The lacrosse teams belonging to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) testify to the blessings God has given them. Two summers ago, those who participated in the FCA Lacrosse summer tournament were challenged to use their teams as mission fields and now Bible study groups are flourishing through the northeastern United States.
"It's been a big year," says FCA Lacrosse Executive Director Sean McNamara. "Two years ago, we didn't have any Bible studies and last year we only had a couple, so it's been exciting to see how God is moving."
There are now Lacrosse Team Bible study groups at 18 universities.
The grace poured down to the lacrosse teams is visible even in their wins. Both Syracuse and Maryland were 2003 men's Division I Final Four teams. Salisbury University won last year's men's Division III National Championship. The Messiah women had an outstanding 9-1 conference record in 2003. Limestone University won the 2002 men's Division II National Championship.
McNamara could only explain the phenomenon through the work of God’s hand.
"We've had some very significant programs in our sport buying into this," he said. "We haven't intentionally done this, we've just been blessed."
Regionally, the team Bible studies have grown and also on individual campuses.
"Right now we have seven core guys who come every week," said Brett Harper, who is an adult sponsor for the lacrosse team at Ohio State University. He was a leader of the first team Bible studies at University of Maryland when he attended there as a senior last year.
A team student-leader usually guided by a FCA leader or an adult sponsor like Harper will administer the Bible study.
It was encouraging for Harper to see the youth choosing Christ over secular activities.
"People from all different walks of life who meet on common ground and seek the truth. And it's surrounded by worldly things, so to have a group of guys going after the truth is an awesome thing."
Harper notes the lacrosse team Bible studies have been able to develop rapidly due to the “close-knit” relationships the team members have with each other. A typical lacrosse team has about 40 members compared to 100 on a football team.
"It creates an environment where anyone on that team feels welcome to come and hear about the Gospel in a non-threatening way," he says. "We pretty much guarantee that the only people who are going to be there are their teammates, so there's no reason to feel uncomfortable."
The FCA Lacrosse Team keeps the bond through a newly constructed website (www.fcalax.org), which allows the students to not only stay up-to-date with each chapter’s game victories but also the team Bible study on the different campuses. Information about the team student-leader is also provided.
"My prayer is that someday, anytime a young kid is going to go to a lacrosse game where one of the teams is involved with FCA, they have an opportunity to go on the web page and find out about the Bible studies and some of the players," said Harper. "We're elevating the platform of the athlete during their years of playing collegiate sports."
The success that the FCA Lacrosee Team Bible studies have experienced will catch on with other sports, hopes McNamara.
"I think it could be a trail-blazer for other sports. What we've done is taken a small community and tested something that God has really blessed, and He's brought success to it in an environment where it can be contagious because the sport is small.
"I can see down the road this being something where you have web sites for different sports. And every time you turn the TV on to watch a football or basketball game, you can see if that team has a Bible study and some people involved who are in the game."