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Pflederer Begins Serving as Rapids Academy Chaplain


For Ben Pflederer, soccer has always been a part of life. From playing at a strong youth club in his childhood, to joining the Vanderbilt University Men’s Club Soccer team during his college days, to today and continuing to play pick-up in and around Denver, soccer has been a joy and a passion.

For Ben, another passion has been ministry and understanding the call of God on his life leading him into exploring full-time ministry. Beginning with serving as a YoungLife group leader in Nashville, to serving with Ubuntu Sports Outreach in Cape Town, South Africa in the summer of 2010, and (now) as Youth Ministry Coordinator of Denver Presbyterian Church, Ben is continuing to explore all that God has in store for him.

Part of that journey has him currently completing a Master’s of Divinity at Denver Seminary.

Recently, Ben came to our attention when, after a Soccer Chaplains United Board Meeting, Vice-Chair Jeremy Tittle started sharing about a youth pastor at his church that might be a fit for the Rapids Academy vacancy.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier…but there’s a guy that plays pick-up soccer and he’s involved in the youth ministry at the church. He’s recently been promoted at the church and he’s in seminary…

Jeremy Tittle, with a dawning realization about Ben

Of course, I had to give Jeremy a hard time. “Why have you been holding out on us? You know we’ve been looking for an academy chaplain for over a year now!” I laughed.

Since that late October meeting and Jeremy’s realization that Ben might be a fit to serve with Soccer Chaplains United, we’ve undergone a process with Ben. A number of interviews, application and screening process, and now beginning an onboarding process while he balances school and work.

This position is a perfect combination of my greatest passions and experience: ministry, youth, mentoring, counseling, and soccer. I have recently learned more about Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy in seminary and it has deeply sparked my interest in this particular form of ministry, especially outside of the formal church setting.

Ben Pflederer, on his interest in exploring and serving as academy chaplain

The Rapids academy is currently some 80+ players strong, spread over three age-group teams (U-14, U-15, and U-17). Of the 80 or so players, 40 of them are enrolled in the online schooling program hosted by the Rapids which allows the athletes to be on-site at the stadium to get in more training sessions as many of them strive to win a 1st team contract someday. 25 of those athletes are part of the “Homestay Program” which means their families live out of state and they are living with local families here in Colorado while they train, study, and play for the Rapids.

Ben’s work and role with begin with offering a weekly presence and our initial thoughts are to offer a weekly group study or time with looking at the Bible and other character and life-building types of issues made optional for athletes in the academy program. Additionally, Ben will serve as an extra layer of resource and support for the athletes and their families as they undergo the pressures of working to achieve the professional soccer dream.

While playing in an academy environment can mean a greater chance of successfully becoming a professional soccer player, it is estimated that currently less than 2% of NCAA athletes make it into the professional levels of their sport. Historically, the Colorado Rapids have signed 1 or 2 academy products to a next level contract (Rapids 2 or the official 1st Team), but it is still a difficult journey for many and few will see the reward of playing pro soccer at the end.

There are very few chaplains that are specific to MLS academies. Soccer Chaplains United was the first to place an academy chaplain with Rubèn Rodríguez in 2018. Currently, there are three academy specific chaplains with Ben’s placement. The other is Soccer Chaplains United’s Michael Kell with LAFC appointed in late 2022 and another sports ministry person in Saint Louis serving the MLS academy there. Ben now becomes the second chaplain in Colorado Rapids academy history.

More than anything these kids need care and need to know God’s care and desire to work in their lives. It is such a challenging and formative time for them and any bit I can do to help and guide them spiritually, emotionally, developmentally is such valuable and rewarding work. I can envision doing this position for many years and the joy of developing those relationships and the fruits God can bring.

Ben, on his future vision of the role

We are excited to welcome Ben to the team, and we’d ask our supporters to pray for his work amongst the Rapids academy athletes.

Soccer Chaplains United is non-profit, 501(c)3 and depends upon the financial support of our partners to carry out our work of developing chaplaincy across all levels of soccer. Please consider making a contribution today to help us continue growing our chaplains and our work. Click the link below to make a gift or check out our Donate page for different giving options.