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Daily Devotions for Competitors

C O U R A G E
Joshua 1:6-7


When does your sport demand courage of you?  Is it when you face superior competition?  Does playing through injuries require courage?  Is courage a factor in overcoming fatigue?  What role does courage play in overcoming adversity?  Today’s scripture links strength and courage in a powerful combination.


In the historical book of Joshua in the first chapter and verses 6 through 7 we read, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.  Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”


Joshua had just taken leadership of his people after Moses had died and this was what God told him as he assumed this most intimidating role.  Twice God said to be strong and courageous.  The second time He said to be very courageous.  Courage would obviously be a most important quality for Joshua’s leadership.


What are the situations in today’s competition that may require you to be strong and very courageous?  You probably thought of some as we opened the issue earlier.  Some of those could be as scary to you as replacing Moses would have been to Joshua.


The Lord’s word to you today is the same as it was to Joshua, several millennia ago.  He would say, “Be strong and very courageous.”  Walk boldly into today’s competition with strength and confidence.  Take on your opponent with great courage and determination to win.


Bible Reading Plan:
Psalms 9
Genesis 25-26

C O M P E T I T I O N
I Corinthians 9:24


Competition is a great thing as it moves people to greatness and beyond mediocrity.  The Bible is full of instances where the life of faith is likened to an athletic contest.  One of those follows.


In First Corinthians chapter 9 and verse 24 it says, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to win the prize."  I like that!  It's said very simply, "Run in such a way as to win the prize."


Your coaching staff has outlined for you the way to win the prize today.  Your part is to run that way.  Your part is to follow their direction and to compete to the greatest extent of your ability.  Invest all that you have and all that you are in the pursuit of the team's goals. 


As you compete today, do so in such a way as to win!!!  Strive to honor Him in all that you do.

Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 4:1-11
Acts 5:1-16

T A L K I N G   T R A S H
Proverbs 10:19


Trash talking on the field of competition has become more and more pervasive in the last few years.  How should we as Christians approach this issue?  The Scriptures are full of wisdom related to speech.  One such verse follows.


In Proverbs chapter 10 and verse 19 it says, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”


As we speak more and more, our chances of speaking foolishly certainly increase.  You probably know someone who talks too much and in doing so speaks in ways that cause harm to himself or to others.  That's what is meant by, "sin is not absent."  Talk long enough and the best of us will sin with our tongues.


The other side of this is that when we remain silent in certain discussions, we display an uncommon wisdom.  Some people speak when there is nothing to say.  We would do well to speak only when it is appropriate and when the situation is enhanced by our comments.  "He who holds his tongue is wise."


As you pray today, ask the Lord to guard your mouth.  Ask Him to help you control what you say, when you speak and to choose appropriate settings for your speech.

Bible Reading Plan:
Psalms 4
Genesis 12-14

I S O L A T I O N
Mark 1:12-13


Do you ever feel isolated, cut off, all alone?  Though you’re surrounded by people, you may still be lonely.  Jesus knew that feeling and we can draw some courage and comfort from his experience.


We read about it in Mark’s gospel at chapter 1 and verses 12 and 13.  “At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan.  He was with the wild animals and angels attended him.”


Now I’m sure none of us has ever been sent out into a desert to be the personal whipping boy for Satan, but I’m sure we’ve all known some loneliness.  Notice who cared for Jesus in his loneliness, the text says that wild animals were with him and angels attended him.


Who is with you on your loneliest days?  Probably it’s your teammates.  Who attends to you when you’re at your lowest points?  That’s probably friends and family.  The loneliness comes to everyone; the issue is how we deal with it.


As you prepare for today’s competition, lean on your teammates and coaching staff for support in the same way Jesus would have depended on those attending angels.  Even in the loneliest moments of this season, look for consolation and companionship from friends and family as an oasis might appear in the desert.  Compete strongly today.


Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 1:18-25
Acts 2:1-21

D I S C I P L I N E
Proverbs 10:17

No one likes to be corrected by his coach or teammate.  Everyone wants to think that he competes at the highest level of his ability every time out.  The problem is, most of us never approach that level of competence and thus need correction.

In Proverbs chapter 10 at verse 17 it says, “He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.”

We've all probably had teammates who ignore the correction that the coaches give them.  They give verbal agreement when the coach is speaking, but go on doing everything the way they were.  This scripture says that in doing that they do a great disservice to not only themselves, but the whole team.  Here it says they lead others astray by their actions.

