Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Inaugural Global Congress on Sports and Christianity

Please consider making plans to attend the Inaugural Global Congress on Sports and Christianity, 24-28 August, 2016.

In light of the dramatic increase in academic research activity and practical initiatives on the topic of sports and Christianity over the last decade, the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at York St John University, in collaboration with the Bible Society, will host this event.


The aims of the IGCSC are to:

· Encourage global collaboration between academics, practitioners, politicians, clergy, administrators and athletes

· Produce quality academic and practitioner publications that have societal impact

· Through intentional mentoring and collaboration, develop individuals in their sphere of influence

· Affect a ‘culture shift’ in modern sport through the sharing of ideas and practices and a ‘coming together’ of individuals from across the academic disciplines and all streams and denominations of Christianity, culminating in an inclusive and ecumenical event.


The IGCSC will be held over four-and-a-half-days and will comprise: a gala dinner, keynote lectures, parallel sessions, a panel led by the Bible Society, a three-hour seminar for each of the fourteen ‘thematic strands’, a ‘student forum’, and a networking event, in which representatives from practitioner organisations, research centres and publishers will be able to share information. A sport-themed service will also be held in York Minster, one of Europe's finest Cathedrals, this event will include an interview with ex-premier footballer, Linvoy Primus MBE and ex-paralympian, Anne-Waflua Strike MBE.

To ensure the continued development and long-term sustainability of the field, an international organising committee has been established to devise and operationalize a long-term strategic plan to ensure similar events take place every three years (in appropriate institutions around the world). The importance and timeliness of the IGCSC, 2016, has been ‘endorsed’ by a wide variety of individuals.


York St John University campus is at the heart of the beautiful and historic city of York, England. Find out more about York St John University and the city of York here.

Thematic Strands

The IGCSC will comprise fourteen ‘thematic strands’, which collectively address existing and emerging topics in the broad area of sport and Christianity. During the congress there will be a three-hour interactive seminar on each thematic strand which will be facilitated by a small group of academics and / or practitioners who are recognised for excellence in their respective fields (click on thematic strand titles below for biographies of Strand Chairperson and Co-Leaders).

A number of academic and practitioner publications will emerge from these thematic strands, as detailed below.

Abstracts submitted for consideration for oral presentations (parallel sessions) to be scheduled through the four days of the congress, can focus on the thematic strands, or may address any topic within the broad field of sports and Christianity.

The thematic strands are as follows:

· Sports Chaplaincy

· Sports, Peace and Religion (with a focus, but not exclusively, on the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games)

· Theology of Disability Sport

· Sports, Bioethics, Performance Enhancements, and Biotechnology: Theological Reflections

· Fathering and Mentoring through Sports and Physical Education

· Women, Sports and Christianity

· Sports Ministry

· Historical Perspectives on Sports and Christianity

· Catholicism and Sports

· Ethical and Social Issues in Sports: Christian Reflections

· Global Perspectives in Sports and Christianity

· Christian Sociological Perspectives on Sport

· Sport, Christianity, Health and Well-Being/Wellness

· Sport, Psychology and Christianity

Please join me at this landmark event in the development of sports chaplaincy among both practitioners and academicians.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Impact of Hip Hop Culture on the World of Sport

Since first beginning to consider the impact of Hip Hop culture on the world of sport and, in particular on the players and coaches I personally serve, during a presentation at the Black Coaches Association convention in Indianapolis during the previous decade, I have sought ways to understand and to express it. The clash of cultures experienced by many coaches, sports chaplains, administrators, and even fans may be better understood and better navigated with some contemplation.

I was struck by the presenter’s assertion that the Hip Hop culture was as foreign and perplexing to the mainstream of African-American culture as the hippies of the 1960s were to mainstream Caucasian culture. I have observed players and their families over the twenty-two years of serving sports teams at our university as well as observing shifts in the general culture of the USA. Much more than a musical genre, fashion sense, graffiti, or vein of film, Hip Hop “is best thought about in the same way as radical western philosophical movement.” To think that this culture is limited to African-Americans is terribly naïve and misinformed. Hip Hop culture transcends race and class distinctions in the USA and even abroad. Corporate entities have learned how to take advantage of it and use its influence to market products of all sorts.

