Global impact through sports ministry
When words fail, a game can speak.
While in some public forums faith is often pushed to the sidelines, professional sports seem to welcome the conversation publically. Whether the Tim Tebow phenomenon from just a few years ago, post-game professions of faith or John 3:16 signs at professional sporting events, the dialogue is certainly a mixed bag.
Athletes in Action Canada (AIA), a ministry of Power to Change, focuses on the domain of sport. In addition to local outreach activities and campus ministries, it also has chaplains with eight Canadian Football League teams, three Major League Soccer teams, three National Hockey League teams and a National Basketball Association franchise.
“It is a privilege to bring God’s unconditional love and His truth into the sports world,” says Rod Sawatsky, chaplain for the Calgary Stampeders, Flames and Roughnecks. “There has been openness and involvement by a growing number of athletes, coaches, and staff on the teams where I have been able to serve.
“Every athlete is in a different place in their spiritual journey; it is my desire to encourage each of them to be all that God created them to be, in every facet of their lives.”
AIA believes sport is the one language that knows no boundaries and sees no distinctions. It unites cultures, transcends values and defies convention. When words fail, a game can speak.
Brittany, a 26-year-old transfer student at Prairie found Christ when she was looking to play volleyball in a local rec league.
“All of the leagues in my hometown were closed to new participants,” she says, “except for the church league.” Through sports she was introduced to a community unlike any she’d encountered previously. ”I was accepted for who I was,” she recalls. “People were welcoming and willing to get to know me, but most importantly, they shared Jesus through words and actions.”
James Fraser, Athletics Director and Program Coordinator for the Diploma in Sports Ministry and Management at Prairie, says opportunities to share faith through sport are growing across the country. “Over the last 10-15 years there has been an emphasis on promoting health and well-being and churches and ministry organizations have responded through afterschool programs, summer camps and rec leagues.”
Prairie’s program prepares leaders for both ministry and recreation management roles by providing a biblical foundation and athletics training as well as leadership and management courses. Following a successful mission trip to El Salvador in 2013, a 10-member team is also planning to return to the Central American country in the spring. “Coming from North America, we have an immediate open door,” shares Fraser. “We are met with respect and a willingness to participate. Along with local ministry leaders, we are able to teach, coach sports and share the gospel.”
Prairie is accepting applications to the two-year diploma program. The school is looking for students who are passionate about getting involved in their communities and using sport as an on-ramp for ministry. “I hope that each graduate will be a life-long ambassador for physical activity as well as for Jesus Christ,” says Fraser. “Some may find a calling with organizations like Athletes in Action, but others will be faithful in their church or local soccer club.”
Learn more about Prairie’s Sports Ministry & Management Program at www.prairie.edu/sport.
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