The promise of this scripture is that if we listen closely to discipline, or correction, that we will show others the way to life.  When we make adjustments when corrected by our coaches, parents, pastors, friends or teammates, we provide a rich example of humility and grace to all those around us. 

As you pray today, ask the Lord to give you the grace to heed discipline and to enable you to show all those around you the way to rich, full, abundant life in relationship with Christ Jesus.

Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 10:1-20
Acts 15:1-21
Psalms 23
Genesis 50

F L E E    A N D    P U R S U E
II Timothy 2:22

Can you recall an instance when a great player was disqualified from competition due to poor off-field decisions?  I can think of dozens.  What do you suppose was driving their hearts to make such foolish decisions?  Many times it’s simply the strong, destructive, desires of youth.  Today’s scripture warns us about such desires.

In Paul’s second letter to his friend Timothy at chapter 2 and verse 22 we read, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

There’s no need to list the evil desires of youth, you probably have a few of them in your mind presently.  The point is to flee from them.  Don’t just stand idly by them, that’s the easiest way to be run over by such things. 

Further, we’re called to pursue four principles of wise living from a pure heart.  Let your pure heart lead you to pursue righteousness – doing what you know to be right.  Pursue faith – actively trust God, your coaches, your teammates, and your friends.  Pursue love – seek the best for others, even at your personal cost.  Pursue peace – work to keep your relationships open and honest. 

As you prepare to compete today, run away from the foolish desires that would compromise your ability to compete well and to contribute to the life of your team.  Pursue the best things of life from a pure heart.

Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 9:27-38
Acts 14
Psalms 22:12-31
Genesis 49

P R A Y E R
Isaiah 59:1

What do you pray about your life in sport?  Do you regularly talk with God about each situation or just when things seem out of control?  Which kind of prayer do you think God hears well?  My answer may surprise you.

Isaiah the prophet wrote about prayer at chapter 59 and verse 1, there we read, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.”

It’s exciting to me to know that God doesn’t discriminate between my weakest prayers of panic and my most serene prayers of thanksgiving.  He clearly hears both kinds.  What’s more, He is responsive to both with His strong arm of protection and deliverance.

In today’s competition, invite the Lord into each moment of the game.  Pray during pre-game, asking for His help and protection.  Pray as the competition reaches its height, seeking His power and wisdom for excellence.  Pray after it’s all over, give thanks for the privilege of competing and for the win or the loss.

God’s more than willing to hear from you on your best day or at your worst moment. 

Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 9:14-26
Acts 13:26-52
Psalms 22:1-11
Genesis 48

J O Y   A N D   P E A C E
Isaiah 55:12

Which of these is a better descriptor of your frame of mind in competition; joy and peace or anxiety and rage?  I’ve known competitors from both camps and I know which ones were more successful and were better teammates.

Isaiah wrote these words in chapter 55 and verse 12, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

Though many competitors pursue their sport in anger, full of anxiety and rage; this scripture presents another alternative.  If we go out in joy and are led in peace, we find the whole course of life more pleasant and we receive great favor with those around us. 

Joy is simply emotional stability.  That’s most important during competition as we experience the inevitable swings of momentum from one team to the other.  If we go out in joy, we have the emotional stability to react appropriately to each situation that arises.

Peace is the capacity to be calm in the midst of chaos and confusion.  Competition is full of moments of confusion and we’re too often overcome by it.  Peace gives you the ability to keep your mind focused on your assignment even when everything seems to be coming unglued.

As you compete today, let peace and joy rule your hearts.  Pray for the capacity to remain calm and under control, even in chaotic situations.  Seek God’s character of joy to keep you emotionally afloat in the midst of a turbulent sea of momentum shifts.  Compete with a joyful, peaceful heart today.

Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 6:25-34
Acts 9:20-43
Psalms 16
Genesis 36

D I R E C T I O N
II Thessalonians 3:5

When does your heart need direction?  Do you ever feel like you’ve gone adrift or that you’re wandering through life with no clear path?  Today’s scripture will help our hearts to have a road map for living.

In the second letter Paul wrote to the Thessalonians at chapter 3 and verse 5 we read, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”  Paul is very simple with his directions; he says we should steer toward God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

God’s love is the source for every good thing in life.  All that our hearts long for can be found in Him.  Let Him direct your heart toward such love, security, peace and joy.

