Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God.
– Psalm 86: 8-10
It would have been easy to stay the course. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes has built one of the world’s largest sports ministries by focusing its endeavors inside American borders since 1954. But a call to be a part of something much larger beckoned.
In this case, something much larger meant an opportunity to reach the 96 percent of the world that lives outside of the United States. It meant becoming a blessing to the world.
It meant following God’s call to make disciples of all nations.
“There are things we have been doing well for nearly six decades, and the world is now saying, ‘Can you help us?’” said Dan Britton.
Britton, who last year became FCA’s first executive vice president for international ministry and training after spending more than 20 years on the organization’s staff has moved up the ranks from field representative to executive vice president of ministry programs before taking on his new role. He is a human metaphor for FCA’s expanded focus: somewhat new to international ministry, but with so much to offer the world based on experience and knowledge of what works when it comes to using sports as a platform to effectively share Christ’s love with coaches and athletes.
The change in thinking to include the rest of the globe in FCA’s ministry efforts isn’t a small enterprise. It’s a seismic shift in the very way the organization has operated since its inception. The Board of Trustees even had to amend language in its bylaws that stated that FCA would focus its efforts inside of the United States.
The organization started to reach out in 2007, with Barry Spofford serving as Director of International Ministries. Now, Spofford will enjoy greater support from Britton and more emphasis from the organization itself on international endeavors.
FCA Camps Booming Overseas
Nowhere is FCA’s international momentum more obvious than through its camps. In 2012, 48 of the 363 total FCA Camps were held across 21 countries outside the United States. More than 10 percent of the 52,010 campers participated in an FCA Camp outside of the U.S.
The growth of international FCA Camps from just one in 2007 to 48 a few short years later illustrates the point that God is using FCA to grow His Kingdom across borders.
“Camps are foreign to most countries,” Britton said. “They don’t have many camps like we have in America. One thing we have learned is sports camps are transferable. What works here, for the most part, will work in other parts of the world. People are thirsting for sports camps such as FCA’s.”
Part of the reason FCA Camps work as well overseas as they do in the United States is the fact that all FCA Camps, regardless of location, must be certified through FCA’s Camp School.
Britton also noted that there are great opportunities to reach others through sports, because in most nations, if a person has experience as a coach or athlete on any organized level, that person is seen as an expert.
College Students Making an IMPACT
Camps are just one aspect of the FCA IMPACT internship, an eight-week program in Italy and South Africa that exposes college students to sports ministry and leadership opportunities. The internship was created to give college students a heart for sports ministry and the world. Along with camp responsibilities, IMPACT interns have an opportunity to work with Huddle leaders in every aspect of FCA ministry in their location.
Over the past few years, FCA’s sports ministry relationships have continued to grow worldwide. Ministry in Asia continues to expand; all have sports ministries operating with FCA assistance. There are relationships beginning to grow throughout Asia and Latin America, FCA staff and associates are spreading the gospel. Additionally, FCA is working with other sports ministry organizations in several other regions of the world.
To further extend God’s impact through FCA, the organization has laid out five strategies to build FCA’s international ministry and make an impact for Christ outside of the United States:
1) Connecting FCA’s 450 field offices and 1,000 staff members to the world
Create awareness of FCA’s international ministry within its organization, and help each field office build a focus, strategy and purpose for connecting with a specific area of the world.
2) Train the trainers
Allow those who would lead sports ministries overseas to come to the United States and “shadow” FCA staff members to learn how FCA’s approach to sports ministry works in America and how they can develop ways to adapt those concepts to match their culture. Also, sending FCA staff members overseas to train groups in sports ministry techniques.
3) Distribute resources
FCA is known worldwide for its resources, and opening channels to get those resources to the rest of the world is already underway. Spanish, Ukrainian and Mandarin language resources are on shelves, as is the first-ever Chinese sports devotional. FCA’s Heart of an Athlete has been translated into several languages. Translating camp curriculum and inserting it into the back of FCA Bibles in 15 languages assists camp leaders all over the world.
4) Develop an affiliate program
A long-term goal is to see leaders from across the world building sports ministry in their country. International affiliates of FCA would be able to use FCA resources and tools to grow their ministries.
5) Work in partnership with sports ministry organizations
The sports ministry movement is made up of organizations and leaders from across the globe that come together to serve the world in sports ministry. “There is a 99 percent chance that a sports ministry leader is already in a location where we want to help,” said Britton. That allows FCA to team up with other leaders to make a greater impact.
Britton said that Americans are unique in that we don’t consider ourselves part of the international world. “International,” to us means everyone outside of our country. Citizens of most other countries, he pointed out, include themselves in the international world.
Britton says he’d love to see FCA move out of that American mindset when it comes to international ministry.
“Right now, we’re doing international ministry,” he said. “My prayer is that we will become an international ministry.”
For a look at some of FCA’s overseas efforts, check out the following links: