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Daily Devotions for Competitors

R E S P E C T
John 1:26-27

What would happen if the greatest player you’ve ever heard of came to your practice and wanted to play with your team?  How would you react?  How much respect would he be given?  A similar situation happened one day in Jesus’ life.


In John’s Gospel at chapter 1 and verses 26 and 27 we read, John answered them saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know.  It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”


John the Baptist knew what no one else could grasp on that day.  He knew who Jesus was and he knew the respect that was due Him.  The people who stood there that day had no clue that this young man from Nazareth would in the space of three years die a sacrificial death on a cross in Jerusalem.

Had they been athletes, John might have said that he wasn’t worthy of carrying Jesus’ shoes to the gym.  John knew the respect that Jesus was due, even when no one else recognized Him.


It may be that way with you and your team today.  There could be in your midst, on the field of competition with you, one of the great players of the game.  The important thing is to recognize and respect such greatness.  Your coaching staff may prove to be among the most influential people in your life, give them the respect and honor they are due.  Be like John the Baptist and recognize the wise and honorable people who cross your life’s path.  Have a great game today.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 16:1-9
I Timothy 6:11-21

C O M M U N I C A T I  O N
I Corinthians 6:11

Who are the best leaders among your teammates?  Would you say that they communicate freely or rather grudgingly?  Today, we’ll all receive a leadership lesson in communication.


In his second letter to the Corinthian church at chapter 6 and verse 11, the Apostle Paul wrote these words, “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you.”  This is the nature of good leadership – free and open communication.


In the first century and in the 21st century, good leadership comes from the open hearts of leaders.  When leaders are open and honest with their teams, following is rather natural and productive.  Good leadership speaks freely and from the heart.  Such speech inspires and encourages teammates to be their best.


Take a moment to examine your personal leadership style, is it characterized by an open heart and free communication?  Do your teammates believe you when you speak to them or do they wonder about what you’re trying to get from them? 
As you approach today’s competition, open wide your hearts to each other and your communication will flourish.  Let your open hearts lead you to a great victory.
Bible Reading Plan:
Proverbs 5
Ezra 8

L I F E   A N D   F A V O R
Proverbs 8:35

What could you look for that upon its being found, pays the dividend of life itself?  What could be so valuable that when it’s attained brings the best stuff of life?  The scriptures have the answer.


In Proverbs chapter 8 and verse 35 we read further about Wisdom personified, “For whoever finds me finds life and received favor from the Lord.”


The proverb says that whoever finds me finds life.  I would infer that not everyone is going to look… there are plenty of fools around… they can’t even spell wisdom!  The person who would be wise will have to search for wisdom and pursue it at all costs.  When one does find it, the payoff is life itself… what a great reward!


Additionally, the one who finds wisdom also receives favor from the Lord.  Favor is often entrance to a most exclusive place of influence…like being a college athlete.  Sometimes it is gracious accommodation of you as a person…like when you get to fly first class when you paid coach fare.  We receive such favor from the Lord as we pursue and attain wisdom.

In today’s competition, find wisdom and find its rich rewards.  Life and favor will be yours as you compete wisely and with all you hearts.
Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 13:22-35
I Timothy 3:1-10

W I S D O M
John 14:6

Where do you look for wisdom about how to do things?  What is the source of ultimate truth?  How do we find real life?  The Bible answers these and many more questions with a one word answer...Jesus.

In the gospel of John chapter 14 and verse 6, Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me."  In pursuing our goals in life and in competition we must know the way to go, the truth to hold on to and the life that satisfies.

Christ is the way - He directs our paths to the right things, the right people, away from things that are harmful to us and toward things that bring us life.  Look to Him for the way to win.

Christ is the truth - He speaks to us the truth about all matters of life.  A life based on lies cannot be successful.  Search God's Word to know real, timeless truth.  Listen for the truth when making decisions moment by moment.

Christ is the life - He gives us life through relationship with Him.  Life that is powerful, exciting, confident, secure, bigger than death and free of fear.  Receive this kind of life and enjoy it!!

Compete today with the great confidence that comes from knowing the right way, the real truth and possessing real life.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 20:20-26
Philemon 12-25
Proverbs 17:15-28
Esther 9-10

F A I T H ,   H O P E ,   L O V E
I Corinthians 13:13

What is the most durable thing you can think of?  What is there in your life that will outlive you?  I have some ideas from a powerful scripture.


In the first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul the Apostle writes at chapter 13 and verse 13, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love."  Here are three things that are eternally durable.


Two thousand years from today they will still be as vital and powerful as they are now.  Of the three, love is preeminent because it provides the relationship that is the context for the faith and hope.