Christ’s perseverance is beyond our wildest imaginations.  He can help us push through the pain of injury, the disappointment of failure, the sting of loss, the ache of loneliness.  The perseverance of Christ enables us to do the right thing even when everything in our minds and our bodies scream that we should just give up.

As you prepare to compete today, follow you heart as God directs it toward His love and the perseverance of Christ.  The best things in sport and all of life are awaiting your arrival.

Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 9:1-13
Acts 13:1-25
Psalms 21
Genesis 46-47

G O D ‘ S   W I L L
Mark 3:35

What is it that we as Christian athletes can do to bring about a more intimate relationship with the Lord?  Is there some program to work through, some book to read, a tape to listen to?  What makes for a closer walk with Christ?

In Mark's gospel at chapter 3 and verse 35 Jesus says, For whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.  Jesus says this just as His family is outside the house, ready to take him home.  They think He's lost His mind and is in need of real help.

Jesus flips the whole idea of who is most closely related to Him by using these powerful words.  He says that the ones to whom He is most closely related are those who do God's will.  People with whom He has no blood relation can enjoy a deep, personal, intimate relationship with the Lord in a way that mere relatives can never even understand. 

Let's join these to whom Jesus spoke and be the Lord's most intimate family members.  Let's do what Jesus says makes that happen.  Let's do the will of God.

As you pray today, ask the Lord to reveal His will to you.  Ask Him to make your relationship with Him rich and personal. 

Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 8:23-34
Acts 12
Psalms 20
Genesis 44-45

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    Sport Chaplain / Character Coach / Sport Mentor Blog

    "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 .


    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!

    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.

    Changes in Service Across 23 Seasons

    I was recently reflecting on the changes I have seen across my twenty-three seasons of serving Saluki Football (collegiate American Football). We have served with five different coaching staffs, some with lots of changes within the tenure of the same head coach. We have seen hundreds of young men cycle through the university in those years, about 25 new players each year, 100+ on each year’s roster. This note will feature the differences in how my service has changed across the years. I hope this allows you some sense that changes can be good, even if clouded by firing, failure, pain, and uncertainty.

    1994-1996 – Head Coach Shawn Watson – I owe Shawn more than I could ever express. He invited me into college football and gave me enough room to experiment, to fail, to succeed, to be trusted, and to innovate. I attended practices, led team chapels, served in crises, began to travel with the team, wrote personal notes to players and coaches, and began to write game day devotions for the team. I prayed with Shawn personally before games and led the team in praying the Lord’s prayer after games in the locker room. He left our program to take another opportunity in coaching and we have stayed in touch as he has traveled through six universities since.
    1997-2000 – Head Coach Jan Quarless – I was stunned when Coach Q allowed me even more space to serve and I started with tremendous favor. I did all the things I had done with Shawn and added some sideline responsibilities (get back coach), but with a little less personal relationship with the head coach. Coach Q’s tenure included a good deal of turmoil, a number of coaching staff transitions, and the team hovered near the point of excellence without ever achieving it. He was relieved of his duties shortly after the university hired a new Director of Athletics. Jan is out of football, having completed his PhD after being fired and then finished his career as a school administrator.
    2001-2007 – Head Coach Jerry Kill – When Coach Kill and I met for lunch to discuss how I would serve his team, I was stunned at his response to my questions about boundaries. He said, “As far as I’m concerned, there are no boundaries.” I had again been given an amazing level of favor and access to the coaching staff, the players, the facilities, and more. We did as we had in the past years, but added some new forms of service as this staff developed an excellent program. I began to do “team-building” activities with the team during the preseason. In these sessions it was my job to accelerate the process of developing both the culture and the community that enables a team to compete well. We also added some weekly meetings to build team leadership. Coach Kill and I developed a strong relationship that continues to this day. It was forged in the fires of early losses, later championships, personal crises, health scares, cancer surgery, court appearances with troubled players, and lots of heart to heart talks. Coach left our program after a string of very successful seasons to take a new coaching opportunity. He has recently been out of coaching for a season, but just took an offensive coordinator position.
    2008-2015 – Head Coach Dale Lennon – Coach Lennon came to us from the University of North Dakota and a radically different culture from Southern Illinois. I was unsure how he would perceive me or my role, but when we talked after recruiting was finished I was again amazed at the favor the Lord gave me with Coach Lennon. He fully embraced every way I had been serving and strongly endorsed our team-building process. He and I collaborated on annual and weekly themes for the team and I was thrilled to build those themes into my team-building, team chapels, and more. Coach Lennon’s more introverted nature made building our relationship more difficult than it was with Coach Kill, but we had a strong and open friendship characterized by respect and collaboration. There were a number of changes within the staff during these years, and though we had early success (two conference championships), the program seemed to decline year to year and Coach Lennon’s tenure ended in his firing. He and his wife, my wife and I, had dinner a couple of weeks after the season and I could sense how deeply it hurt him. I don’t think he had ever tasted failure of this sort and it was a rather bitter experience. We have stayed in touch, mostly by text message, as he is out of coaching. I doubt he will return to the game as this last experience may have squashed his passion for coaching and its life consuming nature.
    2016 - ? – Head Coach Nick Hill – I have known Nick since he was an area high school football and basketball player. After a year of playing college basketball elsewhere, he transferred to our university, playing both basketball and football. As a four year starting quarterback retired from the game, Nick was the heir apparent to the starting job, and he wisely walked away from basketball. He led us to two of our most successful seasons, went on to some pre-season NFL football and then a couple of seasons of Arena Football. He coached some high school football in Florida, returned to coach a local high school team, and then was offered the opportunity to coach quarterbacks for Coach Lennon’s staff. He and I discussed the opportunity over coffee one morning and he chose to join us. Two seasons later, he was named our head coach, at thirty years of age. On the day of his introductory press conference, he called me to come to the office and to pray with him. That set the tone for our service together. Once again, I have been given remarkable favor and unfettered access. Added to all the earlier avenues of service, we added an off-season discussion of the book, Legacy, with the coaching staff and discussions of the same book with the five team captains during the season. Coach and I have shared book titles we are reading and he has been very responsive to each suggestion I have made for his leadership of the program.

