Monday, January 30, 2017

FCA Collegiate Ministry Conference 2017

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes held a conference for Collegiate Ministry leaders in Louisville, Kentucky last week, 23-25 January. Over 105 men and women from across the USA were in attendance at the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Louisville for an inspirational, encouraging, and fast-paced event.

The event kicked off with a welcome from FCA Campus Director at the University of Louisville, Chris Morgan, some talk around our tables, and then a welcome by FCA National Director of Training, Dan Bishop. We then enjoyed dinner together followed by a bus ride to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to participate in the U of L FCA meeting. Roughly 300 Louisville student-athletes welcomed the FCA staffers into their meeting which was highlighted by testimonies from Jessica Brewster of Tennessee State University and Derrick Moore of Georgia Tech. After the huddle meeting we rode buses back to the hotel.

Tuesday morning included worship music, and a talk from Virginia Tech Campus Director, David Gittings. After a break and lots of conversation, we heard from Florida State University Campus Director, Reggie Hutchins. Several periods of discussion around our tables were woven into Reggie’s talk. We had lunch together and lots more conversation. During lunch, we also enjoyed a panel discussion featuring four Head Coaches from various sports at the University of Louisville. These four men all participate in a weekly lunch time Bible study with Chris Morgan.

After lunch, Chad Mosteller, also from the U of L, shared about “Four Chairs of Discipleship” and we discussed this, point by point. After an afternoon coffee break, we regathered for another presentation and discussion by Tammy Morgan, chaplain at the U of L and Chris Morgan’s wife. Jill  Nash from Georgia also contributed strongly to this discussion. The final portion of the afternoon was given to FCA’s new President, Shane Williamson. He took some time to outline his vision for FCA’s future in general, and in collegiate ministry in particular. Shane took some questions and wrapped up the session with an energetic tone.

The evening was highlighted by a purposefully loose plan for groups of people to gather themselves for dinner in any of the nearby restaurants. Upon our return at 9:00 pm, we enjoyed the comedy of “The Laugh Therapist,” Vernard Hines. We wrapped things up with an ice cream sundae bar.

Wednesday morning kicked off with worship music and a challenge by our host, Chris Morgan. I had a few minutes at the conclusion of the conference to promote the monthly conference calls we host for sports chaplains and character coaches, to promote the FCA IMPACT Internships in Europe and South Africa this summer, and to outline the growing list of resources available in the FCA collegiate staff Dropbox.

The conference was very encouraging, inspirational, and allowed plenty of time for us to network with our valued teammates and colleagues. A number of issues were addressed including David Gittings’ “Reality Check,” awakening us to parallel realities at work – one we can see (circumstances) and one unseen (where God is at work) as he walked us through the entire book of Galatians. Reggie Hutchins challenged us re: Racism. He said we must understand: Our role in a world of racism, the reason for racism, and our resources for dealing with racism. Chad Mosteller outlined the four chairs of discipleship as: “Come and See, Come and Follow Me, Come and I’ll Make you Fishers of Men, and Go and Bear Much Fruit.” Tammy Morgan challenged us re: the nature of our ministry with women. She had us discuss our strategies and our roadblocks for serving women well. Chris Morgan challenged us in the final session on “Occupational Hazards.” He reviewed Mary’s example of how to serve in contrast with Martha’s example of how not to serve.

Conferences like this one directly address one of the greatest problems for sports chaplains, isolation. Many of us feel like we’re serving on an island with very few of our friends, colleagues, or supervisors either understanding what we do or the issues with which we deal every day. Simply being together like this is a shot in the arm, a boost to the spirit, and a fresh drink of cool water to the soul. Thanks to everyone at FCA, especially Molly Collins and Dan Bishop, who made the arrangements for us.

Friday, January 20, 2017

"Faith is the 'Biggest Under-Covered Story' in Football"

Partners in Ministry,

This article from Relevant magazine ran across my Twitter feed this week and I thought it could be of interest to you. At the bottom of the page there is a link to the complete article from Sports Illustrated mentioned by the author. I hope this is of value to your service of the men and women of sport. To my readers outside the USA, when he says football, he means American football.

Jan 19, 2017 /
NFL Columnist: Faith Is the 'Biggest Under-Covered Story' in Football

If you're not a football person, you might not know, but we're approaching the culmination of the NFL season: There are now only four teams left in the league's playoffs, and this weekend's conference championship games will determine who will meet in the Super Bowl on February 5.
Sports Illustrated gathered a few sports journalists and NFL columnists for a "roundtable" discussion about the 2016-17, trends, off-the-field issues and stories they think get overlooked. That last part is where things get interesting. When asked about stories in the NFL that don't get enough attention from sports media, Armando Salguero, an NFL columnist for the Miami Herald, brought up the place of faith within the NFL.
"The biggest under-covered story in the NFL every year is how huge a factor faith in God and Jesus Christ is in the playing and coaching of the sport," he says. "Every day, in season and out of season, coaches and players (and women on staff) pray before they begin their duties and often ask God through Jesus Christ for guidance and health in the carrying out of their functions. Yes, they get paid and rewarded, but for many, everything they do is unto God. It is their motivator and at the center of who they are."
He continues:
In times of adversity, which come often in the NFL, they turn to their faith for answers, strength and encouragement. That touchdown celebration you see every weekend, where guys point to the sky? That's not the first or only time these men address God, Christ, and heaven, but rather that is the public view of a deep and daily walk and relationship these people have with their Lord. Many of these people see themselves as Christians first and employees of the NFL later. And yet, their stories—their testimonies—go unreported because the media is largely secular and the NFL wants to keep the game largely secular despite the fact a large percentage of its employees are believers.
Salguero suggests that faith is under-covered because the topic makes people in sports media uncomfortable. Apparently anticipating pushback, Salguero points out how frequently football players will cite God, Jesus or their faith in sideline interviews, but almost never get asked to elaborate on or even defend their statements. He says:
When sideline reporters ask a question after the game and the player says, "First I want to thank my Lord Jesus Christ," the follow up is never, "For what? What did He do for you?" The follow is more likely about a touchdown run or turnover. Disagree? Here's a test: Did you cringe or roll your eyes when you read the first sentence of this answer? Yeah, faith in God and Jesus Christ among NFL people makes the media uncomfortable and reporters and news organizations run away from the topic.
Who knows if Salguero's analysis will bring any change in how sports journalists approach faith in football, but at the very least he's put the topic on a very big, nationally read table.
You can read the whole SI roundtable—which goes on to talk about other social and ethical issues surrounding the sport like concussions and continued instances of domestic violence among players—here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Ministry at a Coaches Convention