Today play with confident expectation of good - that's hope.
Play in faith - actively trusting your coaches, your teammates and your God.  Play in the great freedom afforded by those who love you and are committed to you.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 20:9-19
Philemon 1-11
Proverbs 17:1-14
Esther 7-8

F I E R C E   C O M P E T I T O R S
Psalm 104:21

Have you ever seen an athlete compete like he was stalking his opponent?  When you compete do you do it with passion and ferocity?  Is it possible that these kinds of ideas are in the Bible?

In Psalm 104 and verse 21 it says, “The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their food from God.”  I've read this at times and thought about how athletes sometimes "roar" after their opponents in competition.  Often when I'm competing in athletics it seems like I'm stalking my opponent, preparing to make a kill.

As we compete, like a wild lion, we can fiercely pursue our goals, but ultimately we must seek our food from God.  We must see the Lord as the only source of the kind of food that satisfies.  Food for our souls.

Let's compete today in a way that is like a roaring, young lion.  Let's doggedly pursue our quarry and let's not be satisfied until we've accomplished our goals.  As you pray, ask the Lord to feed your soul with the food that only He can provide. 

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 20:1-8
Titus 3:9-15
Proverbs 16:17-33
Esther 5-6

T R E A S U R E
Matthew 7:6

What sort of things do you value most highly?  What are some treasures worthy of protection?


Jesus is recorded as saying these words in Matthew chapter 7 and verse 6, “Do not give to dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”


 You are in possession of some of life’s greatest commodities: vision, athletic ability, intelligence, friends and leadership skills.  Don’t throw these pearls in the mud with the pigs.  Don’t give these sacred gifts to dogs.  There are people with whom you’re acquainted who are not worthy of your devotion.  They’d only trample your gifts and then turn to destroy you.


 Choose your friends carefully.  Judiciously think about with whom you’ll spend your time.  Invest your time in people with whom you can be influential for good and with people who bring out the best in you.

 As you prepare to compete today, focus on the tremendous gifts you’ve been given by a loving God.  Thank Him for your opportunities and ask Him for the wisdom to value and protect your pearls.
Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 19:39-48
Titus 3:1-8
Proverbs 16:1-16
Esther 3-4

L I V I N G    S A C R I F I C E S
Romans 12:1-2

What sort of sacrifices have you made for your athletic career?  What have you given up to pursue a life of athletics?  Sacrifice is something most people never even consider, let alone complete.  In these next three letters we'll consider what it is to be a living sacrifice.


In Paul's letter to the Romans at chapter 12 and verses 1 and 2 it says, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."


At the time of this writing by Paul, sacrifices were usually killed and laid upon an altar to be burned up.  The problem with "living sacrifices" is that they tend to crawl off the altar when it gets a little hot.  We start with good intentions of making a sacrifice for our teammates, our family or career, but when it gets uncomfortable we often snatch the sacrifice from the altar and lose the reward that comes from faithfulness.


The good news is that God's grace enables us to offer our very bodies in daily service to Him.  He calls it holy, pleasing service that is a spiritual act of worship.  Let God's grace move you to sacrifice whatever it takes to pursue a life that's holy and pleasing to the Lord.  Further, make the sacrifices necessary to pursue the goals you and your team have established for this season.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 19:28-38
Titus 1:11-15
Proverbs 1518-33
Esther 2

D A I L Y   W I S D O M
Proverbs 8:34

When I was a young man and pursuing my girlfriend (now my wife of over 30 years), I knew exactly where she lived, when and where she went to class and every angle that made for an opportunity for me to know her.  Today’s scripture tells us to pursue wisdom just like that.


Proverbs chapter 8 and verse 34 says, “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.”


Wisdom is personified by the author as a lovely woman, full of life giving truth.  It says the man who listens to her is blessed.  The key to receiving the blessing is to listen, watch and wait for her.


We can hear wisdom as we listen to our coaches and other mentors.  Further, we must listen daily; implying regularity and discipline.  We hear most effectively when we listen at wisdom’s doors… where she lives.

Wisdom lives in the minds of your coaching staff, your parents, your instructors and even in some teammates.  Listen closely and you’ll be blessed.  Wisdom resides in the Bible and God speaks loudly and clearly daily through its words.  Have a great competition today.
Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 19:11-27
Titus 2:1-10
Proverbs 15:1-17
Esther 1

E X P E C T A T I O N S
Hebrews 10:23

What were your preseason expectations?  Upon what were they based?  Were they based on returning veteran players, on new players just joining the team, on a new game plan or some other intangible factor?  Upon what do your expectations of God rest?  Let’s think together about how these fit in the life of a competitor.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews writes at chapter 10 and verse 23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

It’s normal and often helpful to have great expectations of your team through the preseason and into the first competitions of the year.  We all start with great hopes for a successful season and dream of championships.  We’d be less than true competitors if we did anything less.  We are wise if we base these expectations on the people around us rather than on all the circumstances beyond our control.  We can hold fast to our hope, as a team, by trusting each other and working together.