              I have no idea what the future holds. I have no idea how many years I will continue to serve in this manner. I have no idea how my service may change, immediately or in the next five years. I have full confidence that I am operating in the grace and favor of God, because there is no way I could engineer the opportunities I have been given. I trust that the Lord will lead and that I will follow as well as I am able. I cannot wait to see what is next. 

    Conference Calls for Sports Chaplains and Character Coaches

    A couple of the most effective, but hard to arrange avenues of professional development for sports chaplains are networking and mentoring. Most of us are either too busy, or we don’t prioritize the time to be with our colleagues on a regular basis. Most of us learn best when we simply spend time in conversation with each other, comparing notes, telling stories, and asking questions of each other. The wisest among us make time for such networking, and we seek out mentors to help us develop our ministries.

    One of the most effective ways we have been doing this recently has been through conference calls on a monthly basis. Starting in August of 2015, I began hosting conference calls, approximately sixty minutes in duration, in which I simply interview one of our respected sports chaplaincy colleagues from around the USA. Several times, we have even connected with people outside the USA by Skype while having my mobile phone on speaker so our international friends could participate. Dozens of people, from coast to coast, have called in, learned, asked good questions, and have been encouraged and inspired by our guests.

    I am aware that some others have been doing this within their geographic regions and by other associations. That is wonderful. Below, please see the details for the calls, the questions I use to direct the calls, and a list of people who have contributed to them, as well as some who are on queue for future calls.

    I hope you can join us for a future call.



    Template for each call: (30-60 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.
    These are some of the questions I use for FCA Sports Chaplain conference calls.

    ·         Tell us about yourself, your family, and your background.
    ·         Tell us about the place where you serve as a sports chaplain or character coach.
    ·         In what sports do you serve?
    ·         When did you first begin to serve as a sports chaplain or character coach and how did that happen?
    ·         What are some of your most effective strategies?
    ·         One thing a sports chaplain or character coach should ALWAYS do is…
    ·         One thing a sports chaplain or character coach should NEVER do is….
    ·         Questions we received via email ahead or during the call.
    ·         Who are your mentors and most valued colleagues? How do you connect with them?
    ·         What forms of communication do you employ in your service as a chaplain?
    ·         How many months did it take for you to feel like you had a good handle on your role?
    ·         How well does your church understand your ministry and the fact that it may require you to occasionally miss Sunday services?
    ·         What are some things a sports chaplain or character coach should do in his or her first 30 days of service?
    These are sports chaplains and character coaches who have been recently interviewed on our conference calls:
    ·         Jason Lipe – Southeast Missouri State University
    ·         Sara Hurst – University of Illinois
    ·         Eric Drake – Benton High School
    ·         Anthony Morris – Towson State University
    ·         Troy Collier – University of Illinois
    ·         Russ Talley – Northern Illinois University
    ·         Scott Tickner – Sesser-Valier High School
    ·         Robbie Trent – University of Nebraska
    ·         Dan Bishop – FCA National Director of Training
    ·         T. J. Carlson – South Dakota State University
    ·         Justin Neally – University of Illinois
    ·         Marla Butterworth – formerly of Georgia Tech University
    ·         Brandi Cantrell – Texas Tech University
    ·         Chris Morgan – University of Louisville
    These are sports chaplains and character coaches slated for upcoming conference calls:
    ·         Tim Schneckloth – Augustana College
    ·         Keith Brown – Georgia Tech
    ·         David Applegate – Iowa FCA
    ·         Kirby Myers – Naval Academy
    ·         Richard Lopez – University of Arizona