The American Football Coaches Convention was just held this week in Nashville, Tennessee (USA). Approximately 4,000 American Football coaches, mostly collegiate, but some from high schools were in attendance for the Sunday through Wednesday activities, meetings, seminars, awards programs, and more.

For the last dozen years I have attended this event, simply because that is where the coaches are. To see this many of the coaches, already in my network or those I have yet to meet, at any other time would require months of travel and tens of thousands of dollars. On these days, they are all in the same building.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes was in attendance and engaged in ministry with these coaches and their spouses in various ways.
1.   We held a worship service on Sunday morning at 10:00. An estimated 250 people were in attendance for the service which included a simple welcome, three worship songs (led by a man with a guitar), prayer, and a talk by a college football team chaplain (Mitch Mason from the University of North Carolina). The service was well done and well received.
2.   We held a Coaches Huddle on Sunday night from 9:00 to 10:15. Rather than delivering another talk from another guy at a podium, we had the coaches and spouses (around 200) to rearrange their chairs into circles of 6-8 people each. We then invited them to talk with the others in their groups, answering the questions projected onto the screen. We started with facts like their names, where they coach, and how many years they had been in coaching. We moved on to questions like, “Why do you coach?” We talked about the coaches from their pasts who shaped how they coach, their legacy in the coaches’ lives now, and the legacy they’d like to leave in the lives of their players. Lastly, we invited them to pray together, and we finished a few minutes early. We were thrilled that many lingered in the room well beyond the parameters of the meeting. They enjoyed the fellowship and our questions uncovered their hearts in a way that passively listening to a presentation never would have.
3.   We hosted an FCA Breakfast for about 400 coaches on Monday morning. The program was crisp, it moved quickly, and each part was succinctly presented. It included an emcee with introductory thoughts, a prayer, and then breakfast. We viewed a strong video of a coach, his team, and the impact of FCA’s 3Dimensional Coaching upon the players and the community. We then interviewed that coach, live on stage. The program continued with an annual Coach of the Year award, and the recipient made brief, but excellent comments. The final part of the program was an address by FCA’s new president, himself a football coach. The coaches left the room encouraged and many made connections with other Christian coaches they only see at this event or occasionally on the field of competition.
4.   We spent hours and hours at our booth in the exhibition hall. We were favored to have a spot right by the entry doors, very convenient for those looking for us, and even better for those not looking for us. We had countless conversations, hugs, handshakes, trades of business cards, referrals of colleagues, and more. We distributed hundreds of copies of books, devotional materials, and brochures. In addition, we had a kiosk that included an iPad for connection with our various web based resources and programs.

I would challenge you to consider where the people you intend to serve are. Where do they gather? What would it take to be there with them? In what ways could you serve them in that location or event? The clinics, conventions, and other gatherings where they gather are rich environments for ministry. Discover them and then develop a strategy. Go!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Who is Your Chaplain?

One of the items of great interest to me in the book, Replenish – Leading from a Healthy Soul, by Lance Witt, is the terrible fact that far too many pastors and other ministry workers are terribly isolated. Too few of us have strong relationships with trusted friends or mentors.

This leads me to ask, “Who is your chaplain?” Who is there in your life to provide the same sort of service that you regularly dispense to others? If you didn’t immediately have an answer, this is a problem to be addressed. Who cares for your soul? Who knows you well enough to ask you hard questions about your use of time, energy, and relationship? Who understands your life’s pressures, your weak spots, your character flaws, and loves you through them?

Are you close enough to your pastor for this sort of relationship? Have you given him or her permission to enter your life beyond your “public persona?” Is there a friend or colleague with whom you meet often enough to be vulnerable about your life?

Although I am an off the chart extrovert with thousands of acquaintances, there are few people I trust with my life’s pains and struggles. My introverted friends may find this even more difficult, but with a smaller circle of relationships.

Again, “Who is your chaplain?”

I meet with two men every Tuesday at 6:30 am at a local coffee shop. One of those gentlemen and I have been meeting together for over twenty-two years now. We three have walked together through family health issues (cancer and epilepsy), a divorce, a suicide attempt, a remarriage, multiple family issues, financial growth and challenge, joy, grief, and pain. Such is life. We know and trust each other. They are my chaplains.

Once more, I will ask, “Who is your chaplain?” I challenge you to find an answer to that question, to commit to an enduring and vulnerable relationship with someone who knows you well enough to care for your soul’s health. The long-term success or failure of your ministry as a sport chaplain or character coach may be determined by this relationship or the lack thereof.