Another comforting thought from this scripture is that our hope for real life, now and throughout the future, is based on the nature of God.  The writer says that “He who promised is faithful.”  The very faithful nature of God is the guarantee of the promises made by our Father to us in the Bible.  That’s worth holding onto with both hands!

As you compete today, hold fast to your expectations of your team and of yourself.  Cling tightly to your hope for the team’s success.  Trust the Lord Jesus to be faithful and to keep his promises to you.  Make this a day in which you exceed even your greatest expectations.

Bible Reading Plan:
Luke 19:1-10
Titus 1:10-16
Proverbs 14:19-35

Chaplaincy

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    Sport Chaplain / Character Coach / Sport Mentor Blog

    Watch Your Attitude

    Across twenty-two years of serving as a sports chaplain, the three primary, universal factors that I have found to build an effective ministry are: Relationships, Attitudes, and Presence. Today, I would like to make some simple and direct comments regarding Attitudes and how they can either enhance or diminish our service.

    ·         Be a servant, not a big shot. Serve purposefully. Do the menial tasks that need to be done in service of others. People will notice and they will respect your attitude.
    ·         Seek permission, not forgiveness. Ask for parameters. Understand your boundaries. To overstep your bounds communicates the wrong attitude.
    ·         Be thankful, out loud. Express thankfulness to those who give you access to their sporting programs in person, via text message, on paper, however you can.
    ·         Talk in terms of “responsibility and privilege” rather than “rights.” An entitled attitude is repulsive to sportspeople, especially coaches. Avoid it at all costs.
    ·         A low public profile it to be preferred over media darling. Be less interested in being a public figure, more in being an essential part of the team’s life.
    ·         Deflect praise quickly. As you do well and others praise you for what you have done, be sure to direct that praise to God and to those with whom you serve.
    ·         Beware of reflected glory. If your team is excelling, beware the allure of fame, accolades, and public adoration. It’s fun, but it can be a snare to your soul.
    ·         Remember that your contributions do not appear on the scoreboard or stat sheets. Don’t be fooled into thinking that your inspirational talk directly contributed to a victory.
    ·         Love extravagantly – it’s really hard to fail if this is your number one goal.
    ·         Serve selflessly – to do this faithfully almost always keeps one’s attitude in order.


    Please shape your attitude in ways that are reflective of Christ Jesus’ as described in Philippians chapter 2:3-8. “ Do nothing   from   selfishness or   empty conceit, but with humility of mind   regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not   merely   look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.   Have this attitude  i n yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,   who, although He   existed in the   form of God,   did not regard equality with God a thing to be   grasped,   but   emptied Himself, taking the form of a   bond-servant,   and   being made in the likeness of men.   Being found in appearance as a man,   He humbled Himself by becoming   obedient to the point of death, even   death   on a cross.

    Cultivate an Interior Life of Contemplation

    Many, if not most, of us who serve as sports chaplains or character coaches go through life at a rapid pace. We thrive on activity and move quickly from venue to venue to love and to serve sportspeople. One drawback to this sort of lifestyle is that we can become rather shallow and soon our service becomes a string of clichés and buzzwords.

    I would like to challenge each of us to cultivate an interior life of contemplation. To make regular time to contemplate God’s will, to ponder on scripture we are reading, to think deeply about important decisions and relationships, is wise and most important. Slowing down to read books, to listen to music, or to simply be still can be very helpful in our more active days.

    Don’t just go, go, go. Stop, stop, stop. Think deeply. Ponder. Listen. Contemplate. Rest.

    Find your best rhythm for such hours, days, or even weeks. Your most effective rhythm could be:
    ·         Absolute silence
    ·         Stillness
    ·         Solitary activity
    ·         Running, biking, or hiking
    ·         Listening to music in isolation
    ·         Study in ambient sound

    Sometimes we need to think beyond what to do, but also why?

    On a personal note, I brainstorm best when at a sporting event. Hearing the ambient sounds of a ballpark, the smell of hot dogs and popcorn, see the players and coaches, fuels my heart’s passions and heightens my soul’s awareness of the Lord’s voice. To write, however, I need more solitude and concentrated time to hammer out exactly what I want to say. I take the previously brainstormed first thoughts, gathered at the ballpark, and then compose into final form in a more private, quiet, and solitary place, often accompanied by soul enriching music.


