Fellowship of Christian Athletes
|Headquarters||Kansas City, Missouri|
President and CEO
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) is an international non-profit Christian sports ministry based in Kansas City, Missouri. FCA was founded in 1954. It has staff offices located throughout the United States and abroad.
FCA's mission is to present to athletes and coaches, 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. Its vision is to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.
FCA was founded in 1954 by Eastern Oklahoma A&M basketball coach Don McClanen, who later resigned to become its full-time director. After watching sports stars use fame to endorse and sell general merchandise, McClanen wrote to 19 prominent sports figures asking for their help in establishing an organization that would use the same principle to share the Christian faith. Among the first supporters were Baseball Hall of Famer Branch Rickey, who was most known for breaking the MLB color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, and professional athletes including Otto Graham, Carl Erskine and Don Moomaw. FCA held its first advisory board meeting in September 1954 and was officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in November.
After two years in Oklahoma, McClanen moved FCA's headquarters to Kansas City, Missouri. That year (1956), FCA also conducted its first national camp‚then referred to as a national conference‚which drew 256 athletes and coaches to Estes Park, Colo. The ministry continued its expansion by adding additional camp locations, establishing a national magazine and beginning school campus groups called ‚"Huddles‚" within 10 years of the first camp. In 1979 FCA completed and dedicated a new headquarters facility overlooking Kansas City‚ Truman Sports Complex, and the building was officially renamed the FCA National Support Center in 2011.
After more than 60 years of operation, FCA has developed into a global Christian sports ministry reaching more than two million people per year at the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth sports levels. As of 2014, FCA included a staff of approximately 1,200 ministry personnel in more than 450 U.S. and international staff offices.
Statement of faith
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes operates according to an internally written statement of faith. This statement consists of seven points based on Bible teachings and Christian principles. Each point has a corresponding scripture. All staff and leaders agree with and operate according to the FCA statement of faith.
Four C’s of ministry
- The "Coaches" ministry area includes Christian Bible studies, prayer support, discipleship, mentoring, resources, outreach events and retreats for athletic coaches and sending staff to national coaches‚ conventions and major sporting events to host and facilitate ministry events.
- The "Campus" ministry area includes student-led groups called ‚"Huddles‚" on junior high, high school and college campuses as well as team Bible studies, chaplain programs and Bible studies for coaches. In 2013, more than 9,000 school campuses reported an FCA presence and more than 450,000 were said to be participants. FCA created the annual school assemblies ‚"One Way 2 Play ," Drug Free‚" program and Fields of Faith events.
- The "Camp" ministries of FCA include camps for athletes, coaches, ministry leaders, teams and youth both in the U.S. and abroad. FCA also partners with camps from other organizations. It offers seven types of camps: sports camps, leadership camps, coaches camps, power camps, partnership camps, team camps and international camps. In 2013, FCA reported 429 camps with close to 60,000 participants.
- The "Community" ministry of FCA involves church and business partnerships and outreach to parents and volunteers and ministry to professional athletes and coaches.
Since 2012, FCA has expanded efforts around the world. As of 2016, FCA International is serving in 56 countries through 111 FCA International leaders who spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 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. FCA hosted nearly 200 camps outside of the US with more than 25,000 campers in 36 countries. Additionally, FCA International Huddles grew from 118 to 798, with 22,821 in attendance; 4,021 made decisions to follow Christ.
At the executive level, FCA operates under the direction of a president/CEO and an executive team that meets with a board of trustees.
FCA requires leaders to agree with its vision, mission and statement of faith. All adult leaders must complete a Ministry Leader Application. Applicants must agree with its vision, mission, statement of faith, non-denominational statement and sexual purity statement. All leaders must also pass a criminal background check and have their complete application approved by a local or regional Field Staff employee.
In September 2015, Roanoke and Roanoke County Virginia public schools ended FCA ministry to football players following at least two complaints. In an FCA activity referred to as the "Watermelon Ministry," the organization had visited public high school student athletes at team practices to offer watermelon slices and tell players that all the talents they have come from God. Two FCA videos from August 2015 of the now-halted program show public school coaches standing behind their team while an FCA evangelist sternly warns them that to be good players they must have a Christian faith and read the Bible. In a third video, numerous Virginia public high school coaches speak about how the FCA helps them recruit students to Christianity. One coach, for example, states: "We teach them not only about sports and how to live your life, but how to live your life as a Christian. I think that’s really important, for us to just have a chance to relate with all different kinds of kids, not just the ones who go to church, but maybe the ones who don’t go to church. It allows us to draw them in in a relaxed environment and really speak to them about the Gospel, which is the reason we do what we do. We want to bring kids to the gospel and see them follow after Christ."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national nonprofit organization, referred to the activities as "predatory," "illegal" and "unconstitutional" in letters sent to superintendents of two of the largest Virginia jurisdictions involved.
