At the end of each year, the blessings that God has bestowed upon the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) is reflected by those who have come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And the impact that God has enabled the 62-year-old international sports ministry to make in 2016 is breathtaking.
This past year, FCA’s ministry theme was “RISE,” and through God’s power and approximately 1,500 staff, more than 89,000 donors and thousands of volunteers, FCA reached nearly two million people through Coaches, Camp, Campus and Community. And the Bible verse for 2016 certainly aligned with this vision: “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”—Joshua 1:9 (NLT).
“In 2016, FCA embraced the command to ‘be strong and courageous,’ as given in Joshua 1:9,” said retiring FCA President and CEO Les Steckel. “God called us to ‘RISE’ in our walk with Him. He gives the strength and courage that we need each day. As we’ve walked this journey, God has transformed thousands of lives around the globe through the influence of coaches and athletes. We give thanks as we reflect on His faithfulness to the ministry of FCA.
“After 12 life-changing years, God made it clear to my wife, Chris, and I that our season leading FCA was coming to an end this year,” Steckel continued. “We stand in awe of all that God has done during our time with the ministry. We have traveled across America seeing lives changed for eternity at Camps, faith strengthened through the Huddle experience and coaches modeling Christ’s love. We have been blessed many times to witness the extreme generosity of donors and volunteers. Now I pass the baton to Shane Williamson, FCA’s new President and CEO, who will take the helm of this amazing ministry on January 1, 2017. I feel confident that Shane will continue FCA’s legacy of impact and will take the ministry to new heights.”
FCA saw a record-breaking year across the globe, with workers and resources reaching far and wide. Highlights from the past year include the following:
- As FCA reached out to coaches and athletes in 2016, the ministry celebrated 55,869 total commitments to Jesus Christ.
- FCA distributed 175,450 Bibles worldwide. The ministry now offers 14 different Bibles and released Levantate (e-book), the Rise Spanish Handbook and the first-ever Russian language Coach’s Bible.
- FCA continued to grow Bible engagement efforts through a partnership with the YouVersion Bible reading app. Currently, 15 reading plans exist, with plans now offered in Ukrainian and Chinese. More than 49,000 people have completed an FCA Bible reading plan since 2013.
- As a faith-funded ministry, FCA achieved a record year of $120 million in revenue and remains committed to putting every dollar possible directly toward ministry.
- This year saw the successful migration of FCA Bibles to the New Living Translation. This includes all Camp Bibles, Competitor’s Bibles, Coach’s Bibles and Sports New Testaments. The NLT versions will become available throughout 2017. FCA also released several new resources: “Victory 365,” “Core Value Playbooks” and “Virtuous Woman: Excellence,” a Bible study for female competitors.
- More than 150,000 people visited an FCA-related website every month in 2016 to learn about the ministry, download free resources and connect with ministry in their area.
- FCA’s Hall of Champions honored 2016 inductees Leah O’Brien Amico, Olympic softball player; the late Dale Haralson, FCA volunteer; Bill Hawkins, high school coach; the late Neil Marthedal, FCA volunteer; and the late Jon Randles, chaplain.
- FCA now has 10 consecutive 4-star ratings from Charity Navigator, America’s largest organization rating the fiscal management of charities. This puts FCA in the top 1 percent of all charities rated.
FCA also saw great strides and growth in each of its ministry areas:
- Coaches Ministry—As one of the major influencers around the world, coaches have the ability to alter lives for better or worse, and FCA has made it a priority to pour into coaches and see them transformed and passionate about the sphere of influence where God has placed them. In 2016, FCA saw incredible impact with a record 1,190 certified Coaches Huddles, as well as tremendous reach through the redesigned 3Dimensional Coaching online curriculum, featuring video training modules that allow coaches to determine their transformational purpose in coaching. 3Dimensional Coaching resources and retreats also build up coaches’ hearts and energy both in and out of coaching, so they can be at their best to effectively shepherd teams, athletes and staff.
- Campus Ministry—The school campus is one of the most strategic mission fields, with most youth passing through this portal. FCA focuses on equipping, enabling, empowering and encouraging student-athletes, coaches and adult leaders to impact and influence their campus for Christ. FCA works to reach young people for Christ through Multi-Sport Huddles, Team Huddles and Coaches Huddles, as well as outreach events such as school assemblies and the annual Fields of Faith events. In 2016, hundreds of thousands of students were impacted through 17,376 Campus Huddles worldwide. The 12th annual Fields of Faith event drew more than 192,000 students to participate on approximately 519 athletic fields. Of those attendees, 7,414 committed to Christ, 8,612 recommitted to Christ, and 8,781 committed to read the Bible. God has used Fields of Faith to impact over one million people since it first began in 2004.
- Camp Ministry—FCA provides coaches and athletes the opportunity to reach their God-given potential by offering comprehensive athletic, spiritual and leadership training in a camp setting that produces spiritual transformation in the lives of coaches and athletes. Through the seven types of Camps—Sports Camps, Leadership Camps, Coaches Camps, Power Camps, Team Camps, Partnership Camps and International Camps—this year’s Camps encouraged coaches and athletes to develop their skills, create lasting and influential relationships, and trust and follow Jesus Christ as they “RISE” to make a difference for Him. More than 106,000 attended 740 total Camps in 40 states and 45 countries (456 in the U.S. and 284 internationally), and 8,788 of those made first-time commitments to Christ. Another 11,256 recommitted their lives to Jesus.
