During the fall of 2019, FCA at USMAPS has focused specifically on the Prep School football team, which makes up almost one-third of the prep school enrollment. We have had an open door for ministry to almost 70 athletes, the vast majority of whom will begin as plebes “down the hill” at West Point in 2020, joining the Black Knights football team. (A fantastic NY Times article was published this fall, detailing how more than 60% of the Black Knights roster are athletes who came up through the Prep School. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/09/sports/army-prep-school.html)
The ministry shift from last year has been a true game- changer. Thanks to Colonel Lyle for deciding to focus our efforts on the football team itself. By building the bridge to prep football’s head coach, we’ve found an incredibly supportive leader in Coach Andy Wolfrum, who is in constant communication with us several times a week, inviting us to a full spectrum of ministry, and encouraging his players to participate in building spiritual muscle through FCA.
Because of Colonel Lyle and Coach Wolfrum, we’ve been invited to pray, mentor and teach any athletes that want to grow in their faith—in just about any and every venue where the team gathers. FCA has cheered the team on at almost every home game, praying with the players in the locker room, encouraging them from the sidelines, giving a brief word of scripture to focus them before the game.
We are at practices every week, holding devotional moments on the sidelines. We are in the weekly pre-game team meetings whenever the schedule allows, teaching deeper messages from the Scriptures—focusing the players on learning from biblical figures such as Gideon, Joshua, Paul and other warriors of Scripture.
Participation in spiritual activity is, of course, voluntary for all team members. Even so, FCA has seen a steady stream of about half the football team (30+ players) regularly engaged with the ministry. As has been true in prior years, many of these players are just beginning their journey with Christ, very early in familiarity with the Bible.
We ended the semester with a “Holiday Dinner & Communion” at Adrian Schoonmaker’s home, where 30 football players came on a school bus to spend the evening with Adrian, his wife and six children. This was a special “capstone” night after the season’s games had ended, not only to celebrate the spiritual and relational growth this semester, but also to further bond players to FCA just before the spring semester begins. At the Schoonmaker home, players not only enjoyed some great southern barbeque and holiday sweets, but also shared testimonies of God’s work in their life and received communion together.