    Please take my challenge to heart and find ways to develop an interior life of contemplation. You and those you serve will be directly benefited by the investments.

    What Do You Measure and Why?

    One of the realities of our lives of service is that people want to see measurable results. Ministries, like businesses, in our societies are largely results oriented. Donors, leaders, management, and others want to be able to measure our effectiveness and feel the need to identify the results of our service. Sometimes that is wise, and sometimes that is foolish, crass, and manipulative. I believe the difference is made in what we measure, and why.

    The most often measured item in ministry is attendance. I believe that it is reasonable and wise to measure attendance at events. We can recognized trends, adjust strategies, analyze effectiveness, often by observing attendance. If we think greater attendance equals more effective ministry, we may be gravely mistaken. Sometimes ministry is better delivered in small groups or on an individual basis.

    Many ministries measure finances very closely. This can also be wise and proper. To accomplish our ministry purposes, it will certainly require funds to pay expenses, to provide staff, to promote events, etc.… If finances become the measuring stick by which we evaluate all ministry, we may fall into terrible error. Further, if we mold all our ministry initiatives so as to impress donors as their highest value, we may become terribly foolish.

    Many ministries in the evangelical world regularly measure conversions to Christ. This is a bit problematic for many of us. To say with certainty that a person has made a commitment to Christ Jesus that will endure is difficult if not impossible for us. One could count the number of respondents to an altar call or invitation to receive Jesus, but to count all of those as life-long disciples would be foolish. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association estimates that only 10% of those answering an altar call at their events turn out to be committed followers of Christ. I sincerely doubt that our similar methods in sports ministry produce a higher rate.

    Much of the evangelical world uses the verb, “Reached,” to report results. We will say, “We reached 400 people at this event.” My question is, “How do we know when someone is reached?” Does that mean the person heard a message? Does that mean the person attended an event? Does that mean that person made a profession of faith? What is it to reach someone? I have been asking this question for years, but have never received a satisfactory answer. I would prefer we count and report with greater clarity.

    Are we to measure only attendance? Should we value activity as an end in itself? Can we faithfully measure and report conversions to faith in Christ? How does one measure faithfulness? Is there a way to measure long-term ministry results, rather than short-term, immediate results?

    I wish I had easy and conclusive answers to all these questions. I have chosen to measure and to report matters which I can state with certainty, such as these:
    ·         I can count the number of people who attend ministry events. That is easily discerned.
    ·         I can count the number of ministry encounters I have. X number of conversations. Y number of presentations. Z number of chapel talks, Bible studies, etc.
    ·         I can count the number of groups we have formed and developed. X number of FCA Huddles. Y number of Team Bible studies. Z number of Coaches Bible study groups, etc.
    ·         I can count the number of boxes checked on a comment card related to decisions made. I cannot faithfully say all of those who checked boxes made life transforming decisions to follow Christ.
    ·         I cannot count the number of people “reached,” simply because the term is too vague.


    In summary, I would simply challenge you to prayerfully consider what you measure and report, and why you do so. Who is it you are trying to impress with your glowing report of ministry success? Why are we compelled to report ministry results as if they were reports to a stockholders’ meeting? Let’s aim at faithfulness and rejoice if we also encounter numerical success.

    Sport Chaplain / Character Coach Conference Calls

    Another year of FCA Sports Chaplains / Character Coach conference calls will begin on Sunday August 7 at 8:00 pm CDT. These calls are open to anyone who serves as a sports chaplain or character coach, whether FCA staff or volunteer. Each call includes prayer, info on upcoming events re: sports chaplaincy, and an interview with a person who has been serving faithfully as a sports chaplain or character coach. Callers are also invited to ask direct questions of those being interviewed. The whole point is to provide a venue for networking and mentoring sports chaplains and character coaches with others serving in similar ways. These people are most often serving in high schools, colleges, or club teams, but occasionally are serving professional teams.

    We are considering a second call per month for ministry staff people who would prefer a weekday call at a different time. These calls would include a wider network of our FCA colleagues from across the USA. Please reply with your suggestion of day and time if that interests you.


    The calls are always less than an hour in duration and are totally free. Please join us and encourage the volunteers in your network to do the same. Below is a listing of the featured guests for the first three months.

