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CEDE Sports, Churches, Ministry Development

We frequently tell those in and outside of the sports ministry world the following: The job of a sports minister is the most logistically demanding job in the church. It makes sense right? In order to do the “ministry” you need to do the “sports”…and sports take time. It is just a reality of the job. It’s a reality though that can become dangerous. Gordon MacDonald says this: 

“I am of the opinion that busyness is a deeper threat to the soul than pornography ever was.”

 deeper threat to the soul than pornography ever was.”

In light of this, I wanted to offer everyone here some thoughts and resources so that you may struggle well with your busyness. First, some practical advice:

“Prune” to get more work done

In a vineyard, the vine keeper knows that if a vine is not regularly pruned, new fruit will eventually begin to steal resources from the older, more mature, fruit-bearing parts of the vine. Over time, the unpruned vine will eventually succumb to systemic mediocrity because it simply can’t support that much fruit. There aren’t the resources available. The good fruit suffers in order to support the less mature fruit.

In the same way, it’s critical that we (both individuals and companies) get really good at “pruning” – learning to say “no” to opportunities and projects – that don’t align with the important work that we’re doing. This means passing on opportunities – even really good ones – in order to preserve the energy needed to bring our best effort to the work that we know we need to excel at.

Sit down once a month with your calendar and your projects list, and look for things that might be good ideas, but need to be pruned in order to give you more capacity to do your crucial work. This doesn’t mean that you’re saying no to them forever, it just means that you’re recognizing that you don’t have the bandwidth to do everything all the time. It’s not failure, it’s the first step toward success.

Here’s some more advice on your schedule from Bill Hybels

Bill, faced with more challenges than he could manage, began to search for a way to shorten his list of “priorities.” At the same time, he decided to shorten his time horizon. Rather than saying, “What should I focus on for the next year?” He said, “What should I focus on for the next 6 weeks?” As he admitted, he somewhat randomly chose the number 6. Nothing magic about it, he said it just felt manageable. So, as he described it, an experiment was taking shape.

Bill made a list of all the things he could focus on and decided to rank order the list. He used the following question:

What are the top six contributions I could make in the next six weeks?


The “Minnesota Miracle.”  Alabama’s overtime victory over Georgia. Georgia’s overtime win over Oklahoma. New England’s late drive to defeat Jacksonville. The Eagles defense holding off the Falcons on their final drive.   

These are just a few of the recent games that illustrate this idea – “It could have gone either way.”

In each of those games, there were great plays that led to those victories. A great catch here. An acrobatic defensive play there. Without those, the results probably would have been completely different.  

“It could have gone either way.” It is one of the things I love about sports.  

In that reality, we tend to focus on those great plays. Understandably. Those plays draw our attention and admiration for all that it takes to make them a possibility – like hard work, discipline, and teamwork.  

However, I want to shift the focus of our attention. Rather than just those great plays, I want you to consider for a moment the number of little things that led to the necessity of such great plays.  

For instance, If the Saints make their third down conversion in the previous series and score a touchdown, how would that have impacted the Vikings on the final play calling and the Saints on their defense? Would there still have been a “Minnesota Miracle”? If Alabama true freshman Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t take the 16 yard sack on the previous play, would the same play that resulted in the 41-yard score been called? Would Alabama have still won their fifth National Championship under Nick Saban? If certain penalties in a number of these games hadn’t been missed, would the dramatic events have even been a possibility?

What I am hoping to point out is that it is not just the great plays that make a difference. It is also a lot of little things, some seemingly insignificant at the time, that push the games toward such a conclusion.  

I bring this up because, in several of these games, players who made those great plays brought God into the equation.  

Here is Vikings receiver Tyler Diggs on the ‘Minnesota Miracle,’ “I give everything to God,” Stefon Diggs told Fox Sports. He thanked his coaches and teammates for giving him the opportunity, then pointed to God, “God did the rest, He put me here. And I’m just thankful.” Afterwards, Case Keenum, the quarterback who threw the pass, said, “God is so good.”

