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20 to Watch For in 2020: How Did We Do?

Jan 05, 2021

The end of 2020 saw turbulent year and difficult start to a new decade. As 2019 was coming to a close, we identified 20 Things to Watch for in 2020 and we take a look back now at how we did.

20 – 14. Chaplains Corps up to 20

Currently, Soccer Chaplains United has 13 chaplains that are serving in different capacities from High School all the way to professional parts of the game. Part of our original vision was for the organization to be at 20 chaplains by 2020 across all levels and we are close to accomplishing that goal. Prayer: for chaplain placements and opportunities in 2020 to go smoothly.

How we did: when soccer and the world started shutting down in March, I felt that this would be the hardest and most difficult four goals to achieve. However, by the grace of God, we added 4 chaplains to our group. One still to be announced, but has been working with the team for two years now.

All of our work to place chaplains with different colleges across the country shutdown. But we now stand at 17 chaplains, and we know that this couldn’t have happened except by God’s hand especially with the global pandemic.

Grade: B+

13. Counseling Documentary

Soccer Chaplains United’s counseling division is anticipating the work of a special feature counseling documentary that will highlight the need for counseling and chaplaincy work in and amongst soccer. We are praying and discerning the best course of action with some of the stories and information that we have compiled and are planning the creation of a high-level story. Prayer: for the funding of the project (approx. $10k) and for the subject sensitivity and treatment to be honoring and compelling.

How we did: well, 2020 provided some clarity for Soccer Chaplains United in that by the end of the year we decided that we would not be moving on with Counseling as an internal part of our organization. We began some initial dialogues with a videographer and had storyboarded some of our vision for the documentary; however, the pandemic shutdown our work to continue to envision this and it seems to be a benefit as we spent very little resources (time and money) in the initial vision stage. We may revisit this documentary, but in the future it will detail the work of chaplains and not counselors.

Grade: Incomplete (for now)

12. Counseling Network Growth

Continuing to grow the Counseling Network for Soccer Chaplains United will be a story to watch for 2020 — as the awareness of more need arises, having the capacity to serve people, even after they have moved on from a particular, club, team, or city will be vital. The goal is to create continuity of care that goes beyond one’s playing days and time in a particular city. Prayer: for the right counselors in the right cities to join Soccer Chaplains United’s efforts.

How we did: as stated above, we are shifting away from having counselors internal to Soccer Chaplains United. We will shift our focus and emphasis to build out a solid and well-rounded counseling referral network instead. Because of our process of discernment around the direction of counseling for 2021 and beyond we didn’t grow or expand the network, to my knowledge, though I believe that each of our chaplains has at least a rough working list of counselors for referral. So, low grade for this year, but hopefully we will recover and rebound for 2021.

Grade: F

11. Virtual Chaplaincy

A growing need is for pastoral and spiritual care that is borderless. Especially with the global nature of soccer/football, there are many athletes, coaches, staff, and families that move for the game but lack the necessary chaplaincy and faith support at other parts and points in the world. Developing out forms of virtual chaplaincy support will be vital for the future. Prayer: Creative problem solving and appropriate technology uses and abilities for supporting those who feel “afar.”

How we did: there was no prophetic vision of what 2020 might have brought. For myself personally, my last day at the Colorado Rapids stadium and “in-person” (save for one or two meetings) was March 12. Most all of our chaplains were forced to adapt to serving in a virtual way for their current teams and people. Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp, House Party, Marco Polo and a myriad of other programs and moments helped our chaplains connect with athletes, coaches, and staff from safe and distanced means during a very difficult season. Additionally, more emphasis was put into podcasting and other means that could minister to people in appropriate ways and means.

Grade: A

10. Chaplaincy Training

While global sports chaplaincy training is beginning to grow and emerge, there is still a lack of resources and soccer-specific training for chaplaincy needs both in the United States and beyond. Soccer Chaplains United is beginning to be involved in developing and creating resources and education for training chaplains today and for the future. Prayer: for the training and resource development to be complementary and cohesive with existing resources and still fill the needs.

How we did: 2020 provided more time to create training that could be accessed by different members of Soccer Chaplains United. Recording a few short online training sessions, writing an article (to be submitted for journal publication in 2021), and beginning to collect other materials for training were all afforded in 2020.

Grade: B+ (probably could have made one more training video if pushed)

9. Travel and Opportunities

2020 alone will have several significant opportunities to travel and teach, learn, and coach. An invitation to teach in India, conference and meetings in the UK, a possible trip to Liberia, and other opportunities are beginning to emerge for Soccer Chaplains United. Prayer: for discernment for stewarding time and resources for the right opportunities.

How we did: the global pandemic shutdown much travel. My own trip to Dordt University was a last holdout, but alas, coming in March time ran out and the world shut down. Training chaplains in India still happened (virtually) and meetings with global sports chaplaincy leaders occurred via zoom, but travel was put off for much of 2020.