    ·         Jill Nash – Georgia FCA 

    "Stay in Touch."

    One of the values I learned from my mentor, Fred Bishop, is to maintain long-term relationships, even across the globe and for decades. He did it by making long trips by car and by writing post cards by hand. He has since graduated to email and social media. I have marveled at the way he was able to stay in touch with people, to pray for them, to encourage them, and to be encouraged by their development as men and women who love Christ Jesus. Below are the ways I have found to do this and the results I receive.

    I maintain relationships with former players (college football, basketball, baseball, softball, professional baseball) via a number of channels:
    ·         Email – I have near 900 people on my weekly devotion list and send them out each Monday morning.
    ·         Text messages – I send a daily verse from the Proverbs to baseball players who have come through our club.
    ·         Social media – I employ both Twitter and Facebook, with a strategic approach, in maintaining contact with players from the past. On Twitter, I post links to our daily devotional site, in English and in Spanish. I also tweet or retweet items I believe could be of interest to those in my Twitter network of 1,300+.
    ·         Face to face meetings – Collegiate sports programs have occasional events like homecoming that welcome former players back to the university and these are perfect for reconnecting with players from past years. These face to face meetings deepen the relationships that can be further maintained at a distance.

    I stay connected with coaches in similar ways:
    ·         Email – many coaches who have come through our university are also on my Monday devotion list.
    ·         Text messages – During the college football season, I send messages to dozens of coaches for whom I have numbers. I send a prayer, an encouragement, a scripture, a congratulatory note for a big win, or a conciliatory note after a bitter defeat. I always aim to encourage and to inspire.
    ·         Social media – A number of the coaches from our network also follow us on social media.
    ·         Face to face meetings – The American Football Coaches Association holds an annual convention and I have attended it each year since 2005. I attend not because I am a football coach, but because thousands of them are there. Rather than chasing all over the USA to see them, I can meet them at this event and reconnect very well. There is a similar event in Champaign, Illinois for high school football coaches and there are doubtless similar events for coaches of most other sports. Find a way to get there and to engage the coaches.

    I stay in touch with sports chaplains around the nation and the world as well:
    ·         Email – this weekly email is my primary attempt to share what I am learning and often the excellent strategies, methods, and ideas of others.
    ·         Text messages – I have a group of numbers in my phone that are for college and high school football chaplains. I text message these weekly with scripture, prayer, and/or encouragement. I will also send individuals a text message related to particular situations, crises, or opportunities. I also use text messages to promote monthly conference calls for sports chaplains and character coaches.
    ·         Social media – I promote the monthly sports chaplain conference calls via Twitter, and each one is automatically repeated on Facebook.
    ·         Face to face meetings – Events like the PowerUp Sports Ministry conferences, FCA’s annual Sports Chaplains Conference, the AFCA convention (for American Football), and other events are excellent opportunities to see a number of our colleagues, to share a cup of coffee, a meal, and to compare notes.


    I firmly believe that the Lord puts people in our lives for specific purposes and that our responsibility to Him for them does not end simply because their career paths have led them away from our communities. Especially now, when our communities can be held in our hands, electronically, via our smart phones.  We can maintain influential, redemptive relationships with countless individuals by very simple and time efficient methods. Please join me in extending the Lord Jesus’ love, encouragement, challenge, and instruction by any and every means at your hand.

    "Be a Man"

    A year ago our head football coach was fired and we worked with him, his staff, their families, and support staff to manage the transitions each had to make. A few weeks later, our new head coach was chosen and he began to assemble his staff, to determine the direction of the program, and to outline its values. The new head coach is only 31 years old and that presents him a particular set of challenges. His staff is also rather young, with one exception.

