This is the third post in our “Are We Doing it Right?” series. Last week we posed the question as to whether or not we were empowering our athletes not only on the field but also in their spiritual lives. We sought to connect the dots between the relationship of our athletic department and its participants to training them to live a vibrant, active spiritual life. Today we’re going to see how we can use our athletic department, teams, and programs to deepen their relationship with God. Today’s post should be both philosophical and practical. Join us!
Unfortunately, in today’s society it’s considered cool to not care about something. This is such a common reaction that it’s actually the default setting when we fail. To say things like, “I haven’t touched a bat since last season…” or “I didn’t have time to study” are often said to alleviate pressure and prepare those around us for our inevitable screw-up.
This is isn’t how the Bible depicts a healthy life, though. We are instructed many times throughout the New Testament to be passionate, connected people. We should be passionate about everything that we do, but most importantly, we should be passionate about our Christian life.
Unfortunately we’re often training shallow Christians. As one researcher put it:
religion in America is, indeed, 3,000 miles wide but only three inches deep. ” Dr. Michael Lindsey, Rice University Sociologist
So how can we train this deep connection in our athletic department? Well it’s certainly easier said than done, but here are a few areas that we can address to make sure that we’re doing a better job connecting the dots.
Lead Athletes to the Answers
No doubt we’ve all had a teacher that was “unconventional.” Instead of lecturing for the entire period, they engaged with the class in discussions, encouraged questions, and allowed students to draw conclusions from information.
This teacher was more than likely one of your favorites. The reason for this was because they involved you in the lesson. They didn’t just talk at you; they talked with you.
Lecture certainly has its place in teaching. Sometimes it’s the only way to get the desired information across since their may be little prior knowledge.
However, many kids in Christian schools are over-lectured and under-involved.
Whether in the classroom or on the ball field, Christian schools can be guilty of just giving the correct answers while not helping athletes to internalize concepts.
Two ancients cultures, the Greeks and the Hebrews, used what’s known today as the Socratic method to help teach complex topics. The teacher would ask questions of the students to help point them in the right direction.
So, how can we apply this to our athletic departments. Well, once again it’s going to come down to coaching. You need less lecture time in practices. You need less standing around and watching. You need more engagement. This helps athletes to problem-solve and learn to compete properly. When mistakes occur, ask questions about how to fix it instead of just telling them what they should have done.
Create Experiences for Application and Growth
In Luke 9, Jesus commissions the twelve disciples to go out and “preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. Look at Luke 9:1
Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases. “
Now look at Luke 9:3
And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.”
Jesus gave them the ability to perform what they needed to perform in verse one. In verse two he gave them their objective. In verse three he gave them their instructions. Then he turned them loose.
As an AD, encourage your coaches not to be scared to turn the athletes loose. Don’t just do this every once and a while; do it often.
Obviously, it may be hard to turn them loose on a football field. Success in many sports comes from following very specific instructions in a very specific way. Instead, though, turn them loose in practice to help accomplish team purposes. Turn them loose with school or community projects.
You may say, “If I give them control, they won’t do it right.” That’s kind of the point. We need to teach them how to do things the way that Christ taught his disciples. Someday he wouldn’t be around, so he needed to prepare them. Someday you won’t be able to lead them. Create opportunities for them practice what they’ve learned.
One reason why we have such shallow Christians is because they experience a life of shallow relationships with their Christian leaders. Of all the Christian leaders that athletes have in their lives (pastors, youth pastors, teachers, etc) the coach may be the one that they connect with the most. Check out Ephesians 4:11-13.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:”
The coach in the Christian school athletic department may be the one that was “given” to that athlete to show them how to follow Christ. The coach or AD may be the one that will be used to “perfect the saints for the work of the ministry” or to “edify the body of Christ.”
Encourage the coaches in your athletic department to develop deeper relationships with their players. They don’t need to spend hours investing in them, but they do need to get to know them on a personal level. You can do this without crossing the coach/player line.
As the players develop a deeper relationship with the coaches. They should begin to see people that are passionate about the sport they coach, but more importantly they should see people that are passionate about serving God. Show the athletes that it’s not weird to develop a deep relationship. Show them that it’s not weird to be passionate about serving God.
Are we doing it right? Are we showing our kids how to have a deep relationship with God through their experiences in our athletic department?
- lead them to the answers, help them to learn to connect the dots based on what they already know to be true
- create experiences where they can practice these skills on a regular basis
- get personal, kill shallow Christianity by killing shallow relationships
It’s not a perfect list of steps, but hopefully it helps us all take stock of what we’re accomplishing in our Christian school athletic departments.