Beyond such personal observations, I have done some reading and decidedly non-academic research to try to better understand what I have seen. Among the most helpful articles I have read is an article by Anthony Thomas from New Statesman on 12 September, 2007. The article contains some language that was most helpful to this fifty-nine year old, white guy from Southern Illinois. “Hip Hop unlike other ways of life does not have a single text that lays out the tenets of culture it does not have a bible, Koran, Torah or Bhagavad Gita, it is not a religion. Philosophically Hip Hop is best thought about in the same way as radical western philosophical movements like existentialism and libertarianism that promote freedom of thought and expression. It is built upon the notion of the open society, there are no fixed moral or cultural codes.” This was very much like the sentiment expressed by the gentleman at the Black Coaches Association several years ago.

Mr. Thomas defines Hip Hop culture like this, 'The cognitive, creative and emotive expression of Western youth of African descent who attempt to find success and meaning within the social realities of their lives that are characterised by poverty, racism and urban decay.'

The article goes on to articulate some of the central doctrines of Hip Hop culture. I would like to list them and to then discuss their expressions in sports culture. 

1. Keep it real.

2. Speak truth to power.

3. Change the game.

4. Represent your hood.

5. Express yourself.

“Keep it real.” This value seems to trump all others in the Hip Hop movement. It finds its expression during interviews with players as they fatalistically say, “It is what it is.” With no idealism or any sense of what something should be or could be, this value defaults to the present state of being. To keep it real is to express your thoughts, emotions, or opinions without regard to the consequences. To exercise self-control over your emotions or your tongue is seen as inauthentic. Authenticity is possibly the highest virtue in Hip Hop culture. This authentic expression of the player may be in direct conflict with the coach, manager, officials, or other authority figures who demand respect and a more controlled manner or expression. Such unbridled authenticity is often a source of controversy in the world of sport.

“Speak truth to power.” Many coaches and others in authority in the sports world bump head on into this Hip Hop value regularly. When a player challenges the authority of his coach or her administration, they present a problem most are not ready to address or to even understand. Demonstrations like the one during introductions of a St. Louis Rams (NFL) game in the fall of 2014, where three players took the field in the posture of the “Hands up, don’t shoot,” movement rising from the Ferguson, Missouri shooting, demonstrations, and riots resulted in outrage, applause, and confusion. Your reaction was determined by your view of the movement and the events, but they felt perfectly justified because they were speaking truth to power. When the University of Missouri Football team announced it would strike, not play the next week’s game, in joining the student protest movement on campus, they were speaking truth to power. Their head coach sided with the players, and soon both the president and chancellor of the university were ousted. This value will challenge authority and often in the most public and inconvenient manner. Sports authorities are in no way exempt.

“Change the game.” Hip Hop is a very fluid movement. Johnson describes it this way, “Hip Hop is a revolutionary culture that revels in its irreverence. A Hip Hop driven life has no time for tradition, Hip Hop is a culture of permanent rebellion, a constant challenge to the status quo making it a culture of outsiders.” Its fluidity is due to the lack of bedrock beliefs, thus anyone can change the game to fit his or her agenda. To change the game can be accomplished via an event, a song, a film, or even a tragedy. Those who know how to change the game can take advantage of a shooting like that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, a tragedy like Hurricane Katrina, a film like, “Straight Outta Compton,” or any of the thousands of Hip Hop songs that capture the culture’s imagination for their requisite 15 minutes of fame. This culture is seen in sport through a myriad of expressions from constantly shifting uniforms, pregame music in the stadium, headphone wearing players who are disengaged from their teammates in team settings, and any other cultural expression that runs contrary to the general culture. To change the game is a virtue in itself.