    He and I talked after recruiting was completed about how I could serve him and we had a tremendous discussion. One of his first thoughts was to have his program defined by the statement, “Be a Man.” Rather than have a long list of rules, he would like the young men in his program to just, “be a man.” I pushed back, saying, “Coach, they don’t know what that is.” Near 80% of our players grew up with no man in the house, and probably a number of the others had poor models for what a man is. I said, “Coach, we have to define terms. Will you trust me to help them learn what it is to be a man?” He agreed and the rest of this note is related to what I told them and how I delivered the messages.

    In the way that I work with our college football team, I have several different opportunities and methods to convey a message:
    Preseason – Team Building sessions (4-6), senior player talks, coach talks, Sunday morning chapels (2).
    In season – Pregame chapels (11), letters at pregame meals (11).

    Prior to the season, during the early summer, I approached the head coach with some simple ideas to help define what a man is that we could emphasize over and over again. He agreed to this set of four statements: “A Man Loves. A Man Takes Responsibility. A Man Serves. A Man Takes Initiative.” I used these four statements as the anchor to which we tied all our communication throughout the season. At times I would deal with these by drawing sharp contrasts between what men do and what boys do. Boys are selfish, men love. Boys avoid responsibility, men take it up. Boys are self-serving, men serve others. Boys are passive, men take initiative.

    For chapel talks, I majored on narrative texts that demonstrated a person acting on one of the four “A Man …..” statements. I would introduce the talk, recite all four statements, ask someone to pray, and then launch in to my talk. We would wrap up with prayer and I would be finished.

    For the letters at pregame meals, I spent a good deal of time during a July study retreat writing devotional thoughts focused on the four statements. I would start with a story of a player or coach from the program’s past who was emblematic of that day’s statement. I would outline his story in one paragraph. The next paragraph would introduce a Bible passage that spoke to the statement as well.

    The third paragraph would apply the ideas illuminated from scripture to the team and to the earlier player’s life, and the final paragraph would be a direct challenge to do as directed by the scripture and as modeled by the player or coach. I would insert a salutation, date, sign, and print the letter on my office stationery.  I make photocopies and have one copy at each place prior to the pregame meal, 4 hours prior to kickoff. These devotional thoughts, being in letter form, feel very personal to the reader and are well received.

    During the preseason, each senior player and each coach on the staff was given time to deliver a 5-7 minute talk to the entire team. I created a set of questions to help the players gather their thoughts about how their experiences at the university had shaped the kind of men they had become. I created a separate set of questions for the coaches with more information about their childhood and their life experiences. The results of these talks was amazing. Rather than posturing or simply stringing clichés together, they opened their hearts and spoke vulnerably. This was a strong factor in building the team’s culture and its cohesion.

    You may be wondering how the team did this season? We started with strong expectations, quickly discovered our weak spots, competed strongly, lost several very close games, finished well, and had a 4 win, 7 loss record. The remarkable thing was that through a losing streak, our cohesion never broke down, the coaches and players all stayed together, and we never abandoned the program values or goals.

    In a text message to the head coach during the last week of the season, I said, “Coach, you are doing the right things and holding to the right values. Press on. Recruit to the culture you are building. I am proud of you.”


    Our society is full of men who never love, never take responsibility, never serve, and never take initiative. I hope that our work together in Saluki Football, produces young men who do love, take responsibility, serve, and take initiative. I also pray that the introduction of scripture and prayer to their lives takes root in their hearts and comes to full fruition as they become men who love Christ Jesus.

    Notes on Serving Millennial Sportspeople

    For most of the coaches with whom I serve, for most of the chaplains with whom I associate, for most of the parents and employers I know, the Millennial generation is an enigma. They are not sure just how to lead them, just what they value, and otherwise just don’t get what they’re doing. At sixty years of age, an acknowledged and unrepentant Baby Boomer, I have experienced my struggles in communicating and in developing leadership among this unique group of people.

    While researching the characteristics of millennials, I came across this article by a millennial and liked its approach. I have excerpted portions of the article from LinkedIn by Lydia Abbott and have inserted some thoughts re: serving millennial sportspeople. I hope these thoughts are of value to you as you serve them.

    My contributions will be bold italics .

