I am entering into my third year as chaplain for an organization called Baseball Chapel and assigned to serve with the San Francisco Giants. Needless to say, it has been quite a ride! Every Sunday home game, I do four separate chapels for the following groups: visiting team, home team, umpires, and wives/girlfriends of players and coaches. I also do a Bible Study on Tuesday home games.
Here are five things I have learned about myself and ministry to professional baseball players.
It’s good to be a rookie again.
I have served at my church for thirty years. The more you do something the more comfortable you become. This can be good or bad. Ministry should never be done in our own strength. There should always be a sense of desperate inadequacy. Being thrown into an entirely new environment with professional baseball players who are half my age has been humbling and challenging. I am out of my comfort zone and have spent far more time on my knees than usual. This is good!
I must earn the right to be heard.
Professional baseball players are very guarded — for good reason. Everyone wants something from them, and so they are very careful about letting anyone into their lives. Can they trust that person or is he just another fan who wants an autograph, a photograph, or has an investment opportunity? When I served in Young Life ministry we used to say, “You have to earn the right to be heard.” It’s true!
Ministry takes place in a team.
One of the things I have loved about serving the Giants is that my wife, Lynn, serves with me. Lynn is our chaplain to the wives and girlfriends of our players and coaches. She joins me on Sunday home games for our wives and girlfriends chapel, and she leads a Bible Study for wives and girlfriends on Tuesday nights at the ball bark. In addition to Lynn, I have a great Spanish chaplain named Rigo Lopez. There are tons of Spanish—speaking players in MLB, and Rigo does a chapel for them on Sunday home games as well.
It’s a long season!
Spring Training starts in late February and the last game of the World Series is not played until November. The 162 game schedule is grueling, to say the least. We all tend to think the life of a professional athlete is glamorous, but it is anything but! These guys work hard, endure tons of travel and time away from their families, and suffer through countless aches, pains, and injuries. Yes, they love the game, but it is not an easy life.
It’s about more than just the players.
One of the most fun things about serving as chaplain is that I get to develop relationships with not just the players, but coaches, club house personnel (“clubbies”), field crews, concession workers, etc. There is so much more that goes on at the ball park than just what happens on the field, and some of the nicest and hardest working people in the world serve in these support capacities.
The bottom line is I have loved serving as a chaplain. It helps that I get to serve a world class organization like the Giants.