After experiencing rapid growth in Kent and Sussex counties, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is moving north.
The ministry, founded in 1954 and based in Kansas City, Mo., has long been a mainstay in high school and college athletics. In Delaware, the ministry has been in existence for four decades. Along the way, business support in the form of money and volunteers has played a role in its growth.
The northward expansion effort recently received a boost when Joe Thomson, formerly of Sussex Technical High School, became athletic director at Wilmington Christian School in Hockessin. Thomson will continue in his role on the FCA board of directors, assisting with the overall strategy of developing coaches and teams.
“We have the ability to develop coaches and athletes in a secular or biblical capacity,” says Randy Chambers, who heads FCA’s Delmarva region. “Joe’s involvement on the DIAA (Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association) board, FCA Board and his transition to the northern Delaware area will be a great blessing and key to growth of FCA in northern Delaware and beyond.”
Chambers says FCA wants to meet with business leaders and potential volunteers as it builds a presence in northern Delaware. The ministry receives 84 percent of its support from businesses and individuals. It gets no funding from outside the region.
“Considering the great challenge and need that lies before us in today’s sport culture, we desire to initiate as many opportunities as possible to share our vision,” Chambers says.
Two programs of interest to business leaders are the One Way to Play Drug Free program and the work of the ministry’s strategic partner, Coaches of Excellence.
“These programs not only help student-athletes and coaches, but will certainly have trickle-down benefits to entire communities,” Chambers says. “We provide solutions that develop leaders, transform character and positively impact the culture of sport. The secular nature of these (programs) allows businesses and corporations to support us as well.”
Chambers says the ministry has seen “explosive growth” in central and southern Delaware. Chambers also serves as character coach at Wesley College.
Mike Drass, head coach of the nationally ranked Wesley College football team, who also serves as the school’s athletic director, says that in addition to Chambers’ FCA work, he has contributed to the success of the educational institution in his role as character coach.
“Randy is committed to serving our student-athletes and Wesley College is seeing the fruits of his labor. We see it through character development. We see it through spiritual development. And we see it through community service,” Drass says. “It is not perfect here at Wesley. We still have our fair share of issues and problems, but since Randy came to us in the summer of 2011, we have seen a great improvement behaviorally from all of our student-athletes.”
The ministry also receives praise from Bill Collick, a former Delaware State University football coach who is now working to turn around a troubled high school program. “FCA has been the stabilizing force and discipline foundation for Cape Henlopen football, as we work to move our program toward respectability,” Collick says.
The FCA was making inroads in New Castle County before the latest expansion effort. In addition to Wilmington Christian, the ministry has a presence with the St. Georges Technical High School football team and the Co-Ed Campus Ministry, Red Lion Christian Academy, and Middletown High School.
On Jan. 26, the FCA will host a regional conference at Wilmington Christian that will be open to coaches in a five state area.
Chambers knows a thing or two about challenges, having overcome a troubled period in his life that included three near-fatal auto accidents. He went on to work at Acme Markets, assisted the Dover High School basketball team and went on to graduate from Delaware State University with a bachelor’s in accounting. He then worked at MBNA for seven years, leaving his post as department manager to, in his words, “follow God’s calling to sports ministry.”
Chambers says he uses the leadership lessons learned at MBNA (now Bank of America) in the FCA ministry.
“Randy has partnered with other nonprofits–both faith-based and secular—to meet the spiritual and practical needs of those he serves. He is using the skills he developed and refined in the corporate world to be effective in the ministry,” says G. Ward Keever IV, owner of Covenant Wealth Strategies in New Castle.
Keever says “the staff and volunteers for FCA work on a shoestring budget and accomplish amazing results with meager resources.”
Timothy Horne, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment, as well as Dover Motorsports, says the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has a powerful story to tell.
“If administrators and coaches could see the transformational effects this organization has had on the hearts and minds of athletes and coaches, and consequently, the improved teamwork that results, they would be kicking our doors down,” Horne says. “Resources have caused the focus to be in lower Delaware to date. But now is the time to move into our most populous county as well.”
Horne says the need for a ministry like FCA becomes even greater with the rapid growth of youth sports. Both Horne and Keever, as well as retired boxer and northern Delaware business owner Dave Tiberi, serve as advisers and volunteers for FCA.
Ask about the ways the Fellowship of Christian Athletes can change lives and Chambers will share the story of a scene on the sidelines after a Wesley College football victory.
At the time, the player hugged Chambers, who saw it as enthusiasm over the victory and making a great play. It turned out that the reason for the embrace was the fact that the father had attended a game for the first time in his son’s high school and college career.
The player went on to tell Chambers about the void in his life. Chambers counseled the young man who went on to overcome his anger. The father and son went on to resolve their differences. Sadly, the father died eight months later of cancer.
Supporters of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes are hoping to hear additional stories of redemption and growth in New Castle County.