    As a New Season Approaches

    For many of us, especially my friends and colleagues in the USA, a new season of sport is about to begin. The start of a new school year brings with it a new fall sports schedule and the preseason practices that precede it. I would like to recommend some simple matters that may help you be fully prepared as a new season approaches.

    ·         Memorize the team roster and pray for each one. Ask the coach or an office person for the team roster, take the time and effort to memorize the names and numbers. Match those with their faces and you’re on the way to building relationships.
    ·         Meet with the head coach to discuss his or her points of emphasis for your work together. Ask about specific ways you can serve the coaches and the players. Ask for some boundaries for when and where it is most appropriate for you to be present, and maybe when and where your presence is not appropriate. It’s better to discover these ahead of time than through the discomfort of embarrassment or confrontation. Ask the coach how you may pray for him/her, the staff, and the players.
    ·         Attend as many preseason practices as you can. You can observe the coaches and how they coach. You can observe the players and perceive many things about their attitudes, approach to work, the team’s cohesion, etc… This is also the best place to work on roster memorization as you can see numbers, faces, and match them to the players’ names. This is also the perfect environment for prayers of intercession as you think about each player and coach. Pray for them and for God’s purposes to be accomplished in each one.
    ·         Above all, use the preseason to build relationships. Greet everyone you can and see who responds well. Pursue those warmest responses first, ask good questions, serve, and communicate loving respect.


    To occupy yourself with these four activities, especially in the preseason weeks, is of greatest importance. Invest some time, some inconvenience, and some sweat in wise preparation. It will pay off richly in the ensuing weeks and months.

    Sport Chaplain Training School Video

    Below is a link to a YouTube video by FCA Ukraine that will give you a glimpse of the ministry that took place during the FCA Ukraine Sport Chaplain Schoolin Kiev, in early June. Please take a moment to look it over and to lift a prayer of thanksgiving for our Ukrainian teammates, for this outstanding set of volunteer chaplains, and for the donor from Nebraska whose donation covered the expenses. Thank you.


    Ukraine / Georgia Trip Journal Excerpt

    This is an excerpt from my journal during a recent trip to Kiev, Ukraine and Tblisi, Georgia to train sports chaplains and to make new friends toward that end in Georgia. I hope it encourages you. This form of ministry is growing all around the globe.

    On 15 June, two of our FCA Midwest Region staff teammates, six coaches from the Metro-East area of St. Louis, and I returned from a tremendous trip to Ukraine. We served with our FCA Ukraine colleagues, their coaches, and Ukrainian athletes of several sports in multiple communities around Kiev and Rivne, Ukraine. 

    Saturday June 4, 2016
    After hosting Friday evening and Saturday morning’s Saluki Football Coaching Clinic in Carbondale, I drove to the Williamson County Airport, checked in and boarded the plane to St. Louis. The Cape Air pilots somehow got our plane stuck in the mud before we even made it to the runway. The plane was grounded, and our flight was cancelled.
    After learning of Cape Air’s plan to arrange for a bus to drive us to St. Louis and the hours involved, I drove rapidly to STL. Along the way, I encountered 5 mph traffic for miles on I-64 due to a wreck. I was, ironically, relieved to receive a couple of text messages from American Airlines that my flight from STL to Charlotte was delayed. I made it to long-term parking, checked in and through security quickly. The flight was delayed 1 hour. I had an easy flight in first class due to an upgrade, for which I was very thankful.
    Upon arrival in Charlotte, I ran through the terminal from concourse to concourse to catch my connection to Barcelona. It was boarding as I arrived at the gate. It was a rather uneventful flight across the pond with around 6 hours of sleep. My late departure from CLT made connecting in BCN rather tight.

    Sunday June 5.
    I went through passport control, twice + security. I found favor with a border police officer and jumped to the front of the passport control line as my flight was scheduled to be boarding. I ran to the gate and then waited for a delayed departure to Kiev. The flight was easy and we had a smooth flight to KBP, arriving almost on time. I had an easy transition through immigration and baggage claim. No customs. Andriy, Oleg, and Nikita picked me up and we had dinner at a SOCAR gas station (trust me, it’s good). We then went to Andriy and Lindsay's home, greeted everyone and then went to bed around 10:00 pm.

    Monday June 6.
    I slept well overnight in Andriy’s home office. I hung out with the kids, had breakfast, and prepared in the morning hours. The FCA Chaplains School with about 35 participants started at 11:00 at a wonderful facility owned by a local church. I presented session 1, Oleg did session 2. That night Ruslan Muts hosted a talk show (panel discussion) with 3 area coaches re: the value of sport chaplains. It was very good. I got to bed at 11:00 pm.