Here is Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on the overtime victory:

In this interview, Tua says, “You know, with God all things are possible! That’s what happened tonight.”

If you watched the Georgia/Oklahoma game, Georgia quarterback, Jake Fromm, said basically the same thing in his interview after the game. So did Eagles quarterback, Nick Foles, after their win over the Falcons.

Now consider these two ideas together: 

The game could have gone either way based on not just big plays but on many “little things,” God being credited for the victory – either implied or specifically stated.

When you listen to these players and consider the teeter-totter way that these games could have gone, how do you factor God’s involvement in the game? Do you see God orchestrating the events for the winners as some of these players imply or do you chalk it up to pure coincidence, just a random series of events?

I bring this up not so much to settle the question of “Does God care who wins?” but to ask you to consider the question more deeply. (The answer is more important than you think.)

As I have considered the question and asked others to do the same, I have found troubling implications to the “No” answer and to the “Yes” answer, ones that either trivialize sports or God.  

I also bring this up because I have found this to be a very personal issue, not just something theoretical to be argued about in bars or on sports talk shows. To illustrate this point, ask the question, “Does God care who wins?” at your next lunch or breakfast. If your experience is like mine, the conversation will quickly get very lively.  

If you are tracking with me and wrestle with this question, maybe even unsure of your answer to the question, “Does God care who wins?” or want to examine more carefully the troubling implications of either of the “No” or “Yes” answer, I would point you to a book I wrote last summer titled Does God Care Who Wins?

Here are a couple of reactions from readers:

“I received the book yesterday and read it cover to cover last night! Thank you so much, I loved it…Appreciated the blend of story-telling, scripture, deep theological truth, specific quotes and stories from athletes and practical implications. Really well done and a really helpful resource that I can see lots of uses for.”  

Collegiate Soccer Coach

“I finished “Does God Care Who Wins?” on the plane Sunday… could not put it down…..Seriously, you did an amazing job addressing a question asked by millions but not answered my many, and if so, not with the thought and care you did….Going to be passing this book along to family and friends for the rest of my life… so glad God had you write this.”

Businessman and Serious Golfer

“I have been an athlete and a NAIA collegiate volleyball coach who regularly and intentionally led a counter-cultural, positive, collegiate Christian sports team for 13 years. I have naively answered that question “Does God Care Who Wins?” with this answer: ‘God doesn’t care who wins. He cares about the athletes, coaches, referees and spectators at the game. He cares how we experience the game and the relationships we continue to build with those we play with, but he doesn’t impact the outcome of a game.’ 
I held that general view (with minor alterations over the years) until I read Bob’s book.  I must acknowledge that the insights Bob shared about our God, and how He cares about us, and he therefore cares about what we care about, dramatically changed my own answer to the question raised in his book title.  What a paradigm shift!”

College Professor – Health & Exercise Science

I ask you again to consider the questions, “If the game could have gone either way, what role does God play in the outcome?  Does he actually care who wins?” 

For more – Does God Care Who Wins? Is available on Amazon –


In my working with people on outreach, I have discovered one of the most difficult things for them to do is start “spiritual” conversations. I put the quotations on the word “spiritual” because that is how we typically refer to them.


When we talk about starting these “spiritual” conversations, we envision ourselves sitting at lunch with a co-worker talking about the weekend sports and then asking something like “If you were to die tonight, do you know where you would end up?” We know it doesn’t feel natural to go there, but we think we are supposed to steer the conversation there, so we ask what feel like awkward questions.

In most cases, we probably have this sense of awkwardness for a good reason. We may have missed the natural progression in our conversation. In our sense of pressure, we may have jumped several levels in that progression with the resulting awkwardness.    