“Represent your hood.” The breakdown of the traditional family in American culture has led to the totally self-determined Hip Hop definition of family. Family is whatever you say it is. The NFL’s expression of this is in their marketing campaign with the tag line, “Football is family.” Players will refer to their home town neighborhood as family, to their teammates as family, to their clique as family, or anyone else they determine as loyal and true to them. Players will represent their hood via telephone area codes written on their eye black or their shoes, through tattoos on their bodies, or by flashing gang signs in photos. The sense of responsibility and obligation to their hood felt by players who succeed is seen in their foolish use of money and influence. This is certainly one cause of the dramatic prevalence of bankruptcy among professional players who are shortly bankrupt after ending their sporting careers. To misunderstand the loyalty and responsibility felt by players can cause a great deal of grief for coaches, chaplains, and others who care for players in moments of crisis.

“Express yourself.” Watch the NFL, NBA, MLB, College Football or most any high school sporting event and you will see a wide variety of celebrations for touchdowns, dunks, home runs, or even the most mundane accomplishment on the field or court. To express oneself is central to Hip Hop culture, and to do it creatively, uniquely, with style and swagger is of even greater value. This value is expressed in interviews with the media as the player seeks to establish his brand or to show his style by how he speaks. It is seen when team culture and sportsmanship are cast aside for showmanship. It is demonstrated when professional players treat press conferences like fashion shows. It is tattooed and even branded onto their arms and even on their necks and faces. To keep it real and to express one’s feelings, without filter or restraint, is among Hip Hop’s central doctrines. To push back against these expressions will be labeled as racist or bigoted. 

To navigate these cultural waters with players is neither easy nor tidy. We who love them must be willing to deal with the chaos and messiness we feel as we seek to lead them to fulfillment of their goals and God’s purposes. My purpose here is neither to solve cultural dissonance nor to ask that you adopt Hip Hop culture as your own. Rather, I would ask you to seek to understand the culture from which the vast majority of players come and to find new and effective ways to communicate the grace and truth of Christ Jesus in light of it.

Friday, December 18, 2015

2016 FCA Sports Chaplain / Character Coach / Campus Director Conference

Details are being arranged presently, but I would like to have you save the date for FCA’s annual conference for Sports Chaplains, Character Coaches, and University Campus DirectorsApril 11-13, 2016 at FCA’s National Service Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

This conference is a good fit if you are a volunteer serving sports teams at any level, if you are a sports ministry staff person with chaplaincy responsibilities, or even if your role is 100% with a team or a university campus. Sports chaplains from any and all stations of service are welcome and will find their ministries enhanced.

This conference is always very well done with inspiring plenary sessions, informative breakout sessions for those serving in various settings, and lots of time built into the schedule for networking and sharing of best practices between individuals.

Please plan to attend and watch this website for more information and a link to register on line.  General information about the conference is below.


Conference Information


Option 1: $249.00 - Covers lodging, meals and conference expenses
Option 2: $125.00 - Covers meals and conference expenses

Travel Information:

Flights should arrive no later than 3:00pm on April 11, 2016, and depart no earlier than 1:00pm April 13, 2016. Please book your flight to arrive at the Kansas City International Airport (MCI).  Transportation will be provided to and from the airport to the conference.

Cancellation Fee:

Cancellations after April 4, 2016, will result in a $50 cancellation fee per person.

Deadline to Register:

April 4, 2016 (After April 4, there is no guarantee on available space).

Questions? Contact Molly Collins at (816) 892-1161 or

Friday, December 11, 2015

Reprise - Coaching Transitions

During this time of year there is an onslaught of coaching changes, primarily in college football (American Football). As of this morning, there have been twenty-five changes in head coaching positions, just at Division I FBS. Add in all the changes at Division I FCS, Division II, Division III, and NAIA. Multiply each of those by 10 to 12 to reflect the impact upon their staffs and multiply those numbers by the members of their families and one suddenly has a feel of the impact of such changes.