    Tuesday June 7.
    I did not sleep as well last night. We loaded up early and went to Chaplains School for 8:00 devotions and breakfast. I presented sessions 1b and 3, and Oleg did session 4. We enjoyed lots of fellowship and networking after dinner. I got to bed at 11:00 pm again.

    Wednesday June 8.
    I slept well. I was up to shower at 6:00. I did my daily devotional reading and packing for tonight’s trip to Georgia. We were out the door at 7:30, got a double Americano, and went to the facility for devotions and breakfast. I taught sessions 5 and 6, and then Ruslan and Oleg wrapped up the conference. They sang "Happy birthday" to me, and the whole group prayed for me. We then had lunch as I enjoyed a long talk with Dr. Che.

    After lunch I had a good chat with Ira Bedrai as we waited for the St. Louis FCA team to arrive from the airport. I greeted them, we had a meeting to introduce people and to orient them. We divided people and sporting gear into a couple of vans. The Rivne team left, and the Kiev team stayed. Andriy and I picked up Oleg and we drove to the Kiev airport.

    As we were checking in we were informed that the flight was oversold and we needed to talk to the people at the rebooking counter. As we stood there, a supervisor, a lady about 45 years old, looked me in the eye, I smiled and said hello in Russian. She asked if we were booked to Tblisi and I said yes. She said, “I have compensation for you.” She walked us through the rebooking, ground transportation, and the cash compensation. Our flight was changed to Kutsaisi, Georgia and we were to arrive at 11:30 pm. 250 euro (7,092 grivne) compensation was paid to us for the inconvenience.

    Thursday June 9.
    That went as planned and then we rode about 4 hours, partly in a small car and at 2:30 am we transferred to a van to Tblisi. At 3:41 am we arrived at a coffee shop where, were to meet our friend from Tblisi. Valeri picked us up at 3:45. Around 4:00 am we arrived at the place where we would stay the night (morning), and both Oleg and Valeri thought it appropriate that on the early morning of my 60th birthday, I would reside in a retirement home.

    We were up at 9:30. I took a G.I. shower, had breakfast at 10:00, and it was wonderful. WE chatted with Valeri about sports ministry, loaded the van for a 90+ minute (30 kilometers) drive up horrible mountain roads for a service with his church family of around 30 people on the Day of Ascension. We prayed, sang, the bishop read scripture and  spoke, then he invited me to speak about the ascension and our ministry. I referenced Luke 24 and the inscription beneath el Picacho in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We received communion with bread torn from a large flatbread, and a common cup of wine. We sang another song, and then we walked down to the area for a barbecue. A fire was built, a table was set, and I was soon introduced and toasted for my birthday.

    During lunch I had some red wine and wonderful cheese as well as delicious cheesbread, cake, and shashlik, pork roasted over the fire like a kabob. Wow. (For the record, I never drink anything alcoholic, but to be a gracious guest in Georgia means to eat and drink whatever is offered. I drank more red wine in two days in Georgia than I had drank in the previous 36 years.)

    Due to the persistent rain, we went down the mountain to the very modest church building in Tblisi. They came out with a cake bearing two large candles and sang "Happy birthday." We walked to our van and rode to the oldest church in Georgia (4th century). We rode down to the old capital city and had dinner with friends. This was great food, tomato and cucumber salad, bread, mushrooms with cheese, red wine, espresso. After dinner, 2+ hours of explaining the McCown Sport in Ministry map, in English, translated into Russian, then translated into Georgian.

    At 9:00 we took a walk around the church built in the 11th century, and then rode back to our room in the old folks home. I was in bed by 10:15 and eventually was able to sleep.

    Friday June 10.
    We were up at 7:00. I took a hot shower and shaved. We had breakfast at 8:00, and then we were on the road to Kutsaisi at 8:45. We traveled with Valeri to meetings and we chatted with him more about ministry in sport, en route. We made several stops including one to pick up another local pastor who had info on a former Soviet pioneer camp that is for sale and could make a camp facility. Another stop was to see their present camp site, about 16 km from Kutsaisi. Still another stop was to sign documents with the camp owner at a hotel in Kutsaisi.

    We went to Prometheus' Cave outside Kutsaisi. Oleg and I took the tour of the caverns. We then stopped to buy bread as we returned to the camp facility of which Valeri was pleased to give me a guided tour. We had dinner around 6:30 with the collected set of five pastors at the camp, talking about ministry in sport and, sadly, USA politics. I was again toasted for my birthday and dinner was excellent in the finest Georgian tradition. After dinner we relaxed at the camp and used their Wi-Fi to catch up on email and social networking.