    8 Millennials' Traits You Should Know About Before You Hire Them

    https://content.linkedin.com/content/dam/business/talent-solutions/global/en_us/blog/2016/10/Lydia-Abbot.jpg   Lydia Abbot

    December 4, 2013

    ·          
    1,615

    A lot of people seem to think that we are, well, a pain. The week I graduated from college, Time Magazine released an article titled “ Millennials: the Me Me Me Generation ,” which called us lazy, entitled, self-obsessed narcissists. Ouch! On the other hand, we’ve been called open-minded, liberal, self-expressive, upbeat, and overtly passionate about equality. Naturally, I’d prefer to believe this description over the former (how Millennial of me). But, the truth is both arguments hold some grounds for belief. The reality must fall somewhere in between.
    The interest in and the controversy surrounding my generation resulted in a packed audience and lengthy Q&A at LinkedIn Talent Connect’s session:   “Millennials: How to Attract, Hire, & Retain Today’s Workforce.”  Lead by   Sondra Dryer  of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC),   Barry Sylvia  of TripAdvisor, and   Melissa Hooven  of Cornerstone OnDemand, the talk covered the do’s and don’ts of working with Millennials as well as our overall characteristics and desires.
    I walked away from the session with a clear understanding of how recruiting Millennials is different and the key points every recruiter should emphasize when talking to this new generation. To help out those of you that weren’t there, I put together the following list of key takeaways from the session with a view of my own observations thrown in.

    Millennials are…

    Multitaskers

    ·          Millennials are multitasking pros and can juggle many responsibilities at once. This also means that we are easily distracted and find social media and texting hard to resist.
    ·          This means that coaches, chaplains, and anyone who hopes to connect with them has to deal with their distractedness. We either have to take away the distractions, as some coaches have, or find ways to engage them deeply enough to push through the distractions. You can either be annoyed with their distraction or develop a way to deal with it. It will be there.
    Connected
    ·          Millennials know everything there is to know about social media because we are living it. We are constantly perusing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  - it’s how we share and get information.
    ·          This means that we can either join them in their connectedness or become quickly irrelevant. This group connects immediately with people from all across the planet. That is both good and bad. The issue is with whom they connect. If we will provide good content, even godly content, through various social media platforms, we stand to be the ones shaping their thoughts and values. Don’t fear or war against their connectedness, find a way to transform it via Biblical truth.
    Tech-Savvy
    ·          There’s no doubt that the majority of Millennials are more tech-savvy than other generations, although Generation Z may soon surpass us (yikes!).
    ·          This surely means that we must become tech-savvy as well. At least have tech-savvy people on your team who can put your content and wisdom into the stream of information in which the millennials daily swim. This is an ever-changing landscape. Don’t let it pass you by.
    Millennials want…
    Instant Gratification & Recognition
    ·          Millennials need to feel like what they are doing is important and that they are on the right track.  Yes, it sounds a little needy…and it is. But, many Millennials grew up with constant praise from their Baby Boomer parents. It’s what they know.
    ·          This is likely the greatest source of frustration and annoyance for the Baby Boomers and even Gen Xers. Sadly, it’s our fault. We were the ones who invented participation trophies and sheltered our kids from any possible pain or injury. We decided everyone should be winners, no one should be a loser, and we are reaping the whirlwind in this generation of needy and over-sensitive people. We can either be constantly offended or find ways to deal with their desire to be recognized and have immediate feedback. My suggestion is to give instant feedback, especially praise, in public, face to face, in text messages, via tweets, and to regularly praise the matters you value with their teammates present. Praise what you want and you’ll get more. Ignore or discourage what you don’t want, and you’ll get less of it.
    Work-Life Balance & Flexibility
    ·          Millennials aren’t as willing as former generations to sacrifice their personal life in order to advance their careers. They like to “work hard – play hard” and want to be at a company that appreciates this desire for balance. They also expect a more flexible work environment than previous generations and want to work for a company that supports various causes.
    ·          We should expect this group to have a strong sense of how many hours they invest in training, practice, film study, team meetings and such vs. how much time they have for social activities, academic work, etc… They will be quick to complain if they think this is out of balance. Don’t just call them soft or chide them about commitment, discuss the balance with them and help them understand your values, the necessity of diligence, and arrive at a wise and appropriate balance. When you do, you’ll have their full commitment.
    Collaboration
    ·          Millennials are extremely team-oriented and enjoy collaborating and building friendships with colleagues.
    ·          This is a quality that should work in our favor. Encourage and reward their teamwork. Enable them to build friendships among their teammates with social events, fun team activities, meals together, etc… This group will love it.
    Transparency
    ·          Millennials want to feel like they have an open and honest relationship with their manager and co-workers and that there won’t be any nasty surprises when they join a company. Once they’ve signed on, they want assurance that their opinion is valued and both give and receive a good deal of feedback.
    ·          I watched this in action this August during our college football team’s pre-season. We had each senior player share a few minutes about his experience at the university and with this team. They were remarkably vulnerable and shared their hearts with their teammates. Further, we had our coaching staff each share the life stories and situations that made them into the men they are today. Wow, when they bared their souls to their players, the bonding was deep and permanent. The transparency shown by these players and coaches, resulted in a remarkable sense of team unity.
    Career Advancement
    ·          Millennials want to know that they will have the opportunity to advance and develop their careers within the company they choose to join.