This year in particular, it is more personal than normal. Our head coach was fired a week ago Monday. In the span of two days, four of my coaching friends who had never been fired from coaching jobs, all had their contracts terminated. Such moments really assault the hearts of men like these. I feel the weight of their grief, loss, and even shame. The sense of loss and failure cuts them deeply.

Below is an article I first wrote in 2007 related to coaching staff changes and how we can best navigate these turbulent waters while seeking to serve wisely and in ways that reflect Christ Jesus’ heart. I hope it is of value to you.

Coaching Staff Transitions

Through my many years of service as a sport chaplain with college football, basketball, volleyball, baseball and other teams, I’ve endured several staff transitions.  Some were due to resignations to take new opportunities and some due to firings.  Either way, they’re not easy do deal with for the staff or the chaplain.  Below are some simple thoughts on how to make the transition and to maintain your relationship with the new coaching staff, the support staff and the players.

Related to the outgoing staff:

·        If the staff was fired, understand that this feels like failure and a lot like death to them.

·        Help the coaches to see this situation within the sovereignty of God.  The Lord is not surprised by this.

·        Understand that the transition is probably harder on the coach’s family than on the coach.

·        Be available to them.  They may not want much company, but if they welcome your presence, be there.

·        Be prepared for the termination of some relationships.  Some relationships will live beyond their tenure with your team, but others will cut off all ties to this place and you could be cut off as well.  

·        Communicate respect and thankfulness for their time with your team as well as hope for their future. 

·        Assure them of your prayers and availability to serve.

·        Written communication is very good and can be an enduring encouragement to them.  Send a card, an email and/or periodic text messages to stay in touch with them.

Related to the incoming staff:

·        Pray for favor with the athletic administration and the new head coach.

·        When a new head coach is announced, send a letter of congratulations immediately (keep it to one page).

·        When the coach is settled into the office, get an appointment to welcome him/her and to offer your assistance. 

·        Bring a gift (a book) that is reflective of your desired relationship with the coaching staff and team.

·        A wise attitude is reflected in offering to do, “as much or as little as the head coach believes appropriate.”

·        When discussing a role with the team one can reference his/her role with past coaching staffs, but don’t lock into those methods or activities exclusively.  

·        Let the coach paint the parameters for your role and work to build trust and credibility from there.

·        It is always wise to offer to serve with no strings attached.  Guard your attitude from presumption.

·        Come prepared to discern the coach’s perception of his/her, the staff and the team’s needs.

Monday, November 23, 2015

2015 Chaplains Roundtable in Lansing, Michigan

2015 Chaplains Roundtables

The 2015 Chaplains Roundtables are coming together and we hope to see you there! If you are planning to attend, please submit the form below and we will add you to the list. We look forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for us this year and trust He will make a lasting impact on you and everyone who attends! We look forward to seeing you there!

Guest Speakers


Troy MurphyChaplain,
Green Bay Packers

Jim StumpFootball Chaplain,
Stanford University
Roger Lipe
Southern Illinois University

Lansing, Michigan 

Where: South Church
When:  Tuesday, December 1st

Time: 9:00am-3:00pm
Lansing Lodging: Comfort Inn & Suites
9742 Woodlane Dr.
Dimondale, MI  48821
phone 517.721.0000
Room Rate: $75.00/night 
(Mention South Church)
If you would like to register, or just receive more information, as it becomes available, click the Register button and fill out the form, along with a note telling us what you're interested in.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sports Chaplaincy Leaders meet in Orlando, Florida

This past Wednesday through Friday morning, I was privileged to meet with some dynamic and visionary leaders of the Sports Chaplaincy movement around the world. We met to discuss how we might work together to further the growth of this facet of ministry in sport.

Our team of leaders included:
Ross Georgiou of Sports Chaplaincy New Zealand and Athletes in Action,
Sue Morris of Sports Chaplaincy New Zealand,
Cameron Butler of Sports Chaplaincy Australia,
Richard Gamble of Sports Chaplaincy United Kingdom,
Jung Ho Jung of Sports Chaplaincy Hong Kong,
Yours truly, Roger Lipe, of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

This same gathering of leaders 16 months ago led to the development of

News will be forthcoming related to the results of our conversations. We were also very pleased by the way our ideas were received by other leaders among the wider community of sports ministry leaders gathered in Orlando, Florida this week. 650 people from 120 nations met to be equipped and trained for ministry in their home nations and cities.