    Saturday June 11.

    At midnight we began the trek back to Tblisi. We dropped the pastor at his home and Sasha in his neighborhood before continuing to the airport. By 4:30 am we were checked in and drinking coffee in the departure hall. It was an easy flight back to Kiev. Vera (Oleg’s wife) picked us up, and we went to breakfast in a French style cafe downtown. We drove to the conference facility to drop me off. I jumped into Coaches Camp already underway. I tried to rest, but could not. After a dinner of Domino’s pizza, we went with the coaches to a jazz concert downtown via subway. We walked to a park area for coffee and sightseeing afterwards. We took the subway home again. Tim Casey lead a team meeting with our STL FCA teammates until 11:30. Then it was off to bed.

    Small Group Dynamics - Convenience vs. Commitment

    Again this week, I’d like to share an observation I have made re: small group dynamics. Many people lament that their large group lacks the depth of commitment they desire, while others are very happy with their group’s depth, but wish it were larger. I have found that this tension is quite proper and that it is not a problem to solve, rather it’s a tension to be managed.

    My thoughts about managing this tension are quite simple. If you want a more highly committed group, make it less convenient, and expect its numbers to be smaller. If you want a larger group, make it more convenient and expect its commitment level to be lesser. To expect a larger group to be greater in commitment is usually unrealistic.

    Larger numbers / Lower commitment / More convenience, or Smaller numbers / Higher commitment / Less convenience. You are free to choose.

    For around twenty years I led a small FCA group of high school student athletes that met at 6:30 am in a local restaurant. The owner allowed us into the dining room thirty minutes prior to the restaurant’s opening. Our group’s size varied from 6-40 in attendance across those years and a few times the kids asked if we could meet a little later. I always declined to move the time because the key to the group’s high commitment level was that its inconvenience.

    On the other end of the scale, we have helped FCA huddle coaches to start and lead small groups in public schools for twenty-two years. Most of them want to grow the group as large as it can be. Given that goal, I normally counsel them to design the group to be as convenient as possible in terms of time, location, and day of the week to fit their intended participants. In addition, I counsel them that, “If you feed them, they will come.” Hosting the FCA huddle meetings during the lunch hour of a closed campus is about the perfect storm for a large group. Given that many of those in attendance are thinking with their stomachs, they came for the lunch, the commitment level is significantly lower than some would like. This is normal and proper.

    As you consider the small groups you lead or those you would like to start, give careful consideration to your goals for the group. Do you prefer larger numbers or deeper commitment?
    ·         If you are aiming for larger numbers in attendance, be sure to make it convenient, fun, approachable, and understand that the group’s commitment level will stay at the shallow end of the pool. Program your content to fit your group’s commitment level.
    ·         If you would like a higher commitment level among your participants, make it less convenient in terms of timing and location, understand that you won’t likely get a large number to attend, but be sure to deliver content matching the desired commitment level. You can expect that they will follow you as deeply as you dare swim. Never compromise on commitment or they will get bored and disappear.


    You can wisely manage the tension between group size and commitment level, if you will design and lead the group with these factors in mind. You are free to lead the group whichever way you perceive to be best for their development in the Lord Jesus. In many cases, a leader will develop two groups, one designed for the shallow end of the pool, the other built for treading water at the deep end. The best answer may not be in an either / or solution, but in a both / and design.

    Small Group Dynamics - Structure

    After an 11day trip to Ukraine and then a family vacation, I am back in the saddle.

    Below is a simple observation I have made related to small group dynamics after 35+ years of leading them in various settings and with various sorts of people. I hope it is of value to you and to those you serve.

    Small groups that have a greater depth of relationship require less structure. Groups that lack a depth of relationship require more structure.

    Relationship >

    <-------------------------------------------------------------->                                                                                < Structure</-------------------------------------------------------------->
    As relational depth grows, less and less structure is required for the group's health and productivity.
    Structure includes: well defined parameters for day, time, frequency, duration, subject matter, number of times to meet together, leadership and hosting roles, etc...

    Building Relationships with Coaches

    As we serve the men and women, boys and girls in sport, there is a set of people with whom it is most strategic to build relationships, trust, and confidence. They are called, “coaches.” To earn the trust and respect of sports coaches is neither easy nor quick, but it is vital to serving them and all whom they coach well.

    I learned early on in my service of sports teams that having the trust of the coaching staff and each coach on it, is most important. Think about it this way, if the coach trusts me, he or she will call me about an issue with a competitor. If the coach distrusts me, he or she will tell the competitors, “Stay away from that guy, you can’t trust him,” or even worse. Further, when I earn the coach’s trust, suddenly his heart is within reach, her family can be loved and served, in fact everyone in the coach’s sphere of influence is suddenly in range of our ministry.

