Its fascinating to see Sports Chaplaincy develop in countries all over the world. What is of particular interest is discovering how different cultures adopt a chaplaincy approach in their context.
Ukraine became independent from Russia less than 30 years ago, so as a stand alone nation it is still very much in its infancy. The thought of any religion practicing in sport would have been unheard only a few decades ago, so to be training over 30 people in sports chaplaincy was a pleasant surprise.
The demographic of the trainees was significantly different from settings I have encountered in the US & UK it was a much younger audience (mainly late 20s early 30s) and around 40% women. A number of them were already serving in chaplaincy roles, with a handful at an international level.
Here were the three main things that challenged them in their understanding
1) Presence – A number of them had a very project based mentality, task orientated with goals in mind. So to hear of a ministry which is very much founded on being there, ‘hanging around’ with no set agenda was a shock to their approach.
2) Longevity – Linked to presence is the need for chaplaincy to be very much a long term plan. For many their mindsets were around a few months, so there was much challenge in the concept that it may take over a year until you build strong relationships in the sport setting.
3) Two hats – Much time was taken discussing the issue of whether a chaplain should have multiples roles at a club (more on this in later blogs).
Overall I found a people passionate for their country, passionate for sport and adoring of Jesus – a good combination to see His kingdom extended in Ukraine.