Please pray for us as we listen to discern the Lord’s will related to strategic people and places in the world for us to focus our efforts to catalyze the growth of sports chaplaincy as the Spirit creates organic movement.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Chaplains Roundtable - Indianapolis

On November 4, I was privileged to participate in the Chaplains Roundtable event sponsored by Our Daily Bread at Traders Point Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana (USA). Around sixty people attended from Indiana and surrounding states, men and women who serve as sports chaplains in high schools, universities, in motor racing, the National Football League, the NBA Developmental League, and in the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Troy Murphy, chaplain to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, spoke to us at the beginning and end of the event with wisdom and passion. Jim Stump, sport chaplain and mentor to countless young men across over forty years at Stanford University, did a workshop where he shared the power of one to one mentoring and I did a workshop about and how we can use it effectively in our ministries.

The kind people of Our Daily Bread, Bill Houston in particular, were outstanding in every way. They provided materials, managed logistics, and dealt with all the technology to make everyone’s presentations look and sound good.

Another Chaplains Roundtable will be held on Tuesday Dec. 1 at South Church in Lansing, Michigan (USA). To register or for more information, simply log onto Please consider attending this event for the training, networking, and mentoring. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sports Chaplaincy in Guatemala

This week I was in Guatemala City, Guatemala working with my FCA colleagues of that wonderful nation. While in the “land of eternal springtime” we had a very productive meeting with several newly serving sports chaplains (sports mentors), cast vision at a couple of conferences (at the invitation of the Olympic Committee), and shared with many other individuals.

I was thrilled by the way the FCA Guatemala team embraced this form of ministry, how diligently they approached training, networking, and mentoring as the path to ministry development, and the partnership they enjoy. Maybe most gratifying was the profile of those serving. They were almost entirely retired players at elite levels, coaches of sport, and one was a retired very high level futbol referee. They understand sport from the field level, rather than from the cheap seats or through the television screen.

A few photos are below that illustrate the meetings and the rich opportunities we experienced in Guatemala. Thanks to everyone who participated in this transformational week.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Sports Chaplain Conference Calls

Over the years of my service with people of sport there have been a number of changes in technology, many of them to great benefit. One such is the ease of conference calls to gather people from remote distances to share information and to learn from each other. Twenty years ago this was rather cumbersome and costly. Now with services like and Internet services like Skype, such calls are virtually free of charge, but of tremendous value.

Just two days ago I was on a Skype call with people from five continents at once. It was in the evening for my friends in Australia, but 5:00 am at my home. We were all served well.

One of the initiatives I will soon begin in leading sports chaplains and character coaches in my region of the USA (Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri) is a series of monthly conference calls to train, to network, and to mentor. Below is an email I sent to many of my colleagues around the USA in preparation for these calls. You would be welcome to join us on the calls if you like. Thanks.

I sent an email to many of you yesterday about the possibility of doing a series of monthly conference calls for Sports Chaplains and Character Coaches. I have heard from a number of you indicating your interest in participating. As this is a part of my role in serving the FCA Midwest Region, I will prioritize my teammates from the region. I will also strategically invite in others from around the USA to contribute their expertise.
The information below contains the format for the proposed calls and a schedule of dates and proposed guests for each particular call. I would be pleased to facilitate the calls via email and social media promotion as well as interviewing the guests during the calls.
Please let me know if the timing for the date assigned to you works, if not I’ll try to reschedule you on another date. Once our schedule is set and the details are in order, I’ll send out a broader email and invite everyone in. Thanks.