- Community Ministry—With 57 million athletes participating in club sports, FCA’s Community Ministry could very well be the greatest area of potential impact. FCA is ministering to the non-campus opportunities of club, recreational and youth sports teams with the goal of establishing ongoing ministry for coaches and athletes to compete for Jesus Christ with character, passion and excellence. Whether that’s gathering a group of club coaches for weekly Bible study, organizing team Huddles between tournaments, or pulling together a league or event that incorporates the entire family, FCA is making sure the next generation is introduced to Christ and kept spiritually refreshed. In 2016, FCA built relationships with thousands through 928 Community Huddles.
Around the world, FCA International continues to expand rapidly with a three-pronged strategy to: Pray, Give and Go. FCA now serves in 60 countries through 133 leaders and countless volunteers who spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to all corners of the globe. FCA supports initiatives and partnerships that provide opportunities for leaders in sport ministries within their own countries by equipping them with the programs, services, support, resources and tools to grow their ministries.
In 2016, FCA International touched thousands of lives, including 5,542 coaches and athletes who indicated decisions for Christ. The Huddle program has also grown to 1,613 Huddles reaching 34,378 individuals. And Camps growth has exploded internationally with 284 camps reaching 34,005 campers in 45 countries. Camps continue to be a universal language to reach the hearts of coaches and athletes around the world. Several countries hosted their first Camps in 2016, including South Korea. FCA also established two Coaches Ministry Academies in Europe and East Asia, and international leaders hosted 83 workshops in 27 countries to reach more than 3,000 coaches.
International resources are also a continued focus for FCA, with the ministry developing a Japanese Baseball Bible, Chinese Sports Devotional Bible and Thai Sports New Testaments for East Asia leaders to distribute. The first Athlete’s Handbook was created in Spanish to support FCA’s fast-growing ministry in the Latin America Global Region.
Throughout the year, FCA Magazine also introduced readers to big names in the world of sports—coaches and athletes who put their faith in Christ on and off the field. In 2016, some of those stories included:
- UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford talked about how FCA helped shape his faith in the January/February 2016 issue.
- For the March/April 2016 edition, St. Louis Blues captain David Backes recounted keeping the faith in the tough-as-nails NHL.
- Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry graced the cover of the May/June 2016 issue for a story on how his faith drives him to transform professional basketball.
- As the world watched Olympic action in Rio, the July/August 2016 edition featured world-class runner Allyson Felix, who became the most decorated woman in American track and field history during the Summer Games. By the Closing Ceremonies, a slew of other FCA-associated athletes had taken home Olympic gold, silver and bronze.
- For the September/October 2016 issue, Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore talked about his faith in the MLB and leading the 2015 World Series team.
- For the seventh consecutive year, FCA Magazine featured Christ-following college football players in its November/December 2016 issue. Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight was featured on the cover, and 50 more players shared how they are “bold and courageous” for Christ.
- FCAMagazine also looked back on the life of its founder, Don McClanen, who passed away on Feb. 16, 2016. McClanen was tenacious in his zeal to start a sports ministry that would reach coaches and athletes for Christ. He did so in 1954, and his vision has grown to one of the most influential ministries in the world.
Perhaps the most powerful evidence of an impactful year are the testimonials of those touched by FCA:
- “It’s really rewarding to see a player come to his faith and come to know Christ. It doesn’t get any better than that.”—Coach
- “We’re not made to go through this life walk on our own. It’s hard and we all struggle in different ways, and we can benefit from encouragement from other believers … we can share those experiences and work through what it means to live out your faith. I don’t think I’d be where I am today if I didn’t have that kind of fellowship.”—Athlete
- “For kids to have access to [the Bible] and be able to look in His Word and discover His truth for themselves, it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give anybody.”—FCA Staff
- “Camp showed me to stand up for what I believe in and to spend more time with Christ.”—Camper
- “When you put Christ at the center and you try and get kids and parents exposed to that, there can be a whole set of guidelines and expectations on what you hope to accomplish through competitive sport.”—FCA Staff
- “It’s been neat to see how God has provided, how He’s used it and how we’re using it to reach our community for Christ.”—FCA Staff
- “Let us play sports for the glory of God and enjoy the game. It is such an encouragement that God is really at work through something as simple as sports. Changed hearts, to bring people to the Lord, brings a much needed change of attitude and lives.”—FCA International leader
- “Sports are temporary but my relationship with Christ is something that’s going to be eternal.”—Athlete
This October, Fellowship of Christian Athletes announced that Steckel would retire at year-end, and that Williamson, FCA’s current Executive Director of Field Ministry, would begin leading the ministry in 2017.
“As FCA grows and learns how God is moving this ministry into deeper avenue of sports, millions more coaches and athletes will be influenced by the gospel,” Williamson said. “Our reach is unlimited, and our unity is uncommon. What makes a great team is the uncanny, unexplainable, intangible qualities of alignment around a common purpose and direction, and we have that now more than ever. Momentum is hard to get, but harder to stop. Through God’s favor and dedicated, passionate teammates, FCA has great momentum for 2017 and beyond.”
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