FCA Vice Presidents Shane Williamson and Dan Britton explain the who, what and why behind the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
FCA Vice Presidents Shane Williamson and Dan Britton explain the who, what and why behind the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Bob: Sports is an arena where, honestly, your walk with Christ can be put to the test, whether you are a participant or you’re related to somebody who is a participant. Here is former high school coach, Shane Williamson.
Shane: As a parent sitting in the stands or a coach with a whistle around your neck, you find yourself in these moments where you’re tested. So, what I wanted to say is a word of encouragement to anybody who puts a whistle around your neck, or carries a clipboard, or wears a shirt that says “Coach” on it, “Your kids, and the parents, and the people around you can learn as much from your failures as they can learn from your victories, if you’re just willing to allow the Lord to be the Lord of your life in that area.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, December 15th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. There is a lot all of us can learn and a lot that can be taught when families are involved in sports. We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. We’re going to talk today about sports, and about being parents, and about having your kids involved, and how all of that can work together to point them toward Christ.
Before we dive into that though, Dennis, we’ve got a little bit of an update for our listeners. We’ve been telling them about the matching-gift fund that some of our friends offered us during the month of December—a $2.5 million matching-gift fund. Many of our listeners have been responding and making donations, but you’ve got a little bit of an update on that matching gift fund; right?
Dennis: Yes. Yes, we do. In fact, I’m pleased to report it’s grown by over $1 million. We’re now at, really, over $3.5 million. That’s been provided by a number of families who just said, “The family is in trouble here in America, and we believe in what you guys are doing here on FamilyLife Today.”
You know, Bob, we have over 2,000 people a day who download FamilyLife Today onto their iPods® or iPhones® and listen to the broadcast. I know a guy who works out with us every morning up in New Jersey. We also have over 2,500 folks who listen online to FamilyLife Today. Of course, then, we have hundreds of thousands who listen to FamilyLife Today on a radio station.
Here’s what I need our listeners to know: This broadcast is here because someone cared enough to say, “Let’s fund it. Let’s keep it on the air. Let’s keep it going.” Right now, we’re facing a big-time challenge here with this huge matching grant, that we believe God supplied; and to take full advantage of it—dollar for dollar—I need you to step up, and I need you to stand with us and give a donation.
Bob: You can make a donation by going online at FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says, “I Care;” or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation over the phone. Again, we appreciate whatever you are able to do and hope we can take full advantage of this matching-gift opportunity.
Now, as I said, we’re going to talk about sports. We have already established, many times on our program, that you are a stand-out high school athlete at Ozark High School in Ozark, Missouri.
Dennis: I was. I was a stand-out in high school and very mediocre bench-warmer in college. (Laughter)
Bob: You set a record—a scoring record—at Ozark High; right?
Dennis: I did. I think it’s still in place, but—
Bob: 44 points in one game—
Bob: —is that right?
Dennis: Yes. That’s correct.
Bob: Was there—
Dennis: Nobody else on the team. That’s not true, by the way.
Bob: Was there a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at Ozark High School?
Dennis: No, there was not. In fact, I don’t remember the first time I heard of Fellowship of Christian Athletes; but I think it was at the University of Arkansas, where we had a nationally-ranked team, the football team. There was a very vigorous chapter there that met with a pastor that I work with, H.D. McCarty.
H.D. was kind of a huddle leader, I guess, of sorts. They had a huge percentage of the team that came out for a Bible study every week. I think it was a part of the character of that team that they were ranked No. 2 in the nation and played Texas (a great game) up in the hills of Arkansas. Of course, all of the Texans know who won that game—no doubt about it. (Laughter)
We have a couple of veterans from FCA joining us on our broadcast today—Shane Williamson and Dan Britton join us. Guys, welcome to the broadcast.
Shane: Thank you, Dennis, for having us.
Dan: Thanks, Dennis.
