Like it or not, if you want to be effective in sports ministry, you've gotta deal with music
By Jill Ewert and Susie Magill
Every great moment in sports has its own soundtrack—a song that fuels the emotion of the moment. Would movie goers be half as moved if they watched Rocky Balboa train for a fight without hearing “Eye of the Tiger”? Imagine any college team taking the field without the band playing the school’s fight song. As an athlete, have you ever tried to prepare mentally for the game without using music? Would fans come to the games if they had to sit in silence?
|"...80% of Christian kids are listening to mainstream music solely, and that’s giving them a message and a worldview that’s contradictory to what you’re teaching them. If you’re serious about helping students grow spiritually, you’ve got to deal with music.” |
Music and sports—two of the most dominant forces in American culture. No matter who you are, you’re affected by one or the other every day. The question then for Christians becomes what to do with the explosive combination of the two—especially if every aspect of a believer’s life is supposed to glorify Christ. In other words, it boils down to one central question: How can music and sports be combined to bring glory to Christ?
Before the question itself can be answered, the very reason why it needs an answer must be explained. Why do athletes and coaches need to worry about understanding the power of music?
“Students listen to three to four hours of music every day,” says Allen Weed, president of interl’inc, a Tennessee-based organization focused on maximizing music and media in youth ministry. “It’s going to be as much time or more as they spend in class during their high school years. People in ministry often think, ‘I don’t need to deal with the music thing.’ Well, yes you do. you’ve got to because 80% of Christian kids are listening to mainstream music solely, and that’s giving them a message and a worldview that’s contradictory to what you’re teaching them. If you’re serious about helping students grow spiritually, you’ve got to deal with music.”
The focus gets even more narrow when talking specifically about student-athletes, who use music to fuel their performances in a variety of ways.
“I’ve never heard an athlete say, ‘Nope. No music for me,’” says Dan Britton, who, prior to joining the FCA staff where he currently serves as senior vice president of ministry programs, played professional lacrosse for the Baltimore Thunder. “Every athlete before a game has their headphones on or their iPods® going to help them get ready. For me personally, music provided focus, clarity and meaning. It gave me a passion for the game before I even played it.
“But it’s more than just game-preparation,” Britton continues. “It’s also played at the event before, during and between quarters to create a sense of environment for the athletes and fans. It’s simply an interesting phenomenon that’s happened over the years in that athletes have gravitated toward music to play a role in reaching their peak performance.”
Kelli Camping, a varsity basketball and golf athlete at Centennial High School (Ariz.) admits to using music for that very reason. “I listen to music before all of my games. It gets me ready to go out on the court and dominate. It gets me focused on what I have to accomplish in the game.”
So why music? What about music enables it to have such an impact on athletes and sports in general? “Music is emotional,” says Tricia Brock of the band Superchic[k], which recently released its fourth album, Beauty from Pain. “It has the ability to generate and bring out emotions that weren’t there. You hear a certain symphony and you feel sad. You hear the music from Rocky, and it makes you want to run up some stairs. There is so much power in it—for good and bad.”
Ryan Paul of the Minnesota- based band bensonwells, which frequently plays FCA Camps and events, agrees. “Music is tied to everyone’s emotions. That’s why it’s so powerful. God created it that way. And I believe that He created music to stir something in our souls that gives us a glimpse of heaven and of Him. It connects us with His heart.”
And that emotional aspect is exactly how it ties back into athletics.
“Sports are emotional,” says Britton. “You see it all the time when athletes are ready to take the field. They’re riding emotional highs. They’re full of intensity. They have to be! They can’t walk onto the field as if it’s any ordinary thing they have to do during their day. If they do that, they’re going to turn in a bad performance. They have to be prepared mentally, spiritually and emotionally in order to play at their best.”
With an understanding of why music is such an important part of athletics, it becomes even more critical that Christian athletes and coaches begin to understand how the combination should be used in a way that is pleasing to God. And it all begins with worship.
Most people, when they hear the word “worship,” immediately think of music, but as any of the Christian artists featured in this article will say, worship is more than a song, it’s a lifestyle.
“A lot of times people think music is worship, but bottom line, life is worship—living every day,” says Matt Dally of Superchic[k], who as a former athlete not only understands the musical mind, but also the athletic. “We’re supposed to worship in all things. In the same way that my playing music onstage is worshipping God, so should an athlete worship Him by driving the lane or spiking a volleyball or running for a touchdown. You have to use your ability to worship God.
Do you need help understanding how to incorporate music into your own ministry? STV wants to help! A specific multimedia site was created for this story.
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It’s the same principle. Music is a more common, easier way to view worship, but the bottom line is that everything you do should praise the Lord.”
If FCA was truly going to help athletes and coaches turn their athletic experiences into acts of
worship, ministry leaders realized that they would have to tackle the issue of music. But what does a group of sports-minded ministry executives know about creating and utilizing music? Not much. And instead of “reinventing the wheel,” they went to those who minister through music on a daily basis, striking up a partnership with interl’inc.
“We partnered with interl’inc because we realized that we’re not good at music, we’re good at
sports ministry,” says Britton. “We wanted to find a group that was really good at music and also
ran a good ministry. The best we found was at interl’inc with Allen Weed. They’re not about Christian music, they’re about the ministry of Christian music.”
What came of the partnership was a win-win situation as both FCA and interl’inc were able to expand their reach. FCA was able to equip its coaches and athletes with music resources for athletes, and through FCA-provided athletic resources, interl’inc was able to equip its youth workers for ministering to athletes.
According to both Britton and Weed, one of the most useful resources to be produced as a result of the partnership has been Pump’D, FCA’s first CD, which features tracks from some of today’s most popular Christian artists. Each song on the CD was selected based on its ability to inspire and help the athlete prepare for competition— more specifically on competing for Christ.
“We wanted to put Pump’D in the hands of coaches so that they’d have a tool for the weight room, for warm-ups, for playing before meetings—wherever they needed a CD that would fire up their athletes and help them focus on godly things rather than curse words and immorality,” says Britton. “The coaches love it! They say, ‘Thank you for putting this in my hands. I don’t go to record stores. I don’t buy CDs. And now all of a sudden, I’m a music pro.’”
“Having that music resource really raises the energy level in the Huddle group,” adds Weed. “And it’s a tool that allows the Huddle Leader to all of a sudden ‘have it together’ musically.”
With the success and popularity of the first Pump’D CD, FCA recently released it’s follow-up, Pump’D 2.
Pump’D 2 is great because now when athletes are putting on their headsets, they’re listening to Christ-centered songs,” says Britton. “Not only is the music firing them up, but the words are providing a clear focus on what it means to be an athlete for Christ. And ultimately, that will help them to accomplish on the field what is our goal as Christian competitors—to bring glory to God through sports.”