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Faith and Fellowship Score with Athletes

By John Fulton

Ted Manning, former Schoolcraft coach and athletic director.

Ted Manning of Schoolcraft is very familiar with sports. He started in 1982 with Schoolcraft Schools and has been a teacher, coach, and recently retired as the athletic director.  He has moved into a new position that reflects the passion he has for athletes and for Christ.  He has accepted the position of area representative with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).

The mission of FCA is to provide a Christian fellowship opportunity for athletes in middle school, high school, college and even professional sports. The Four C’s of ministry for FCA are Coaches, Campus, Camp and Community.  The groups or huddles as they are called, are school based and led by students.  Being student led gives the huddles the opportunity to express their religious beliefs openly and actively seek other participants.  These groups generally meet weekly.  Manning and others like him are called coaches. Huddle coaches don’t have to be a sport coach, just individuals that love kids, sports, and are willing to provide guidance and mentorship.

Manning started the Schoolcraft huddle in 1994. Manning said “he was inspired by a sermon at Calvary Bible Church that challenged him to give back to the community with the gifts God had given him.”  Starting a huddle and being a coach were a natural fit for Manning because he had previously been involved in football clinics through FCA.

Today the huddle in Schoolcraft High School is still coached by Manning and has over 20 students. The Schoolcraft Middle School huddle has grown to over 50 students and is coached by two parents, Pat Wujkowski and Mark Huysken.

The Vicksburg huddle is coached by Scott Gajos.  There are currently 40 some students in this group and growing.  Scott joined a huddle at Western Michigan University and accepted Christ as a result of the huddle’s impact on his life.  After graduation he came to the Indian Lake Elementary as a teacher and coach. His experience and life change as a result of the WMU huddle led him to get involved as a huddle coach in Vicksburg.

A Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddle at a gathering last year at the Vicksburg football field.

Mike McGeath, area director for FCA said, “If you can impact the heart of a coach the coach can impact the kids every day.  As humans we can add, but God multiplies. Gajos is an example of God’s multiplication.”  He joined the WMU huddle through Tim Hiller (WMU quarterback), his roommate and a driving force in the WMU huddle. ” The multiplication continues through Gajos and his student leaders in Vicksburg.

McGeath is the volleyball and huddle coach at Heritage Christian Academy. He said, “Sports is a way to show students their faith is relevant in every area of life, not just on Sunday.”  He has been the Southwest Michigan (SMA) area director for three years and is on a mission to build the program and staff. Bringing Manning to the organization will be a huge help to take the local organization to higher levels he said.  In the SMA district McGeath oversees, there are 175 campuses with 35 huddles representing up to 900 students in the schools.  McGeath and Manning’s goal is to have 60 huddles launching this fall.

FCA is implementing a new program called Three Dimensional Coaching designed to impact coaches, build coach relationships and involve coaches in other areas of camps.  FCA wants coaches to be able to connect with students on three levels; physical, mental and with the heart of the athlete. Manning says, “Coaches that reach the relationship level can achieve a breakthrough with students by connecting at the mental and heart level where they can leave a legacy and impact on students.”

Three Dimensional Coaching is part of the FCA vision of impacting the world for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.  “Students do not have to be an athlete or even to be a Christian to join a huddle, just have a love for sports”, McGeath said.

FCA is a grass roots organization where the national level provides resources, but each area district and coach operate very independently to make their programs what they area. “FCA was the first sports ministry in the US and is the largest in the world,” McGeath stated. “Each area director is a like a missionary, McGeath said and is responsible for developing their own sources of funding and staffing. They receive no financial support and are entirely dependent for funding from churches, sponsors and individuals that share the FCA vision to see athletes impact the world for Jesus Christ. Their success is measured in the number of bibles handed out and salvation declarations.”

Don McClanen started the program in 1954 and is still a vital part of FCA. Today they have over 1,000 staff members and had 50,000 participants in their Camp Ministry in 2011 plus hundreds of thousands involved in huddles around the world. FCA is in the process of implementing a new Sports Ministry.  This will bring Christian fellowship to sports like fishing, hunting and motocross among others.

If the vision and mission of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has touched a heart and would be interested in starting a huddle in their school they may contact Mike McGeath at (269) 998-3760 or visit http://www.fca.org for more information.

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