Midwest Region FCA Sport Chaplain / Character Coach Monthly Conference Calls
Day – First Sunday of each month
Time – 8:00 pm Central
Duration – 1 hour
Call in phone number and code – Please call 712.432.1500 and after prompted, enter code 991788* and then when prompted enter 1.
Email your questions ahead of or during the call to

Proposed schedule of guests:
Nov. 1 – Troy Collier – University of Illinois
Dec. 6 – Scott Tickner – Mt. Vernon High School (Illinois)
Jan. 3 – Russ Talley – Northern Illinois University Football
Feb. 7 – Doug Pollock – Bradley University
March 6 – Sara Hurst – University of Illinois
April 3 – Bob Pankey – Benton High School (Illinois)
May 1 – Justin Neally – University of Illinois
June 5 – Eric Drake – Sesser-Valier High School
July 3 – Jason Lipe – Southeast Missouri State University Football
Proposed interview questions for each session:
1.   Tell us about yourself, your family, and your background.
2.   Tell us about the place where you serve as a sports chaplain or character coach.
3.   In what sports do you serve?
4.   When did you first begin to serve as a sports chaplain or character coach and how did that happen?
5.   What are some of your most effective strategies?
6.   One thing a sports chaplain or character coach should ALWAYS do is…
7.   One thing a sports chaplain or character coach should NEVER do is….
8.   Questions we received via email ahead or during the call.

Template for each call: (60 minutes in duration)
·        I will start the call with a welcome.
·        I’ll have someone ready to pray to begin.
·        I’ll promote any upcoming events related to training, networking, or mentoring for sports chaplains and character coaches.
·        I’ll introduce and interview the guest.

·        I’ll wrap things up and will have someone close in prayer.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Insightful Videos

Some of our colleagues and friends have posted some outstanding videos on line that are very insightful. They relate to issues like performance based identity, motivation, and other matters in the lives of sportspeople. Links to these videos are listed below for your review. I have found these of great value to the athletes I serve and I hope they are of value to you and to those whom you serve.

How does a performance based identity effect an athletes' performance and emotional health?

What is the purpose of athletics for a Christian?

What do you say to a disappointed athlete?

Ben Houltberg Pt 1

Ben Houltberg Pt 2

Ashley Null  II part I

Ashley Null II part II

Ashley Null II part III

Ashley Null II Part IV

Friday, October 2, 2015

2015 Chaplains Roundtables

If you serve as a Sports Chaplain, a Sports Mentor, or a Character Coach and you are in the Midwest or Great Lakes area of North America, please consider attending one of these excellent events. They are for you and are always of tremendous quality. Thanks.

015 Chaplains Roundtables
The 2015 Chaplains Roundtables are coming together and we hope to see you there! If you are planning to attend, please submit the form below and we will add you to the list. We look forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for us this year and trust He will make a lasting impact on you and everyone who attends! We look forward to seeing you there!

Guest Speakers

Troy Murphy
Green Bay Packers

Jim Stump
Football Chaplain,
Stanford University

Roger Lipe
Southern Illinois University

If you would like to register, or just receive more information, as it becomes available, click the Register button and fill out the form, along with a note telling us what you're interested in.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sports Ministry Training in Cuba

During the days of 21 and 22 September, my FCA colleague, Jim Roquemore and I delivered sports ministry and sports chaplaincy training to our friends in Havana, Cuba. Like many in Latin America, they had primarily experienced sports evangelism as the predominant form of ministry in sport. Having visited Cuba in 2009 and 2010, I had some background on their approach and thought they were in a position to see sports ministry from a broader perspective and with an approach beyond evangelism.

We began by discussing the McCown Sports in Ministry Map, followed by the 360 Sports Matrix. I was very encouraged by how quickly they grasped the concepts and made immediate application to their service of sportspeople in their nation. It was most helpful that the room of around thirty sports ministry leaders was populated by people from most every category on the map’s horizontal scale – spectators, novices, recreational participants, players, elite players, and one high profile sportsperson. In their large and small group discussions, they processed the material quickly and were greatly encouraged.