Dennis: Shane is a—well, he was for 12 years, a head football coach in South Carolina. He is the FCA director for Metro-Atlanta. He and his wife Angel have three daughters and a son.
Dan Britton has served with FCA since 1991. He is an executive vice president. He is a speaker, a trainer, a co-author of a book called Wisdom Walks. He and his wife Dawn have three children.
I just want you, Dan, to take a minute and just explain what FCA is to our listening audience. I’m sure nearly all of them have heard about FCA; but they may not understand, really, what it does and who its target audience really is.
Dan: FCA’s primary focus is to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ, through the influence of athletes and coaches. Our heartbeat is to minister in the sports world and to minister to and through the coach, whether it is at the youth level, all the way to the professional level. We joke, Dennis, that whether you are eight or 108, we’ve got you covered.
Bob: You probably don’t have many 108-year-old athletes, but—
Dan: Well, there may be a few out there.
Dan: They might jump to conclusions for something like that.
Dennis: You work through the coaches to reach young people today to lead them to Christ.
Dan: Yes. We’re all about winning people to Jesus Christ, having a relationship with Christ, and then, discipling them in that process.
Dennis: FCA was established back in—
Dennis: —1954. Tell us about the founding of the organization—who did it and kind of how it got started.
Dan: Don McClanen had a vision. In the 50’s, he was clipping articles of any Christian coach or athlete that had a positive, Christian influence. He was looking around in the 50’s and seeing all the negative influence that sports was having on our society.
Therefore, he thought the opposite could be true. With that mindset, he said, “Let’s form a group called Fellowship of Christian Athletes that could have an impact on society by using sports for the good.”
Dennis: I kind of marvel at your ministry; I think, foremost, because of the power of sport. Shane, what is it about sport that seems to collect us and cause us to be riveted to our TV’s or go to games where our kids play? What’s taking place there?
Shane: Yes, Dennis, I think deep inside all of us, maybe, we all think we were once destined to be Michael Jordan; we just never got there. So, that’s probably got something to do with it.
I think, that sport really is a universal language. It is worldwide. The ability for a group of people to come together and collectively work together towards a common goal is something we all desire in our lives. We celebrate that. It gives us moments where we can have the, obviously, the joy of victory and the agony of defeat. It just resonates with us in terms of our culture and, I think, around the world.
Bob: Well, you’re right about it being worldwide. I was in Costa Rica last summer—and after lunch, every day in Costa Rica, all of the workers that we were working with down there—it was time for soccer. Everybody gets out, and they played. I’m telling you, they were playing on a field that was dangerous—pot holes, shards, and branches. They didn’t care. They wanted to go out and play soccer.
In fact, this church we were working with is building a new 1,500-seat auditorium for their church; and they are making sure, that during the week, the auditorium can be converted into an indoor soccer field. That’s how universal the pull of athletics is; and where you’ve got young men or young women who are attracted by the draw of the game, you have an opportunity; don’t you?
Dan: Yes. I tell you, when you have an opportunity to sweat and spend time on a ball field or on a court with a young person, that experience can probably have more of an impact and create more of a relational connect than probably a year of programming. God opens doors, allowing opportunities to do significant ministry, all because of the context of sports.
Dennis: My dad was my first coach. He was the only coach I knew for a number of years; but in the sixth grade, I ended up playing for a coach in basketball—I’ve never forgotten this guy. He made the statement. He said, “State Champs, 1966.” Well, the year was 1960. I mean, we were in the sixth grade. We were six years away from being seniors in high school, but he knew the power of vision. It’s amazing. Today, I’m 63 years old. I can still remember, “State Champs, 1966” as a 12-year-old in a sport—having a vision, dreaming and thinking about a goal.
I think, as the parents go to these games, they’re tying into this motif as well. They want their kids to win so they look good. Let’s admit it. We all love the thought of, maybe, our child playing on the state championship team; but it’s really the power of that goal, and the achievement, and knowing whether you won or lost that makes the difference.
