nbcbanner2
nbcbanner3
nbcbanner5
nbcbanner6

Sports Ministry

 

SPORTS CHAPLAINCY: FULFILLING GOD’S PURPOSE FOR SPORTS MINISTRY IN MISSION SCHOOLS

 

By Samuel A. ALABI, Ministerial Officer (Sports), Youth & Students Ministries Department, Nigerian Baptist Convention. +2348030497794/+2348159990308, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

INTRODUCTION

Sport Chaplaincy is a relatively new field of chaplaincy study around the world. In fact, in the US, “leading national chaplaincy organizations do not recognize sport chaplaincy as a sub discipline within the profession.”[1] Hence, there is no institution awarding degrees in the field of sports chaplaincy in the US today. However, in the UK, there are a number of Universities awarding degrees in the field of sports chaplaincy and other related courses like the University of Gloucestershire. Nevertheless, there is need for chaplaincy in every area of our social activities in order to neutralize the bad effect of the doctrine of dualism on the church. This doctrine emphasizes separation between the sacred and secular things; the separation between church and state. Do we not think there is the need for chaplaincy in secular areas of life like Politics, Police and Sports among others, as much as we have in schools? We need to make our members, old and young, effective and practicing Christians beyond the four walls of the local church. This paper attempts to explore the relevance of chaplaincy in the sport sector of our mission schools.

SPORTS MINISTRY

It is a ministry of reconciliation like other Christian ministries. It focuses on using the sports enthusiasts/lovers in the body of Christ to minister to the sports addicts within and outside the four walls of the local church. “It is to intentionally use one’s sporting gift to glorify God and to extend His Kingdom on earth such that non-Christians would come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through sport.”[2] Nevertheless, according to J. Stuart Weir, Sports Ministry falls into two major categories, namely:

  • Ministry through sport: this actually summarizes the definition of sports ministry given above. This is when the local church or an assemblage of believers (like in the case of mission schools) gathers to demonstrate and exemplify Christ on the field of play.
  • Ministry to sport: this is when the church devises a means to minister to athletes, coaches and sports administrators anytime they are not able to fellowship with other believers during a local Sunday service due to competition. This is Sports Chaplaincy.[3]

PURPOSE OF SPORTS MINISTRY

This purpose, I believe, is God’s purpose for Sports Ministry. It is to transform lives of athletes, coaches and sports administrators that they may in turn go into the world and reform the society.[4] This is important because Christians often believe that sport culture is a corrupt one and through it, the world is experiencing moral decadence at an alarming rate. The figure below can better explain this purpose[5]:

In other words, God’s purpose for Sports Ministry is a process in this order

  1. Transform Lives: to remove or reduce the rate at which morality is disappearing from our society through the sports culture, Sports Ministry intends to transform the lives of athletes, coaches and sports administrators.
  2. Care for Sports People: transforming their lives may not be possible if Christians do not show concern for them (Romans 10:14). Therefore, we need to show concern for them all by caring for their well-being. We must show concern for their physical, spiritual, psychological and other areas of their lives. By doing this, they would be accessible to the Gospel when we attempt to preach to them.
  3. Make them Disciples: we need to strategically plan for the discipleship of converted athletes, coaches and sports administrators. This kind of discipleship lays emphasis on relationship. This is a relational discipleship, as against the conventional ‘academic’ discipleship that we are used to as a church.
  4. Encourage Excellency: as Christians, we need not be mediocre. Therefore, whatever we intend to do, we must do it well. So also is the case with Christian athletes, coaches and sports administrators; we need to encourage them to be the best in their preferred sporting engagements or activities.
  5. Reform Society: lastly in the process, we must remind every sport person called by the name of Christ to be Christian in his/her participation in sport. They must consciously shine the light of Christ in the darkened world of sport; they must not allow their non-Christian friends to influence them but rather exemplify Christ and influence their unbelieving friends.