School officials responded they were unaware that the coaches were hosting the proselytizing, and immediately stopped it. The Roanoke County superintendent stated “Roanoke County Schools believes in the separation of church and state. We want to maintain and ensure that that practice is being followed.” A city of Roanoke spokesman said “When this information came to our attention, we responded immediately. We met with the appropriate people and made it very clear that separation of church and state is the law of the land. We feel the matter is under control and we will monitor this very closely.”
Through its media office, FCA issued the following response, "Every student athlete has the right and the freedom to participate in activities according to their individual religious convictions. There are no repercussions for students who decline to participate in FCA activities." The FFRF letters, however had noted that repercussions may take the form of pressure from peers and coaches, alienating non-Christian students, and usurping parents' authority.
Since 1954, professional athletes and coaches have taken part in FCA through ministry events, speaking engagements, FCA camps, volunteer opportunities and ministry leadership roles. For approximately six decades, athletes and coaches from both major and minor professional sports and top-tier college programs have engaged with FCA to communicate their Christian faith and participate in community outreach opportunities. Among those who pioneered the organization were former stars Otto Graham, Branch Rickey, Bobby Richards, Carl Erskine and Bill Krisher. They would be followed by other influential sports figures including Tom Landry, Bobby Bowden, John Wooden, Roger Staubach, Jim Ryun, Betsy King, Herschel Walker, Reggie White, Tony Dungy, Shaun Alexander, Tom Osborne and Kay Yow‚ all of whom vocalized their Christian faith through FCA outlets such as banquets, camps and rallies.
Recent stars who have connected with FCA have included Josh Hamilton, Adam Wainwright, Brian Roberts, Tim Tebow, Tamika Catchings, Jennie Finch, Andy Pettitte, Tommy Tuberville, Jim Kelly, John Harbaugh, Leah O'Brien Amico, John Smoltz, Mark Richt, Colt McCoy, Andrew McCutchen and a number of public figures outside the world of sports such as comedian Jeff Foxworthy, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson. Influential Christian leaders such as Billy Graham, Chip Ingram, Anne Graham Lotz and Tommy Nelson also have participated in FCA through resource development, camps or events.
FCA award winners
- Bobby Bowden Athlete of the Year: Named after former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden, this award is presented annually to a Division I FBS football player who conducts himself as a faith model in the community, in the classroom and on the field.‚ Nominees must have 3.0 GPA or better and must have the backing of his school‚Äôs athletic director and head football coach. Winners have included Texas A&M's offensive lineman Jake Matthews (2013), Auburn linebacker Ashton Richardson (2012) and quarterbacks Case Keenum (2011), Christian Ponder (2010) and Colt McCoy (2009).
- Grant Teaff Coach of the Year: The Grant Teaff Coach of the Year Award is named after former Baylor University football coach Grant Teaff, who also served as the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association and member of the FCA National Board of Trustees. The annual award recognizes a football coach who exemplifies Christian principles and maintains an active involvement with FCA. Previous winners include Mike MacIntyre, Mike London, Tommy Bowden, Jerry Kill and Tommy Tuberville.
- Grant Teaff Lifetime Achievement Award: The second FCA award named after Teaff recognizes a football coach that has ‚committed his life to being a Christian influence on the lives of student-athletes.‚ Previous winners include Dr. Homer Rice, Houston Nutt and Tony Dungy.
- Jerry Kindall Character in Coaching Award: Named after former Major League Baseball player and retired University of Arizona baseball coach Jerry Kindall, the Character in Coaching Award is presented annually to the college or high school baseball coach who ‚best exemplifies the Christian principles of Character, Integrity, Excellence, Teamwork and Service on and off the baseball field.‚Äù Previous winners include Rusty Stroupe, Scott Berry and Bubba Cates.
- John Lotz ‚Barnabas‚ Award: Named after former University of Florida basketball coach John Lotz and the Biblical character Barnabas first mentioned in Acts 4 as the ‚Son of Encouragement,‚Äù this award honors a basketball coach who ‚best exhibits a commitment to Christ, integrity, encouragement to others and lives a balanced life.‚ Previous winners include Tom Crean, Don Meyer, Billy Kennedy, Homer Drew and John Wooden.
- Kay Yow Heart of a Coach Award: First presented in 2008, this award was established to honor former North Carolina State University women's basketball coach Kay Yow whose nearly 22-year battle with cancer her life in 2009. The award recognizes a women's basketball coach who ‚over the course of his or her career, has coached according to Biblical principles‚ and has ‚coached the heart of the athlete, as well as the body and mind.‚Previous winners include Sue Semrau, Deb Patterson, Sue Ramsey and Kay Yow.
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