There are so many Christian schools that are Christian in name only. We have all probably come into contact with them at one time or another. Additionally, there are even more athletic departments that are Christian in name only, even at a Bible-believing school that teaches a Biblical worldview. So here’s the big question: What’s the spiritual temperature of your athletic department?
Here are six questions that can help serve as a spiritual thermometer of your athletic department.
How Often is Christ mentioned?
Do your athletes make the connection between their participation in athletics and their relationship with Christ? Do they understand the implications of the following verses on their lives:
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31 KJV)
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men; (Colossians 3:23 KJV)
Do they recognize that God can be glorified in athletics? Do they understand that a proper relationship with Christ is foundational to all of the above?
Make sure that all athletes are exposed to Christ and the gospel. Whether you are a closed or open enrollment institution, take nothing for granted. They need to hear about how everything we do is a reflection on Him. Especially if we bear the word “Christian” on our jerseys.
How Often are Athletes Exposed to God’s Word?
How else will young people make the connection between athletics and God if they don’t hear what He has to say?
Do you and/or the coaches in your athletic department give devotions to your athletes? Is there any sort of team prayer meeting or Bible study? These can take place before, during, or after school.
One way to show athletes that you value God’s word is to include it in your practice time. Take a few minutes during every practice to share truth with the athletes. Make sure that they know it is what the athletic department values as the most important part of practice.
Another way to expose your athletes to God’s Word is through your athletic department theme.
We’re big fans of themes. Make your theme a Biblically based concept and remind athletes of it every day.
Dr. Glen Schulz, author of Kingdom Education God’s Plan for Educating Future Generations, put it best when he said the following:
“Whoever wants the next generation the most will get them.”
If you want to expose your athletes to God’s word, then you must be intentional about it. They won’t absorb it through osmosis just because they’re at a Christian school.
Including God’s word on a daily basis will set your athletic department on a higher level spiritually.
Do the Coaches in the Athletic Department Consistently Model Christ?
What type of role models are your kids exposed to for entire seasons?
We know that coaches can have the biggest impact on young people’s decisions, worldview, and future.
“One coach will impact more young people in a year than the average person does in a lifetime.” – Rev. Billy Graham
Don’t you love that quote? It’s awesome. It really brings you to your senses as a coach and makes you feel great about the ministry that God has called you to. However, the quote doesn’t stop there as many of us may think:
“So who’s coaching the coaches?” – Rev. Billy Graham
That one gets me every time. We all love to get hyped up about the impact that coaches have on kids. We must also remember, though, that coaches can also have a negative impact as well.
Do the coaches in the athletic department model a solid Christian walk? Are they regular attendees at a Bible-believing, local church? Do they value all athletes equally as Christ values all people equally?
The athletic director concerned about the spiritual well-being of his athletes would do well to make sure the coaches are setting forth a good example. Who’s coaching the coaches?
How Does Your Athletic Department View Competition
This is a big one. Many Christian ministries get this wrong. Whether it’s at a church youth retreat or a Christian school football game, so many Bible-believing Christians tend to view those on the other side of the court as the enemy.
Coach Dennis Scott of Bob Jones University and the Coaches Sports Philosophy Network has written an excellent article regarding the corruption of competition in today’s society, even between Christians. Through his research Coach Scott points out the following:
“There’s a hidden pearl of wisdom about competition buried in the origins of the word. The term derives from the Latin ‘petere’, meaning ‘to strive’ or ‘to seek’, combined with the prefix, com, meaning ‘with’. So the root meaning of competition is ‘to strive or seek with’. The word does not mean ‘to strive against’. True competition is a process of striving together with one’s opponent. In true competition two or more opponents jointly seek something” (Shields & Bredemeier, 2010).
“Striving together with an opponent” can be hard sometimes. It’s hard to uphold your end of the bargain if the other team does not. However, how we treat our opponents says a lot about our relationship with Christ.
Viewing competition as a partnership will also improve your relationship with other schools. When people don’t feel animosity towards them, they tend to be more relaxed and engaging. Great relationships can emerge from proper view of competition.
The best sports relationship that I’ve ever seen has been between Old Suwanee Christian School and Mountain Area Christian Academy. Both schools compete hard against each other. However, the athletes are great friends and enjoy the journey together. This relationship is a great testimony to MACA athletic director Steve Shamblin and the leadership at OSCS.
What Does Your Athletic Department Glorify
Kids want to be accepted and recognized. So often a child will change his behavior or personality just to be accepted by peers and leaders.
So with that thought in mind what do you and your coaches lift up and glorify in the athletic department?
Do you just focus on athletic performance regardless of character? Have you built a culture that lifts up star athletes?
What graduates to you point your kids to as role models? It’s easy to look at the girl who got a college volleyball scholarship and tell your other players to be more like her. However, do we point out the graduate (and former athlete) that is taking his young family to the mission field?
There is nothing wrong with pointing to successful athletes in your program’s history. This is a great way to build positive athletic culture. However, there must be a balance. You should communicate an excitement about those that are serving God in other areas as well.
How is your spiritual life going?
I’m writing this last section to me, so you’re welcome to read along. Some of it may apply to you too.
How much time do you spend in God’s word? Is it daily? Saturate yourself in the Scriptures so that it is the lens through which you operate. Make every decision based on the Bible.
Do you pray? Do you pray intentionally for your coaches, teams, and individual athletes?
“The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” – James 5:16 KJV
An athletic department with a proper spiritual emphasis -one that shows Christ to it’s athletes on a daily basis- will have a leader that walks with the Lord.
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John Maxwell
So how about you? Are you knowing, going, and showing?
You can’t quantify godliness, but you can get an overall sense of what matters to an athletic department. What’s your spiritual temperature?
If you don’t like the spiritual temperature of your athletic department, then start working now to change it.
The athletic director must not only be the spiritual thermometer but he must also be the spiritual thermostat!
Can you think of another question that might help an AD gauge the spiritual temperature of their athletic department?