    Below is a list of very practical and proven methods for building relationships with coaches:
    ·         Meet them where they are – that is usually at practice and in their offices.
    ·         Learn the best time to speak with them, face to face. That may be prior to practice starting. It may be before or after team meetings. Experiment and learn.
    ·         Take an interest in their families. Ask about spouses, children, their interests away from sport, etc.…
    ·         Ask questions about their coaching pilgrimage, their background in the sport, and look for points of connection with other coaches in your network.
    ·         Ask about what gives them satisfaction, a sense of satisfaction, in their coaching.
    ·         Ask them how you may be of service to the coach and his or her families.
    ·         If the coach asks about finding a church in the community, share several good options, not just your own. Ask questions like, “For what kind of a church are you looking?”
    ·         Take note of everything in his or her office. Coaches usually have items displayed which reveal what they love and respect. Notice the books on the shelves, the photos on the desk or on the wall, balls, medals, rings, certificates, ribbons, etc. that speak to their accomplishments. Choose one item and ask a question about it. Stories will follow.
    ·         If you dare, ask this question. “Why do you coach?” Stop and listen. You may gain more insight from this question than anything else you could do.

    The bottom line in all of these methods and all the relationship building is simple. For the coach to know and to trust you is the pathway to his or her heart. They are generally overwhelmed with responsibilities, they have little to no job security, they have thousands of critics, but they have almost no one who will consistently encourage, love, and support them. We get to be those trusted encouragers, if we don’t act like sports fans.


    One sign that you are doing well, building relationships of trust, with coaches is if when greeting you the coach says, “Hi Coach.” For the coach to bestow the sport’s most sacred title upon you is an immediate sign that you are welcomed into their world with honor. If coaches speak of you as being, “a part of our staff,” or “an important part of the program,” you are crushing it. Please take my challenge and develop relationships with coaches as a matter of highest priority and you will find it to bear fruit that will remain.

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Roger has written many books. You can find them at Cross Training Publications. Their home on the web is here.

Click on the following image to order copies of Roger's devotional Heart of a Champion.

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Roger Lipe is the Midwest Region International Coordinator for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The Midwest Region includes the states of Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. In addition to this role, he is the Campus Director for Saluki FCA at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He also serves the Midwest Region in developing sports chaplaincy ministries.
Roger has served as chaplain to several of the athletic teams at Southern Illinois University since 1994.www.siusalukis.comHe has also served as chaplain to the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League since 2012.
Lipe previously served as the Field Representative for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the 26 southernmost counties of Illinois for twenty-one years.
Roger was born and raised in Carbondale and currently resides there with his wife, Sharon. Roger was a high school athlete at Carbondale Community High School, competing in football, wrestling, and track and field. He was also a high school wrestling official for 13 years. He now competes in racquetball and golf.
Roger committed his life to Christ at 10 years of age and was greatly influenced by the Jesus Movement of the early 70s as well as by attending F.C.A. camps in his high school years. He is an active member of Lakeland Baptist Church in Carbondale.
Roger has been profoundly impacted by the short-term mission trips of No Greater Love Ministries since the early 1980s. Fred Bishop, No Greater Loves founder, continues to be a valued mentor and friend.
Roger is the author of seven books of devotions for athletes and coaches. The latest of these is titled,Heart of a Champion Devotions for the People of Sport. He is also the author ofTransforming Lives in Sport A Guide for Sport Chaplains and Sport Mentors. Both of those titles have been translated into Spanish under the titles,Corazon de un CampeonandTransformando Las Vidas en Deportes.

Free to Compete Reflections on Sport from a Christian Perspectiveis Lipes most recent publication. It is a compilation of the weekly reflections he has emailed to hundreds of sport chaplains and character coaches around the globe since 2007. All of these books are available through Cross Training Publishing.
In 2010, Roger published,Soul Food Heart Fuela book of scriptures and prayers in conjunction with Southern Illinois Healthcare. All proceeds from the sales of the book benefit the Coach Kill Cancer Fund.
Roger is the chair of the Sports Chaplaincy Table for the International Sport Coalition and worked with several colleagues from around the world to developwww.globalsportschaplaincy.org. His global network has enabled himto make dozens of international trips to facilitate ministry in sport since November of 2000.

"I lead, encourage and inspire sportspeople as they pursue the fulfillment of God's purposes for their lives."

"I believe lives are transformed as people experience the Lord Jesus' presence and pleasure in Sport."

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