During the days of April 11-13, 2016 the Fellowship of Christian Athletes held its seventh annual Chaplain and Character Coach Conference at the FCA National Support Center in Kanas City, Missouri (USA). Eighty-nine men and women from across the USA, Ukraine, Trinidad, and Brazil were in attendance. The conference is an integral part of FCA’s efforts to develop this form of ministry through three primary strategies – Training, Networking, and Mentoring.
The conference began with dinner at 6:00 pm on Monday, followed by a welcoming address from FCA CEO and President, Les Steckel, worship music by Marvin and Marvin, and an inspiring talk by FCA National Director of Training, Dan Bishop. Dan spoke of God’s plan for building and releasing leaders. At the core of his talk were four Ds about what is in the heart of God. Desire, Design, Development, and Destiny. We wrapped up our first evening, and then we checked into our hotel for the night.
On Tuesday, we were again gathered for worship and then I was privileged to address the conference. I spoke from John 15 and John 13 as I challenged everyone to “love extravagantly and serve selflessly.” After a break, we had a training session led by FCA staffer, Marcellus Casey, focused on building relationships with the coaches we serve. He encouraged us to be seen, to then be known, and finally to be heard. Marcellus gave us a challenge with four “Be Attitudes:” Be a blessing, be a listener, be a servant, and be consistent.
We then took the next forty-five minutes to network during a break. Another training session followed, this one focused on legal compliance for those serving in public schools. It was quite informative and most helpful. Our group was separated into two groups, one with a focus on high school and club team settings, the other focused on colleges, universities, and professional settings. A delicious catered lunch followed and lots more networking across the tables. Another training session followed, this one a discussion among those serving in similar settings. This went very well as most of us learn best through the open exchange of ideas among our peers. We followed that session with a break and a review of resources available for development of our ministries.
At 4:15 in the afternoon I was privileged to speak to the conferees about www.globalsportschaplaincy.org and how it can be used in their ministries. Our last training session was a discussion about building new chaplains, followed by departure from the NSC to various locations for dinner. We gave everyone $20.00 and sent everyone to dinner to talk, network, and to learn from each other. This gathering of ministry leaders is so relational and eager to learn that we believe a totally unorganized, relaxed, and loose evening is even more productive than hearing another speaker. At their leisure, people returned to the hotel and turned in for the evening.
Wednesday, April 13 found us traveling from the hotel to the conference site with an 8:00 start in musical worship. Our final session was led by FCA Chaplain and Campus Director at Virginia Tech University, David Gittings. David spoke of “What Local Ministry Is and Does,” in an inspirational and encouraging way. He spoke of how: Jesus longed for people (Luke 19:1-9), how Jesus loved all people (John 4:4-30, 39-42), how Jesus laughed and cried with people (John 15:4-7, 11:28-36), and how Jesus lived among people (Mark 2:1-16).
We wrapped up the conference by taking communion together and were commissioned to our respective areas of service as led by Dan Bishop. At 10:15 we were released to travel home in waves of vans shuttling to the airport or in our personal vehicles for the drives home.
Looking back on the conference and having seen the results of our post-conference evaluation summary, we are very pleased with the results. We have discovered that we need to do more to nurture those who are just beginning to serve. We can do more to answer more of their process and procedure questions. This conference was rich with philosophy of ministry related to sports chaplaincy, but we could offer more of the nuts and bolts for what to do in serving well. As is our custom, we will be back in Kansas City in 2018, but next year’s conference will be in another location where we perceive sports chaplaincy to be underway in a dynamic way, and a location to where it is easy to travel by air. Louisville, Kentucky would seem to be an early leader for the 2017 conference location. Please plan to join us. We will announce the location, date, and other details as they are known, likely in late 2016.