Grade: N/A

8 – 6. Multiplication

In terms of fundraising, development, and chaplaincy we can only go and grow as far as the team that we currently have. One of the “in process” prayer and discernment pieces for Soccer Chaplains United as we move into the future will be the multiplication of our efforts across different time zones and regions. Likely, this will look like growing a number of people similar to me (Brad) in my role and focused time and energy. Prayer: for the who, what’s, and wherefore’s of growing the vision and mission of Soccer Chaplains United amongst other like-minded people.

How we did: to be honest, this goal kind of went to the very back burner. I had a few discussion with a some chaplains in our group to gauge interest, but for now, I think I am it for leading and growing Soccer Chaplains United. Much of my time in 2020 was recovered by not traveling or commuting for my chaplaincy work; however, if and when the world returns to some level of normalcy we will still need 3-4 others in different time zones growing the ministry.

Grade: C-

5. Counseling Internship

New for 2020, Soccer Chaplains United is piloting a counseling internship program. We will have a 6 month trial before launching out with all the details, but suffice it to say that our work with soccer and counseling is a unique part of our endeavors and work and has the potential to powerfully help the athletes that we have been called to serve. Prayer: for our first counseling intern and internship program. That the program would work well and we would be able to respond and anticipate needs and adapt to changes and flexibility to push the envelope.

How we did: by now, you know that we ended our counseling emphasis as a result of a discernment process in 2020, but we did still manage to pull off an internship (albeit it was very difficult as the pandemic closed things down). Our intern was able to meet with and provide close to 100 counseling hours. Future internships will move now to be handled by local counselors like Brooke Ewert and her private practice, but it was a good start and we received good feedback overall given the circumstances.

Grade: B

4. New Community Partners and Places

For 2020 and beyond, we are excited to partner with some new churches, organizations and projects that are going to new places in and throughout the United States and around the world. Currently, our Community Projects have touched down in 26 different states and countries around the world. We are looking forward to seeing new places touched with our current partners and with new ones as well. Prayer: for continued gifting and granting of equipment from the organizations that we serve which allows us to partner well with our church and other non-profit partners.

How we did: there were only three projects to speak of in 2020. But by far, one of them was our largest ever with over 850 lbs. of gear delivered to Musana Community Development who was a new partner. Our third “project” is perhaps our smallest – a single pair of “special boots” that we are still tracking!

Grade: B

3. 2020 Vision for 2026 World Cup

Now is the time to begin envisioning the future. With the United States, Canada, and Mexico co-hosting the 2026 World Cup there are some exciting opportunities for Soccer Chaplains United to serve in unique, large-event chaplain and counseling capacities whereby the world is coming to our door step. The 2026 version of the World Cup will feature an expanded format for the tournament and likely see teams from countries who have never played on the world’s largest stage. Prayer: that Soccer Chaplains United discerns its particular role and ways to serve as the World Cup comes into the national scene in 2026.

How we did: there was little in the way of prep and opportunity for 2026 plans while dealing with COVID-19 and the global pandemic. Is it fair to take a low grade? Oh, well…

Grade: D

2. Growing Sustainability

As with any non-profit organization, sustainability is key. Changing trends in generosity, charitable giving, generational values and norms, volunteerism, and other cultural nuances are all part of the landscape that Soccer Chaplains United must constantly navigate and negotiate. While some in the space are compromising particular aspects of ministry, Soccer Chaplains United continues to look forward at serving in a shifting landscape and become more sustainable and resilient. Prayer: for trusting in God for the future — His provision for His work; not our own.

How we did: well, we had to adapt. Donations and donors and some of our plans for fundraising was stymied by the pandemic. We also survived the loss of a key donor and a couple of foundations that have given in the past that didn’t for 2020! We are still working on the 2020 numbers but at the last that we knew we were just going to be short by maybe a few hundred dollars. Of course, breaking even is sometimes okay, especially in a down year.

Grade: B-

1. Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Well, we started out saying that there wasn’t a particular order or value, but it is critical for Soccer Chaplains United to keep on point for the next decade in front of us. While different opportunities and challenges will arise, key to continuing will be for the organization to be careful to not have “mission drift.” Prayer: that Soccer Chaplains United (as it is today and as it will be tomorrow) would continue to pray much, listen well, obey fully, and exercise faith in serving and loving the people that God calls us to serve and love.

How we did: Ok, so truth be told, I am a perfectionist. Feels a bit silly to “give ourselves grades” and likely I would rate us a little lower truth be told across the board, because there is always more room for improvement (even in the good things). Ha! But all said, I do think that Soccer Chaplains United and our chaplains worked really hard to serve and to also keep the “main thing the main thing”. Grades are really meaningless, but thanks for reading, thus far.

Grade: B+

We will come out with some type of vision ahead article for 2021 and beyond, soon.

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