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The Importance of Sports Chaplaincy

I was asked to do a blog on the importance of having a sports chaplain to be on the staff of a team/organization. I have had the honor of serving in sports ministry for over two decades. I’ve served as a chaplain on both the collegiate and the professional levels during that time. My prayer is that reading this will show the “Heart Of A Chaplain” and the important role that it serves for athletes, coaches, and sports staff around the world.

The work being done from the hand of a chaplain in the lives of incredible young athletes and gifted coaches is so critical. It’s an honor and privilege to serve them on a daily basis. It’s a blessing to get to know the people who I serve on a personal level. I’m happy for them, their families, and the communities that they are from, and in which they currently live. A great faith, compassion, humility, integrity, wisdom, life experience, and most of all, a great passion for the Lord combined with a desire to lead others to Him; all combine to make a Sports Chaplain, God’s hand-picked perfect choice to serve a team/organization.

Sports Chaplaincy is important to teams/organizations because, as Chaplains, we willingly carry with us the burdens of those which God has entrusted to our spiritual care, and those burdens mount up. My prayer for chaplains everywhere is that when those burdens mount up or when the enemy, the father of lies, attacks at the most unexpected times, we are quick to remember that we are not in this alone. God always has our back, and you have friends like me who pray for you daily. Walking in faith, much like football, is a team sport; God is the head coach, and your brothers in Jesus Christ are your teammates. I guess the only difference is that faith is a team sport with eternal consequences for us and for those we are called to shepherd.

Sports Chaplaincy is about “The Ministry Of Presence” This “presence” builds relationships that lead to building the trust of the athlete/coaches in the chaplain, so they can learn to trust God. As the relationship grows with the chaplain, they will see the beauty of and necessity for a personal relationship with God. My experience has been that the ones who convince themselves they need God the least are actually the ones who need Him most.

When I think of Sports Chaplaincy, I’m reminded of the scripture in Matthew 20:28 that says, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” A sports chaplain is important because we are NOT A FAN!!! We are here to GIVE.

With training camp right around the corner, and a whole new batch of young guys coming in, some for a few weeks until they shake out, some for the whole camp, some for a season or two, and some for a career. Sports chaplains have a chance, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to impact each of them, even if it’s only for a single interaction. Rest assured that the chaplain will have an impact on them. See, the chaplain's role is important because the responsibility is the action, but not the outcome; that part is up to the ones we are serving and to the one true God.

In closing, I'd like to share with you a letter that was sent to me from a young man that I had the honor of discipling a few years ago. I pray that it encourages you as God continues to order your steps in ministry. GOD BLESS YOU!!!

Dear Chaplain,

Hi, it’s us

The fallen, the broken, the discouraged, the hurting. The ones who sit alone at home or feel alone in the middle of a big gathering. The ones that few others see. Except you. You have a gift. You see beyond the façade to understand much of what we can’t express. You sense that you are called to speak up, reach out, and draw us in.

But we can imagine that it’s not always easy. We know. We’re us. Sometimes when you reach out, we might not respond in a way that fully affirms the value of what you offered. We’re sorry for that. We’re not always aware of how broken we are and how broken our responder is. We wonder if the enemy uses our broken responses to downplay the importance of what you do. In case you’ve doubted yourself lately, we think there are a few things you need to hear.

1. When you tell us, “I’m praying for you,” it’s not just words.

Don’t ever think you sound trite and simply polite or even worry that you sound too “spiritual.” Posting, texting, messaging, calling, writing. However you do it – whenever you do it. It matters. It matters. Sometimes it’s the one thing that helps us fight back that next round of tears or wave of panic. Your words carry behind them the power of heaven when you pray for us. And then, when you tell us, you remind us that heaven heard our pleas.

And that’s really it. When you tell us we are on your heart and that you’ve been prompted to pray, we know that means the Spirit has been moving you, interceding for us. And we are reminded that we are not alone. Not only are there others on this earth who care, but God is marshaling His army of warriors on our behalf.

2. You are a nighttime ninja.

When the daylight fades, and the darkness takes over, our weakness is magnified. We are scared of what the future holds. Yes, we may act brave and talk of God’s goodness and faithfulness when you offer sympathy, but we really aren’t that brave. We do believe that God is good and He is faithful, but when the night creeps into our bedroom, that knowledge somehow stops informing our heart. Knowing the truth and feeling the truth are two different things.

And so. When you reach out just before you go to bed with a Scripture or a prayer or a simple “I care,” it’s like you made a Star Trek move and teleported to our bedside to let us borrow your shield and sword and fight off the lies of the enemy. With that in mind, here’s a passage that has comforted many of us. We never get tired of being reminded of this truth.

“He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Psalm 91:4-6 (NLT)

3. You don’t have to fix it.

You don’t have to have something big or profound to say. Just saying, “I’m so sorry. I know this must hurt,” is a great start. Every word and action you offer to us when we are down is multiplied and magnified. We hear so much more than is actually said.

You hold power in your hands when you pick up that phone to send a text or type a message that speaks truth and life, and comfort. It’s not as much about the actual words as it is about knowing you care. So don’t fear that your words aren’t perfect. And please don’t let the enemy convince you they aren’t necessary.

Dear Chaplain …BE ENCOURAGED!!! This is kingdom work. It’s ministering to the least of us at times when few others even know you did. You will likely never even know your impact. But we know. And more importantly, God knows. And we imagine that when He looks at you, He thinks, “Well Done”


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