Shane: It sure does, Dennis. I think Coach Steckel, our president—Les Steckel says two of the most powerful words in the English language today are, “Coach said.” If you think about that for just a second, many of the listeners out there today, they probably have some kids getting in their minivans today. The first thing they said when they get in the minivan is, “Mom, Dad, let me tell you what coach said.”
It’s fascinating, just in the environment of that world of sport, how so much influence, so much impact, so many emotional and just wonderful ties exist because of the experiences that we’ve had there.
Bob: Coaching is a mixed bag. You talked about the founding of FCA—that there was a negative influence to sport. Not every high school, not every junior high has a godly man or a godly woman leading the sports teams. So, how does FCA function if the coaches really don’t give a rip about the spiritual dynamic of the team?
Shane: That’s why we’ve got to win them to Christ, and that’s why FCA is—the great thing about FCA is we go to where the coaches are at. We don’t ask the coaches to come to us. It is the Jesus model of literally going on the campus, going into the schools, going into the locker room, going on the fields, and meeting coaches right where they’re at.
Billy Graham once said that a coach can have more of an impact in one year than most people will have in a lifetime. Then, he follows up and says, “Who’s coaching the coach?”
Dennis: Give us an illustration of a coach who is doing that. I mean, we all agree with you that, “Yes, coaches have a great impact.” I was nodding my head, Shane, as you were talking about “Coach said.” I mean, yes, that is all true; but give me an illustration of a coach you guys are working with who is using his influence for God’s purposes and glory.
Shane: I think, probably, even on this program, you guys were blessed with Mark Richt at the University of Georgia. As a matter of fact, an interesting story—maybe the listeners don’t know about Mark Richt—he—this summer when a lot of coaches—and a guy in his position (SEC big-time program, lot of pressure, need to win, should be there, trying to figure out, “How I’m going to beat Auburn?”, “How am I going to beat Florida?”)—he ends up taking himself, his family, and some players; and they go on a mission trip.
It’s fascinating that—to be able to balance your perspective of your job. Mark is a guy that I think has demonstrated through winning a lot of games, and through having some challenging seasons as well, he’s maintained his walk with Christ.
Bob: He told us the story when he was a guest on FamilyLife Today that when he showed up at practice as an assistant coach at Florida State—that the day after one of the players had died—had been shot to death—and there was an empty chair in the locker room. Coach Bowden, head coach there, talked to all of the young men about the fact that life can be over in an instant.
Bob: One of the men who knocked on Coach Bowden’s door when that locker time was over was a young assistant coach named Mark Richt who said, “I need to give my life to Christ.” That’s the kind of influence a coach can have.
Dennis: Yes. I have to believe, right now, that there are moms and dads, men and women, listening to this broadcast, who are coaches. They may be a little league coach like my dad was. They may be coaching their daughter’s soccer team or maybe volleyball. They’re volunteering, perhaps, through Pop Warner Little League and—
Bob: You were a little league coach for a season or two; weren’t you?
Dennis: Oh my goodness, Bob. Did you have to bring that up?
Bob: Up until the other parents ran you off. Wasn’t that how it worked?
Shane: What was your record? That’s what is really important. (Laughter)
Dennis: You knew there was a story there; didn’t you?
Dennis: We’ll just let that lay where it is. We had the same record two years in a row. We won one game and lost 15. I still live in the community where this took place, and I’m going to be very careful here. (Laughter) The cards were stacked. How shall we say it? So, if the guy who stacked—
Bob: The other coach and the ump had a family relationship. We’ll just put it that way.
Shane: Oh, yes.
Dennis: The commissioner, the coach, and the ump. Now, that’s going to give it away for a lot of people.
Dan: I think every coach says that.
Dennis: Yes. Yes. Undoubtedly, there are those who are listening who are coaches; and they are saying, “You know what? I thought maybe FCA only worked with the Mark Richts.” You really—you’re targeting coaches who start with young people, increasingly in the 8- to14-year range, because you believe, “If we don’t win them to Christ then, we’re going to lose them later on in high school.”