But these people who are asking this question about starting such “spiritual” conversations have not given up on outreach even with this awkwardness. That is why they are in the audience of a training I am doing or on the other side of the table as we discuss outreach over lunch asking, “How do I start a “spiritual” conversation?”

To answer that question and illustrate that progression, I focus on the way conversations typically go by using what I call the Triangle of Vulnerability. Most of our conversations begin with little or no vulnerability. The topics are about Impersonal facts, like the scores from the previous weekend, (Some fans may argue this isn’t impersonal!!!) or the weather.

If those conversations increase in vulnerability, they move to personal facts. These include items like where we live, what we do, how long we have been married, or how many kids we have.


The next step in vulnerability is to move to opinions. “What do you think about Harvey Weinstein?” “How did sexual harassment get to be so widespread?” “Why do you think this is such a problem?” “Why do you think those victims didn’t come forward sooner?”


Progressing further, our conversations go to feelings – our fears, our joys, or our struggles. Think about how few of your conversations get here and you see the depth of vulnerability expressing feelings is.


Last, and most vulnerable, are conversations about our identity. Who are we? How do we see ourselves? Others? Valuable? Competent? Beautiful? Belonging? Alone?


Think for a moment about two things

At what level of vulnerability do you have most of your conversations?
At what level is a conversation about the Gospel?


Honestly, the Gospel speaks to this deepest level of vulnerability – our identity. The gospel says, apart from Christ, people are:

Disconnected from God
A child of wrath
An object of displeasure, disdain

As a result, people apart from Christ feel alone, confused, rejected, hurt, and ashamed.


This contrast between the vulnerability of most of our conversations and one about the gospel shows why we get so awkward when we think about starting a “spiritual” conversation.


However, we can overcome much of this awkwardness if we guide our conversations to greater and greater vulnerability utilizing the insights from the Vulnerability triangle. The way I apply this insight is as follows:

First, I ask questions using the Triangle. 

Then I ask questions about personal facts
. These are usually “WHAT” and “WHERE” questions – What do you do? Where do you live? Etc.

I try to follow those up with “HOW” and “WHY” questions.
“How did you get into real estate?” “Why did you pursue medicine as a career?” “Why did you move to that neighborhood or city?” These HOW and WHY questions accomplish several things.

First of all, I begin to hear someone’s story. I see the journey that got them to where they are as I interact with them.

Secondly, I begin to see what matters to them, what they value, their opinions and feelings. This takes the conversation into greater vulnerability.

I then lead in taking the conversation to an even deeper level by offering my opinion, feelings, and identity, “I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I was so confused about vocations.”

Then I invite the other person down to that level, “How about you? Were you clear from early on what you wanted to do?” If they say yes, I follow that up with a HOW question like, “How did you get that clarity?”


I ask, I listen, and I lead in vulnerability.


This eventually leads me to talking about my relationship with Christ. I might say something like, “I didn’t know what to do and in that place I pray. How about you what do you do when you don’t know what to do?” or I might share something of my spiritual journey and then ask them “Tell me about your spiritual journey?”


This understanding and practice leads me to deeper and deeper conversations that make it less awkward to talk about God and the Gospel. It flows best from a genuine desire to know people and to see them connect with the gospel.


Prayerfully use the vulnerability triangle concepts and you will find that “spiritual” conversations are the natural result of meaningful, deep conversations rather than from asking awkward questions.


This is a question we often ask sports ministers in our coaching sessions with them. We usually frame it something like this – “If we are talking three years from now and we were to ask you, ‘How is it going?’ If you would then reply something like ‘God has done amazing things in our ministry in the last three years?’ We would then ask, “What has happened?’


At this point, we listen and furiously record the answers.   We have learned that, when we ask the question, what most often comes out are the things God has placed on these sports ministers’ hearts. In most cases, these ideas have lain dormant waiting for the opportunity to arise. When that is true, it doesn’t take much to dislodge them into the spoken word.


It is a beautiful experience to be a part of.