SPORTS CHAPLAINCY

According to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), as reported by Lars Dzikus et al. in the Journal of Contemporary Athletics, Sports Chaplains are typically unpaid individuals appointed to remain religiously neutral while serving (sports) administrators, coaches and players.[6] They are responsible for the spiritual care of the (school) team. In other words, they provide spiritual care for school sports administrators, coaches and athletes. Steven N.  Waller et al. argues that we would understand and appreciate this definition better if we consider the functions and responsibilities of a sport chaplain.[7] According to them, there are three major responsibilities of sport chaplains, and they are:

  • Evangelistic: this implies that the sport chaplain is concerned with the verbal proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as much as being concerned with the conversion of every member of the team including administrators, coaches and players.
  • Pastoral: this implies that the chaplain is also concerned with the spiritual growth of these people. In other words, he/she will be committed to personal and relational biblical discipleship for every member of the team.
  • Mentoring: Steven N. Waller et al. referred to mentoring as a more comprehensive and wholehearted Christ-honoring life within and outside sports.[8] In other words, the chaplain is required to encourage sport administrators, coaches and athletes to improve their relationships with their sports’ teammates, coaches, support staff, spouses, families, friends and churches.

In other words, the responsibility of an ideal sport chaplain is three-dimensional, which are evangelistic, pastoral and mentoring. Therefore, the sport chaplain is to provide counseling and spiritual care for athletes, coaches and sports administrators and sometimes for their families. J. Stuart Weir referred to this as ministry to sports, which means serving the people in sports, helping them to play their sports ‘Christianly’ and bringing the church to them when sporting competition hinders them from going to “a local Sunday service”.[9]

FULFILLING GOD’S PURPOSE FOR SPORTS MINISTRY IN MISSION SCHOOLS

The core elements of sport chaplains’ work is at the center of the following and for as many school chaplains who would be committed to these among the sports people of their schools would fulfill God’s purpose for Sports Ministry in the school.

  • Leading and Coordinating Chapel Services: Mission school chaplains could also serve as sports chaplains for the athletes, coaches and sports administrators of their schools by leading and coordinating worship for the school team especially when the team is away to participate in any form of inter/intra-school competitions that would hinder them from participating in their regular local Sunday service.
  • Providing Personal Care to Players, Coaches and Sports Administrators: Mission school chaplains should make themselves available to provide personal care for the entire school team whenever the need arise.
  • Alerting Coaches to Critical Issues that could affect the Program: Mission school chaplains should be spiritually sensitive at all time that they may be able to alert school team coaches and administrators about any suspected impending danger.
  • Being Equipped and Available at all Times to help in Crises: Mission school chaplains should be equipped for the task, and be available at all time for the school team that they may give necessary assistance when the team or any member of the team is in crisis
  • Providing Training and Resources for Character Development and Life Management Skills: the school sports administration should include character development of players and life management skills, and the Mission school chaplain should prepare to assist the team in this regard.
  • Praying for, Encouraging and Exhorting Players, Coaches, Coaches’ Families and Support Staff[10]: another important responsibility of the sports chaplain is to be committed to praying for every member of the team, encouraging them and exhorting them, this is expected of the chaplain of any Mission school, especially since the school team does not have a sport chaplain.

CONCLUSION

Sport chaplaincy is a very good tool that every school can use to help in fulfilling God’s purpose for the emerging Sports Ministry of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. However, since it is a relatively new chaplaincy field around the world let alone Nigeria, the Nigerian Baptist Convention could make use of the chaplaincy available in our mission schools to accomplish the task of sport chaplaincy in our various schools to the end that our athletes, coaches and sports administrators might be Christ’s Ambassadors in the world of sports. Let us arise and transform the sport sector of our Mission schools that our athletes and coaches may in turn go and reform the society for the Lord Jesus. Shalom!

For more information, contact

Rev. Samuel A. Alabi Youth Ministerial Officer (Sports), Baptist Building, Oke Bola, Ibadan; 08030497794 or 08159990308

Pastor Jonah Yila–Assistant Ministerial Officer, Northern Zone, Jos, Plateau State, 08037817357