On day two, we delivered the Introduction and the Relationships of a Sports Chaplain, from the material at These materials had been converted into Spanish and were very well received. They and I believe that sports chaplaincy can be of tremendous value to the sporting community in Cuba, not only in Havana, but across the island of 11 million people.

These loving, passionate, and disciplined leaders feel cut off from the world of sports ministry due to the US embargo and their nation’s lack of infrastructure. In many ways, it’s like Cuba is stuck in the 1960s in terms of infrastructure and technology. We delivered some simple tools for them to use, including copies of Corazon de un Campeon (Heart of a Champion in Spanish), and the FCA INVICTO Bible (in Spanish) from this summer’s camps.

We finished the trip with a visit to a Havana based mission organization to meet with their leadership to discuss options for the shipping of ministry materials and sports equipment to further our Cuban teammates’ ministries in Baseball, Football (soccer), Volleyball, and other sports.

While travel to and from Cuba is rather clumsy from the USA, it is better than it was five years ago. I believe it will be increasingly easy and more frequent for Jim and his colleagues in the coming years.

I told our Cuban friends that their nation is better positioned for the rapid growth of ministry in sport than any other on the planet. That is largely due to the centrality of sport to Cuban culture. A huge mural is painted on the wall of Havana’s best and largest sports arena. It says, “El Deporte Derecho del Pueblo.” “Sport is the right of the People.” This statement in indicative of how important sport is to this nation and it points to the tremendous opportunity the Church and the sports ministry community has in this nation. May we be faithful to serve our Cuban brothers and sisters as they effectively serve Christ Jesus in the world of sport.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Identity and Sportspeople

The issue of identity, its misplacement in one’s performance, its loss due to injury, retirement, or firing, and several other dimensions of this matter related to people in sport were recently addressed in an article about a college football (American Footbal) player. This article was written by one of this former teammates and it is rather insightful. It offers no solutions, but accurately reflects the gravity of the issue. I hope you will take a moment to read and to think deeply about those whom you serve. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Challenge to newly trained Ukrainian Sports Chaplains

Check out this video from our FCA Sports Chaplaincy School in Kyiv, Ukraine earlier this summer. It will test your language skills, but you’ll catch the drift from the video and the passion communicated by the Ukrainians.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wise or Foolish?

This season marks my twenty-second in serving a college football (American Football) team, here in Southern Illinois. It has been my privilege to be the team chaplain to Saluki Football through some rather lean years, like 1 win and 10 losses, and some very successful seasons, like a national semifinal appearance. In those years I have experienced a great variety of things, some exhilarating, some painful, some laughter, and plenty of tears.

I have also observed the ways of some of my colleagues. There are a number of men who serve as sports chaplains to football teams and most of us develop our own particular style and have different guiding principles. I’d like to share some observations of some less than wise approaches to ministry in sport.

1)   Some of us use the scripture in ways that is not worthy of the Lord’s Word. To spiritualize scripture to accommodate your motivational talk is not wise, even if you believe it leads to your team’s winning. To rip scripture from its context to fit your devotion is foolish. e.g. Philippians 4:13
2)   Some of us act presumptuously regarding team gear, sideline privileges, and other matters related to the life of the team. To seek privilege or to foolishly stomp on boundaries is a great way to find one’s favor with the coaching staff rapidly evaporating.
3)   Some of us act more like fans than chaplains. To act as if the team you serve is somehow God’s chosen one is ridiculous and the province of lunatic sports fans. Show love and loyalty to those whom you serve, but don’t act as if they never err, never underperform, never cheat, and can never fail. Be their chaplain, not their fan.
4)   I saw one chaplain, who was allowed sideline privileges, during an important moment late in a game, abandon his spot on the sideline and went to the end zone to video a scoring play on his phone. This is the height of abdication of responsibility to become over privileged fan boy. Stop it!
5)   When speaking with a colleague on the field of play prior to the game’s start, don’t stand there and compare how many came to chapel, how many are in your team Bible study, give a spiritual assessment of the players or coaching staff, or other measurement of spiritual comparison. Spend a few minutes encouraging the other person. Pray together and wish your colleague well. This competitively supercharged environment need not overrule your spiritual self-control.