Recently, I had such a conversation with a sports minister at a church in the Midwest of the United States. Here is what I heard:


“God has taught us how to love one another – a rich deep real love for each other so that this place is a place where broken, disenfranchised, and tired people come and feel like they belong, where they are loved and cared for. Because of that, God has brought a steady stream of these broken people to our volleyball, futsal and basketball initiatives where they have felt embraced and experienced real life change. Because of this work of God, our gym has gained a reputation as a gym unlike any other in the care and concern we have for the people who come.”


“Also, God has made this a place where coaches, parents, and athletes have rejected a compartmentalized view of life and understood how their faith and sports/fitness integrate so that now they now live their whole life under the banner of the glory of God. These people are not only experiencing this themselves but they are also sharing this with others, imparting this perspective to others – disciples making disciples in our leagues and classes.”


“Lastly, this movement hasn’t stayed here but has spilled out into our community as we have seen God raise up coaches and players that have gone into schools and community recreation and lived out that love and integration, influencing the entire sports community here.”


It took us a little bit of time to get to this, but, as I read these three paragraphs back to him, it moved both of us as we actually started to envision this and think God might possibly do something like what was described there.


Have you ever thought of this question? Whether you are in ministry vocationally or not, if you haven’t, give it some mental energy. In fact, sit with someone you trust and ask them to listen to your answers and give feedback.


Who knows? This exercise just might be God’s way of prying loose what he has placed in your heart for you to pursue!


Top 10 Mistakes Sports Ministers Make

For 20 years plus CEDE Sports has been committed to come alongside Local Churches to catalyze a vigorous and effective pursuit of their mission to reach their communities through the tool of sports, recreation and fitness. One of the ways we accomplish this mission is mentoring Sports Ministers.

In the process of mentoring, we often discuss best practices from other churches as well as the corollary mistakes that well meaning Sports Ministers make. This discussion also usually includes surveying them about their mistakes in ministry.

The response has been tremendous; evidently this question touched a nerve. This blog is our third installment in the series Top 10 Mistakes Sports Ministers Make. (Please sure to read the first two installments here and here.)

Mistake #4
Evaluating success in numbers or in comparison to the ministry down the street.

Mark Twain once wrote, “Comparison is the death of joy.”

Chuck Swindoll said, “When the Lord makes it clear you’re to follow Him in this new direction, focus fully on Him and refuse to be distracted by comparisons with others.”

Ken Cross says, “Either comparison will puff up or tear you down, but it will never bring contentment.”

Mistake #3
Not developing infrastructure prior to pursuing growth, especially how you pursue the development of coaches and volunteers.

We tend to be so eager to start a league we neglect the hard work of strategic preparation. This could have been the #1 mistake, we see it so often.

My Mom worked many years in a large bank. She would always advocate for the tellers to have adequate training and even a stipend for their clothes because they are the face of the bank!

Those that God brings into your sphere of influence deserve to hear and see the gospel lived out using the tool of sports. Who is the face of the sports ministry? It is too late to develop them after the games begin. If this has happened to you, what will you do for the next season?

Mistake #2
Winning begins to eclipse everything. Sport becomes too big and ministry too small.

This mistake is especially true when your coaches are not developed by the Sports Minister. They simply play sports as they always have, WIN. They are not applying the gospel to what they are doing.

Mistake #1
Those in the sports ministry leadership do not know why you have a sports ministry. Neglecting clear communication of this mission/vision to the coaches, players and the church.

Have you seriously asked yourself the questions concerning your mission and how you are going to move toward it? Have you written it down in a clear way and communicated it with others in a way that they know what that mission is? If you are unsure, ask your most faithful volunteer to tell you what they have heard and see if it matches the vision God has given you.

Like the ESPN Top Ten Plays of the Day, you might not agree with the order in which these have been laid out. Curiously, I am interested in what you think the top three mistakes would be for you. Have we missed some? Email [email protected] and send me a list of your top three and I will report the results in a future blog.


