Editor’s Note: This article was written by Luke Helmuth who directs the Charlotte Residency Program.
It's that time of year, summer is over and students all around the country are going back to school. At MAI that means our ministry shifts from summer programs to fall seasons. But it also marks the beginning of another ministry program: MAI's Sports Ministry Residency.
MAI’s Sports Ministry Residency is a 12-month live-in training experience designed to prepare ministry-minded athletes and coaches by providing the training and experience needed to function in sports ministry and to flourish in and for Christ wherever they are planted. During the residency, we hope residents will grow spiritually and that their time here will increase their vision, knowledge and ability. Residents shadow an experienced sports minister in their day to day responsibilities, will study content-specific teachings, and will engage in practical ministry experiences; all within the confines of an authentic, team community.
In August we began this year’s program with three residents in the Charlotte office and four in the Chicago office. I am very excited for these seven to grow in their knowledge of sports ministry and their ability to serve and minister to others. But more than anything, I am excited for this group to grow in their understanding of God’s call on their lives and to begin to see them cast vision for what God has for them. While a full time employee of the ministry, residents are only expected to commit to a year with MAI. We hope that their year of intense, hands-on training prepares and equips them and helps clarify the direction for what God is calling them too next – whether with MAI or elsewhere.
This Fall we are stepping into our fourth year of the residency. Two of last year’s residents, Jackie and Will, had this to say about the program:
Jackie: “The moment I experienced the culture of Urban Eagles, I was hooked. The passions of my heart were colliding in one place. As a recent college grad, I felt the pressures of venturing out into a big world and wondering where I would fit in this puzzle of life. After months of prayer, I made one of the most impacting decisions of my life. I packed up the last 5 years of my life and moved cities. The one-year residency program with Urban Eagles presented an opportunity to spend a season living cross-culturally, while using the game of soccer to share Jesus with my neighbors. I was uncertain of my plans that would follow, but I trusted God would guide me in His timing.
Even with just one year under my belt, I am certain that I could write a book on the stories and experiences here in Charlotte. My eyes are continually opened to God’s heart for people of all nations. While living cross-culturally, I have learned to be a neighbor to refugees from all over the world. I have experienced connecting to youth, overcoming cultural and language barriers, by simply rolling out a soccer ball in my neighborhood. I have seen young lives changed as a result of playing on our Urban Eagles teams, as they experience being a part of something bigger than themselves.
I have grown to realize how influential a coach is in the lives of youth and how children are the doorways to connecting with families. I am humbled when I remember being invited into the home of a Hindu, Nepali family to eat dinner with them, as well as the time when I sat in a kitchen with three Muslim, Afghan mothers helping them learn to read and speak in English. If you would have asked me even two years ago, I could not have told you I would be a missionary in the city in which I grew up playing soccer, let alone a sports minister. It is by God’s grace that I am here and I am so grateful. God has impassioned my heart for these peoples and using soccer as a means of furthering His Kingdom.
As my year was drawing to a close, I was presented another opportunity to join Urban Eagles staff. I searched my heart only to realize these kids and their families had taken it. I believe I still have much to learn in the ways of God and I am excited to be used by Him here in Charlotte and anywhere else He may send me.”
Will: “Last August, I moved to Charlotte to complete MAI’s residency program. My year-long residency was spent predominately with the Urban Eagles… Living in a refugee community, loving my neighbors, and being trained in sports ministry. What an experience! I often felt like I was drinking from a fire hydrant with how much I was learning and experiencing.
Why the residency? Throughout my senior year of college God affirmed it multiple times. Part of that affirmation was me being able to follow what I was passionate about, which was coaching (in this case soccer), spending time with kids, and learning and growing in a cross cultural setting. As the residency concluded my path changed and I would decide to leave MAI, but God continued to affirm my passions. This fall, I will be a graduate assistant at Messiah College. I will be coaching lacrosse, instead of soccer. I will be working with kids, they just happen to grow beards and be between 18 and 22 years old. And, I will be learning and growing in cross-cultural settings, as I work with Messiah’s sports ministry organization, AROMA.
So as I leave Charlotte, and begin a new season at Messiah College I now have a deeper understanding of…
Coaching, and the importance of developing a team culture, values, and coaching philosophy.
Discipleship, because, well… It has literally been a part of my job for the last 12 months. I spent time planting seeds in the lives of high schoolers, while intentionally seeking out men to disciple me.
Partnering with local churches, and providing opportunities for volunteers to come alongside the community.
Partnering with the global church. This summer I had the opportunity to travel with the Eagles to Brazil, and learn some of the “in’s and out’s” of partnering with church plants all over the world, while introducing sports ministry in cross cultural settings.
Sports ministry, because I was able to learn sports ministry through MAI’s training program, and then put what I learned into practice with Urban Eagles’ teams.”