Dan: Dennis, most—a lot of our ministry on the campus—we have a campus ministry that we work with about 8,000 schools in the junior high, high school, and college level. On any given week, we work with roughly 300,000 young people in the school context. Most of those are public schools.
FCA is making great strides in ministering where 99 percent of the US population will go through the secondary school education. FCA is on those campuses. We’re making a difference right where they are at; but we’ve recognized, Dennis, that over the years, by the time they get to high school, it’s almost too late.
Therefore, over the years, we’ve targeted junior high school campuses. Even in our camp program, we now have 8- to 12-year-old camp programs called Power Camps. We’ll have over 10,000 young people that’ll be a part of our Power Camp program this past summer.
Dennis: So, if a coach is listening right now, who coaches one of these little league teams, and would like to maybe increase his or her influence over the young people that he or she is coaching, what should they do?
Dan: Call FCA. We have 450 offices, 900 staff, to reach two million coaches and athletes every year. We desperately want to engage with coaches that want to make a difference, no matter what level it is. Actually, the Mark Richts are far and few between; but the youth level—that is really where God is raising up men and women that love Jesus Christ, that are committed to coaching young people. We want to engage with them.
Dennis: Give us an illustration—you know, you told us about Mark Richt—give us an illustration of a little league coach, or maybe a soccer mom who’s a coach, and how they are using their influence for Jesus Christ.
Dan: This past summer I had the chance to work and serve at five different of our 300 FCA camps we have that will reach 50,000 coaches and athletes through our camp program.
We had a high school coach that came to our New Hampshire camp—which, that’s the “3-Percent Club”—3 percent go to church up there—and we had a chance to see this coach bring 15 high school soccer players with him. Now, he was in charge to coach soccer for all the kids; but his commitment was, “If I’m going to go, I’m going to bring 15 kids with me in the van to make sure they hear about Christ.” Wouldn’t you know, that a number of those kids accepted Christ at that camp that week?! That’s a great example.
Shane: If I could add to that, one of the things that—so many of the listeners, like you said, are moms or dads, and they’re coaching their nine-year-old boys in baseball or their 12-year-old daughters in soccer—just to encourage them in what they are doing.
I had a gentleman, who was an FCA board member, a very successful businessman—was coaching his 11-year-old’s baseball team. For our baseball enthusiasts out there, it’s 15 to nothing; they are losing in this game. There is a runner on third, and his opponent squeezes the 16th run in to go up 16 to nothing. Now—
Dennis: I know how that feels. (Laughter)
Shane: Yes. Yes. For those non-baseball enthusiasts, that’s like throwing a 60-yard Hail Mary when you’re up 50 to nothing.
Bob: Yes, it’s like pouring salt in the wound. “Let’s just pile it on.”
Shane: It’s just tough.
Shane: So, his son was pitching. He walks out to the mound, goes up, and in typical baseball fashion—as we love the game—he tells his 11-year-old son to throw at the next batter.
Bob: Brush him back.
Shane: Yes, that night I received a phone call; and he was very distraught because as many of the listeners—you, as a parent, sitting in the stands, or a coach with a whistle around your neck—you find yourselves in these moments where you’re tested. Perhaps, it gets the best of you.
Dennis: Yes, I understand that.
Shane: The testimony part of this is that he, after talking to me on the phone, the next day he goes back—and just as you described—he apologized to the parents and to the players; and he told about what God had taught him through that experience.
So, what I wanted to say is a word of encouragement to anybody who puts a whistle around your neck, or carries a clipboard, or wears a shirt that says “Coach” on it, you don’t have to be perfect. Your kids, and the parents, and the people around you can learn as much from your failures as they can learn from your victories, if you’re just willing to allow the Lord to be the Lord of your life in that area.