    ·          This is another point of contention for most older coaches who deal with millennial competitors, especially as the competition gets stronger and the starting positions become fewer. “I feel like I should be the starting quarterback.” “I work harder than anyone.” “I think I should start. I was the best player on my 5-A high school and AAU teams.” “When is it my turn to be the #1?” “Why can’t I have the jersey number I prefer?” Most of these kids grew up with their preference, with a strong sense of entitlement, with mom or dad carrying their hundreds of dollars of gear to the ballpark. Most of their families have engineered ways for their kids to be the first, the best, the #1 player, from infancy. When they arrive at a level where everyone has also been there, it’s a stark reality. We have to lead them to value “we” over “me” and to understand that sport is a meritocracy where the one who bests serves the team’s best interests will play more than the one who has the best gear, the best post-game snacks, or the wealthiest parents.

    Reprise: Notes on Coaching Staff Transitions

    This time of year always brings the resignations, firings, new hirings, and other coaching staff transitions. This is primarily true in college football, but also applies to the high school level, and other fall sports as well. Below is a post from late November, 2007 during the third transition I had experienced with our football staff. I hope its values and insights are of value to you as transitions come your way.


    At this time of year in college football, there are dozens of changes among head coaching positions, multiplied by their staff’s transitions. This displaces hundreds of coaches and their families each year. We can serve them by understanding the situation and positioning ourselves for effective ministry.

    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.

    PowerUp Sports Ministry Conferences

    On Wednesday of this week, we participated in the PowerUp Sports Ministry Conference in the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Bill Houston and his team from Our Daily Bread Ministries (odb.org) hosted and organized this excellent event.

    The program featured presentations by LaMorris Crawford, chaplain to the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL, Dorothy Caldwell, chaplain to the WNBA Chicago Sky, my son Jason Lipe and I, and a panel discussion facilitated by Tom Rust of Face-2-Face Radio, and populated by Derick Grant, formerly with the Harlem Globetrotters, David Wildman of Fully Packed Adventure Sports Ministries, David Storvick, chaplain to the Indy Racing League, Cameron Mills, former basketball player at Kentucky, and Tom Roy of Unlimited Potential, Inc.

    LaMorris Crawford delivered two excellent and inspiring talks. Dorothy Caldwell did a very good job of sharing about her service with WNBA players. Jason and I talked about growing up in sports chaplaincy, how we have both learned as we served.

    The panel did a tremendous job of sharing about their respective ministries, their challenges, and their successes.

    Our Daily Bread provided each of the attendees a set of their resources, refreshments, and an excellent lunch. The presentations were each recorded on video and will soon be available on line at – ourdailybread.org/powerup .

    Four PowerUp Sports Ministry Conferences are scheduled for 2016-2017:

    November 29, 2016 in Lansing, Michigan at South Church
    March 1, 2017 in Knoxville, TN at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church
    April 26, 2017 in Houston, TX at Crosspoint Church
    October 3, 2017 in Grand Rapids, Michigan at Our Daily Bread Ministries

    For more information and to register, please visit: ourdailybread.org/powerup


    As good as the presentations are, as inspiring as the speakers are, as delicious as the lunch is, I believe the greatest asset of these events is the gathering of like-minded, committed, but often isolated sports chaplains. The fellowship we enjoy, the networking in which we engage, the sharing of our lives together is of powerful effect, encouraging, and enlightening. Please join us and many of your colleagues at a PowerUp Sports Ministry Conference very soon.

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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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