sportsperson for what he or she can bring to a person, an organization or a cause rather than simply as people in God’s Kingdom.
Some characteristics of such a utilitarian attitude toward sport and sportspersons are:
·        Cultivating relationships with the high profile players while neglecting those less well known ones.
·        Seeking the player or coach out only when you need something done.
·        Players begin to avoid you because they think you will want something from them.
·        Soliciting donations for your ministry from the players and coaches you’re serving.
·        Using your position with the team to generate publicity for yourself or to promote your personal agenda.
·        Sharing info with the media to enhance one's public profile (being seen as an insider).
·        Using your position with the team for free tickets, gear, etc…  Even worse is to abuse such privilege for personal gain.
·        Engaging a person long enough to share the Gospel message with him or her and then withdrawing from them when your personal mission is accomplished.
·        Seeking out high profile players so you may tell others, "Player X attends my church. You should join us."  This may be true, but the sportsperson can feel like a pawn for one’s ambition for growing church attendance.
·        Saying, "Sport is a good tool for ministry."  It certainly is, but such a statement betrays an attitude which does not value sport in its own right.
·        Saying, "Sport is a good platform for sharing the Gospel."  It certainly is, but saying this can make the sportsperson feel used.
Whether your ministry is primarily ‘to’ sportspeople, or primarily ‘through’ them: Be wise and intentional about your ministry. Examine your motives and adjust your methods. Guard your heart from pride.
Significant contributions to this article were made by Cameron Butler of Sports Chaplaincy Australia.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Significance of Sport Chaplains, Sport Mentors, and Character Coaches in the 21st Century

Ministry in Sport has changed greatly in the last sixty years.  It began with iconic figures and very few details about their lives. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) was founded on this dynamic. FCA’s founder, Don McLanen, selected high profile, Christian athletes to proclaim their faith in public, just as they were being used by companies to promote their products.  Ministry in Sport grew through the influence of two-dimensional, heroic Christian athletes who were used by various ministries to achieve growth and financial development. FCA grew through this dynamic.  The last twenty years have revealed a huge tear in the fabric of many sports ministries. Our intentions have been questioned, our integrity has been examined and our methods have been scrutinized. FCA is part and parcel of this dynamic.
The present world of sport and much of sports ministry is characterized by three primary weaknesses.  1) The prevalence of compartmentalized lives; that is a lack of integrity. This is easily seen in situations like the fall of coaches, players, and even prominent Christian athletes.  2) The horrible lie of performance based identity. A player’s sense of personal worth may rise or fall based upon his most recent performance on the field of competition. A coach’s sense of God’s pleasure with her may ride on her team’s win/loss record. Even worse, a sport chaplain’s sense of his or her being in God’s will can be shaped by the relative success or failure of the teams being served. Each and all of these scenarios are emblematic of the terrible lie that assaults the hearts of sports people. 3) The collapse of the American family structure. Most of the young men and women whom we serve are now from single parent families. They start their lives relationally and spiritually handcuffed. Worse still, if they are so blessed as to be athletically gifted, they may find that their coaches, teammates, agents, peers, lovers, even their parents and sport chaplains use the player for their own personal gain.
Sport Chaplains, Sport Mentors, and Character Coaches in the 21st century are uniquely qualified to address these issues.  If we will lovingly lead and serve with integrity of heart and not simply follow the culture’s flow of compartmentalization, we can make a real difference. We can lead players, coaches and our colleagues in ministry toward lives of real integrity and don’t treat it as a mere buzzword to impress our donors. The issue of performance based identity is most poignant for these days and will only increase in importance in the future.  The self-perpetuating cycle of broken people growing up in broken homes can be overcome by the life transforming power of the Gospel of Christ in the lives of sportspeople. Not for the sake of the masses who follow them, but for their own lives and families. They are worth it, regardless if anyone else is watching.
My challenge to you and to sports ministries globally is: 1) To conduct your ministry with a whole heart. To fully integrate the presence and power of Christ in all of life; sport, ministry, family, all of it. 2) Guard your hearts and those you serve from the insidious lie of performance based identity. Help them to see that their lives are inextricably tied to the infinite value of Christ Jesus as they are in Him. 3) Dynamically impact the lives of the people of sport with the Gospel and thereby extend Christ’s influence in their families, teams, communities and the world.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Common Cause - Pregame Chapel Talk

Across these twenty seasons of college football I’ve written and delivered a lot of pre-game chapel talks. I thought I’d share the chapel I conducted last Saturday prior to the Football Salukis’ game at Western Illinois University. Our game with the Leathernecks had a 1:00 pm start time and our chapel was at 8:45 am, just prior to the team meal. 100% of the coaching staff and team were in attendance. I was pleased to speak on one of my favorite scripture passages. Below is the outline of my talk. I hope it is of some value to you.

Saluki Football – “Common Cause”

Introduction – This is game one of our four game sprint to the playoffs. Let’s be great today.

Opening prayer by a junior running back.

Common Cause – Thousands of years ago, a man named Moses led two million people from slavery in Egypt to their home in Palestine. Two million people is the equivalent of 20,000 football teams like ours. Their common cause is detailed in the first five books of the Bible and in Psalm 90. Read Psalm 90:12-17. This is the prayer of Moses, the man of God.

          v. 12 – Understand the brevity of life and of opportunity, live wisely.

          v. 13 – God, please visit us with compassion, life is hard.

          vv. 14-15 – Please provide food for us again tomorrow and allow us some good days to match these hard days.

          v. 16 – Show us what to do as men. Let our kids experience a great life.

          v. 17 – Please show us favor with our friends and even with our enemies. Establish our work, make it of lasting impact.

Saluki Football’s Common Cause and my prayer for this team today is this.

·        I pray that we understand how brief the remaining season is and that we will wisely seize this opportunity.

·        I pray that we sense God’s presence on the field today and seek the best of the college football experience.

·        I pray that our coaching staff sees clearly what to do in every moment and that our players find great joy in the game.

·        I pray that we have the favor of God upon us and that the work of our hands; countless hours of study, practice, and training are confirmed, established, and have a lasting impact.

That’s my prayer for Saluki Football today, our common cause, step one of four to a playoff berth.

Closing prayer by our injured, fifth year quarterback.