Bob: Dan, what kind of resources does FCA provide for somebody who’s a little league coach in the summer, or a high school coach, or a junior high coach? What kind of help can you provide them?
Dan: We have great help, and resources, and programs. We have a lot of camp programs that we can send kids to camp—that they can be instructed right hands on. We call it “A Week of Inspiration and Perspiration,” where they can really get after it. We have great campus programs. We have coaches’ ministry opportunities. We even work in the community.
Also, Bob, we have great resources. We have Bibles. We have an athlete’s Bible. We have a coach’s Bible. We have devotions. We have small group curriculum. We have videos. We have devotionals for families in a sports context. There are a lot of things that we do to say, “Here’s FCA that you can take and develop in your local community.”
Dennis: Earlier, I heard you say that The Athlete’s Bible was really one of the finest tools you had created because of the additional resources that are embedded in that Bible you put together. Who is it for? What’s in that Bible that would guide a young man or a young woman in their faith?
Dan: The Athlete’s Bible is a great resource. It has devotionals built into the back of it. They have small group curriculum actually written in an athletic context that coaches and athletes can use. With all of our Bibles, we’ll distribute almost 200,000 Bibles this year alone into locker rooms and into schools, which is a powerful Bible ministry distribution that we have within FCA.
One of the things that we see often, Dennis, is when we give every person that comes to camp a copy of God’s Word; we know that it’s a take-away. It’s a take-away that, “Yes, the camp experience might last for a week; but they have God’s Word.”
We just got a call the other day from a businessman that sent his 17-year-old son to camp—last ditch effort—didn’t know what was going to happen; sports got him there—called the other day just to tell us, for the first time, as he was walking by his son’s bedroom, he saw something he had never seen before in his 17 years of his son. Before he turned his light off, he was sitting on his bed, reading his FCA Athlete’s Bible. He wanted to call us—tears in his eyes—saying, “Never seen it before in my life.”
Dennis: What if some of our listeners wanted to get an FCA Athlete’s Bible?
Dan: FCAGEAR.com or FCA.org is our way to actually get on our website, or you can call 1-800-289-0909.
Bob: Actually, we’ve got a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com that’ll take you to FCA’s website, where you can get more information about many of the resources that they provide and have available for athletes at all levels of participation.
I’d encourage listeners just go to FamilyLifeToday.com and look for information about the book that Dan Britton has written called Wisdom Walks. This is a great book for fathers to use with their sons, or with their daughters, to help cultivate character, and wisdom, and life skills. You’ve done a great job in this book. Just be great for father/son times together, father/daughter dates together—to take a copy of this book and read one of the chapters. They are short chapters; great stories.
Again, there is more information about the book, Wisdom Walks, by Dan Britton. You can find that online at FamilyLifeToday.com as well; or if you’d like to get a copy, call us toll-free at 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. We’ll make arrangements to get a copy of that book sent out to you.
Quickly, I want to remind you of what Dennis mentioned at the beginning of today’s program—the matching-gift fund, here at FamilyLife, that was established by some friends of the ministry—that has now grown from $2.5 million to $3.5 million. That’s exciting news for us, but the real excitement is going to happen when we hear from listeners who can help us take advantage of those matching funds.
We’re asking all of you to do whatever you can do this year to go online at FamilyLifeToday.com; click the button that says, “I Care”; and make a year-end donation to support FamilyLife Today. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation over the phone. We appreciate your support of this ministry—want to say, “Thanks,” in advance for whatever you are able to do.
We’ll keep you posted on how we do on our progress toward meeting that $3.5 million matching-gift amount. Stay tuned, and we’ll keep you up to date with that; okay?
Let me encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow. We’re going to talk more about families, and sports, and God and how all of that fits together. Dan Britton and Shane Williamson will be back with us again tomorrow from Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Hope you’ll be back with us, as well.
I want to thank our engineer today—his name is Keith Lynch—and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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