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Oklahoma Fellowship of Christian Athletes: Impacting Student Lives Through Sports
Article by Marina I. Jokic
The Oklahoma Fellowship of Christian Athletes was founded in 1954 with the mission of educating young athletes in the Christian tradition. Located in Edmond, the FCA is currently headed by state director John O'Dell whose goal is to focus the ministry's efforts on teaching students and improving their lives in the community through sports.
Back in 1954, Don McClanon who was the head basketball coach at Eastern Junior College in Wilburton, Oklahoma, had a dream, an ambitious vision of changing kids' lives through sports, and more importantly, through teaching them Christian values. In 1973, FCA hired its first state director Chuck Bowman. Bowman and his wife Betty initiated the ministry's branch in the state of Oklahoma, committing themselves to Christian education through sports.
With a staff of eighteen serving over five hundred and twenty FCA campus "huddles" which in turn are comprised of over two thousand students and volunteers, the FCA is growing steadily across the state. One of their most popular programs is the FCA Huddle Leader Camp, which brings together over a thousand college and high school students giving them a challenging and rewarding ministry opportunity to lead a small group of campers. The Huddle Coordinator will select these leaders for the camp, with each leader being carefully handpicked and screened through a detailed application process and references.
O'Dell notes that most of the camp leaders were at some point involved in the FCA ministry on their college campuses and many were once campers themselves. "They are dedicated to Christ, not only at camp, but in their everyday lives," he adds. Once a group of leaders is vetted, they participate in a rigorous two-day training program in addition to the preparation they undergo before arriving on site.
The FCA camp programs, of which there are six distinct types, do not require you to be athlete to participate. One of the reasons FCA chose to do away with such a requirement is to ensure that they were keeping their doors open to a wide range of young kids, athletes or not. FCA does, however, focus on particular age groups, namely junior high, high school, and college students. However, FCA also offers programs for younger students?without age restriction?who participate in traveling sports teams.
In addition to the Leadership Camp, FCA has another five distinct camp types not limited to students only: Coaches Camps, Partnership Camps, Power Camps, Sports Camps, and Team Camps. Each of these is tailored to achieve a specific goal. For instance, the Coaches Camp are for training coaches in ministry, namely Bible studies, small groups, fellowships, and prayer support among others. The Power Camp or Youth Sports Camp is traditionally for young athletes from eight to twelve years old who want to improve their sports abilities and hone their competition skills in multiple disciplines. The Team Camp is designed to foster friendly team competition through building team unity.
In a nutshell, O'Dell says, "the purpose of FCA is to present to coaches and athletes, and all who 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." For FCA, the end goal is to train talented athletes within a Christian context, meaning that they are not only instructed in sports but also in values such as integrity, service, teamwork, and gratitude.
The Thunder Game Day event is one of many that FCA will host throughout the state as well as other game day events at the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, University of Tulsa and many of the other small colleges. At a typical game day event, O'Dell points out, FCA strives to bring the community together to not only enjoy watching a sport, but also to share in their common faith and values. The greatest benefits of being a part of FCA is the opportunity to develop great leaders and make a difference on their campus.
Posted on Wed, January 4, 2017
by Jessica Fannin filed under