By Kevin Kindelin

In recent years, I’ve noticed how sports have become a sort of modern day idol. Many people are worshipping at the shrine of the NFL on Sunday rather than worshiping in church. Parents shuttle their kids to soccer games instead of taking them to, and being with them in, church. Don’t get me wrong, sports have an important place in our culture and society. They build character, teach kids about teamwork, fair play, and sportsmanship. Sports are a wonderful tool for developing leadership skills in our youth, but when they engage in these activities aside from, or apart from God, things can go terribly wrong. Selfishness, pride, and arrogance can manifest themselves in the “prima donna” athletes prevalent in our modern sports culture.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) seeks to develop leaders who are different. Their goal is to use the powerful medium of athletics on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to impact the world for Jesus Christ and develop Christian leaders. The FCA focuses on serving local communities by equipping, empowering and encouraging people to make a difference for Christ. Their mission, as stated on their website, is “to present to coaches and athletes, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving Him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church.”

Immanuel member and Stronger Together Campaign Chairperson, Tom Hensley had the idea to start FCA here. He thought Immanuel would be a great place to groom kids who are moving on to the local high schools to be Christian leaders who happen to be athletes. Fellow Immanuel member Brad Holloway got involved and they soon realized they needed to identify teachers and coaches to serve as Ministry Leaders within the schools. It seems like the Holy Spirit decided to take a role in this. One evening, Brad was watching TV when he received an inspirational devotion from another Palatine High School football dad. (Brad’s step-son, Dylan Tapia, is an all-star safety on the team.) Brad texted back to the two men on the other end of the text, both with kids on the team, that Immanuel was starting an FCA Campus Ministry. After a response inquiring what FCA was and Brad’s subsequent explanation, there was no further communication. Ah, but God works on his time, not ours. Two or three weeks later, Brad got a phone call from Corey Olson, an assistant football coach at Palatine High School who had also been trying to start a ministry there. So now the idea starts to take form.

Immanuel’s Youth Ministries Director, Pastor Donald Antor, has been instrumental in getting FCA up and running at Immanuel. As Ministry Leader, he sponsors the student-led meetings that are held every Tuesday at lunch. The first meeting was held a few weeks ago and had 24 attendees, not bad considering the 6th graders were off at Walcamp. As of this writing, attendance had jumped to more than 40. Each week, students lead the devotion. Pastor Donald helps them prep and stands by in case there’s need for an assist. The goal is to train future leaders who may go on to athletics at their future high schools and bring FCA there if it doesn’t already have a Campus Ministry.

Back to the Holy Spirit at work…after coordinating with our FCA representative, Daryl Stackhouse, Corey now has 25 to 30 kids at Palatine High meeting every Friday morning at 7:15. A few weeks ago, Brad was sitting in the stands at the Conant game when the guy next to him, who happened to be reading a bible, overheard him talking about FCA. He told Brad he has two kids who attend every meeting on Friday mornings. Small world, huh? Nah, there just aren’t any coincidences in God’s world.