Top 10 Mistakes Sports Ministers Make

For 20 years plus CEDE Sports has been committed to come alongside Local Churches to catalyze a vigorous and effective pursuit of their mission to reach their communities through the tool of sports, recreation and fitness. One of the ways we accomplish this mission is mentoring Sports Ministers.

In the process of mentoring, we often discuss best practices from other churches as well as the corollary mistakes that well meaning Sports Ministers make. This discussion also usually includes surveying them about their mistakes in ministry.

The response has been tremendous; evidently this question touched a nerve. This blog is our second installment in the series Top 10 Mistakes Sports Ministers Make (Please sure to read the first installment by clicking here).

Mistake #8
Forget about creating a leadership team, it is far too difficult. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

No doubt you have heard the saying, “If you want to go fast – go alone, if you want to go far – go with others”. That applies to Sports Ministry too. Have you thought of what will happen when you are no longer on the scene and you have not equipped anyone to carry on with this vital ministry?

Mistake #7
Being so busy that you are not utilizing the relationships that are built naturally through sports for true discipleship off the field/court.

I read a book one time by Bill Hull about the discipleship making pastor. He bluntly says if the church is not making disciples, the leadership of the church is in sin! The sin is not obeying the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20).

Mistake #6
Not communicating to the larger church body and staff how God is using the ministry and being surprised when they do not value it!

As a former large church pastor, former staff member, church planter, youth pastor, deacon and janitor – I got the most praise for being a church janitor because people noticed the clean floors, toilets etc. The story of sports ministry (usually the best evangelistic tool in the church if done well) must be told, especially to the entire staff. The Senior Pastor needs the stories of what God does to highlight God’s work! The Children’s Minister needs to know and notice that many unbelieving children are on the campus of the church other days besides Sunday. The value of relational ministry and the discipleship that happens must be communicated over and over. This requires that more than just you are noticing what God is doing!


Mistake #5
Using the same volunteers each season and burning them out. Then guilting/manipulating them into keep going, until they are bitter and angry and have to quit or leave the church to get a rest.  

This one need no comments except AMEN and from some of us we need to respond with “Oh Me!”

Can you guess the top four mistakes? Keep a look out for the last blog in this series.


Top 10 Mistakes Sports Ministers Make

For 20 plus years CEDE Sports has been committed to coming alongside Local Churches to catalyze a vigorous and effective pursuit of their mission to use the tool of sports to reach their communities. One of the ways we accomplish this is by mentoring Sports Ministers.

In the process of mentoring, we often discuss best practices from other churches as well as the corollary mistakes that well meaning Sports Ministers make.  This discussion also usually includes surveying them about their mistakes in ministry.

The response has been tremendous; evidently this question touched a nerve.  In the following blogs, I will outline the Top Ten Mistakes we have found, arranged in ascending order from 11 to 1. I know the title of this series of blogs is “Top Ten,” but #11 was so good I had to include it! Plus I am following a Biblical pattern! In the Bible there are a number of places where God says, “six things I hate, seven are an abomination….”

Mistake #11 Avoiding conflicts and difficult people, because deep down you think they might disappear if you ignore them, rather than apply the Gospel to the situation and lovingly confront, giving the individual an opportunity to repent and grow.

This mistake includes with it the fear of looking into the mirror and confronting what might be something that you need to repent and grow from as well!

Mistake #10 Not enough prayer before rolling out the program, during the leagues, or after.

Can we all agree with this one? How easy it is to simply do what we think is best, and not ask God or seek His favor.

Mistake #9 Ministries getting too comfortable with regular attendees and not aggressively seeking to reach the unreached.

“We have our number, church should be happy … but are we keeping the vision for the ministry in front of us?”   We did not start this sports ministry to reach a limited number of lost people. (Also see mistake #10 again!)

The next Blog will cover Mistakes #8 – #5. Hope this has been helpful!


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