I think that is enough for this rant. Some of these things really annoy me and I see them too often. Let’s love extravagantly and let’s serve selflessly. Should we achieve this, we will have pleased the Lord greatly, regardless of how many are at chapel or Bible study this week.

Friday, August 28, 2015

2015 Team Building Sessions

For the last thirteen seasons or so, I have been doing team building sessions with the (American) football team at Southern Illinois University. The Salukis have enjoyed some tremendous success and some rather middling results in those years. The team building does not find its value in the results, as in wins or losses, rather in the results as measured in relationships and leadership development. I also did an abbreviated form of this process with a local high school girls volleyball program with similar outcomes.

This year’s team building took a significantly different style than past years, but I am pleased with the results so far. An outline of the process is below and the outcome of the process is at the bottom. Please give it a look and let me know if you have questions about it or if you’d like to tailor something for your team.

Saluki Football Team Building – 2015

Session 1 – Saturday 8 August – 6:30 pm (one hour)
  • Welcome and introductory comments by Roger. (15 minutes)
  • Bart Scott’s challenge in April – “What defines a Saluki Football Player?”
  • Some thoughts from Saluki Football Alumni (handout)
  • What shall we say is the mission of Saluki Football 2015? (handout)
  • Throughout the preseason, we will discuss this, develop a definition of a Saluki Football player and write a mission statement for 2015 SIU Football. 
  • This handout is for you to write down your thoughts. Deliver your thoughts to me at any time. We will discuss and develop this together.
  • Players are grouped by Alpha Dawg teams to interview and introduce the new players.
  • Alpha Dawg Captains interview the new players with these questions: (15 minutes)
    • What is your name, your uniform number, and your position?
    • Tell us a little about your home town.
    • Why did you come to SIU to play football?
    • How much are you willing to sacrifice to be a Saluki Football player?
  • Each Alpha Dawg Captain introduces his new teammate(s) to the team at large – 90 players. (30 minutes)
Session 2 – Monday 10 August – 7:30 pm (30 minutes)
  • Review “What defines a Saluki Football Player?” ideas to date.
  • Review 2015 Saluki Football mission statement ideas to date.
  • Discussion of ideal characteristics:
    • Whose name comes to mind when you hear, “Saluki Football Player”?
    • How would you describe that player? What made him special?
    • Let’s use these next two sessions to nail down our list of the characteristics that make a Saluki Football Player.
Session 3 – Wednesday 12 August – 2:30 pm (one hour)
  • Review “What defines a Saluki Football Player?” ideas to date.
  • Review 2015 Saluki Football mission statement ideas to date.
  • What are the important factors in the daily process of being a Saluki Football team?
  • What are the values that shape how you go about the daily process?
  • Who are the people for whom you go through the process of playing Saluki Football?
  • Narrow the list of defining characteristics of a Saluki Football Player. (Aim for 4-8)
  • Write a first draft of the 2015 Saluki Football Mission statement.
Session 4 – Saturday August 15 – 6:30 pm (60 minutes)
  • Finalize – What defines a Saluki Football Player?
  • A Saluki Football Player is:
    • Relentless
    • Passionate
    • Selfless
    • Resilient
  • Finalize – Saluki Football Mission statement
    • “Saluki Football will build a legacy through relentless effort, passionate play, selfless character, and resilience… The time is now!”
Upon completion of these sessions and the team’s completion of their definition of a Saluki Football player, as well as their mission statement, I submitted the ideas to the head coach and made a couple of edits. He then reviewed the players’ work with the coaching staff and they were all enthusiastic about the results. The head coach has incorporated these ideas in his daily remarks, we are preparing banners for the inside of our locker room and another one to take on the road to be in the locker rooms for road games.

My aim in this and all team building sessions is always twofold: to build the community of the team by establishing identity, trust, and commitment among the players and to build the culture of the program through discussion of its values. I hope this discussion is of value to you and to those you serve.