His vision continues to find fertile ground, and in the past 12 years since 2000 the number of sports chaplains has doubled from 150 to 300 today. Even some of the more unusual sports now have chaplains: lawn bowls, surfing, pony clubs, and even cage fighting. The point is, where people gather, God is interested. And sports chaplaincy connects with the people.
Now there is a new chaplain in a sport yet to have had a chaplain – Clay Target Shooting.
Brian "Woody" Woodman is Australia's first ever accredited clay target shooting chaplain. Woody, from Batesford Victoria (near Geelong), has been competing at the Timboon and Winchelsea clubs for many years, but recently felt God's call to ask if he could be their chaplain.
The two clubs have over 100 competitors and officials and Woody is now their "pastor" providing pastoral care to them and their families. This voluntary role involves walking beside people as they negotiate life's challenges and share with them the message of Jesus.
From tentative beginnings at the start of 2012, Woody has already won the trust of many through his words and deeds.
Woody preaches regularly and serves as an Elder in the Moorabool Presbyterian Church. But he saw his chaplaincy as a way to serve outside the walls of a church building. Brian has already learned much from his time as a chaplain.
Some of his ministry tips include:
â€¢ Be a servant: just as Jesus came to serve, we also must serve others. As a result, we show we really care and earn the right to share the gospel. Woody tells the story of cleaning toilets and picking up unshot targets because the set-up team were so busy. As a result those officials have been won over by his servant heart and ask what is his motivation to serve?
â€¢ Being present: just as Jesus came to earth to become flesh, we also must be with others to grow share the gospel. Woody tells the story of chatting with a shooter whose wife was seriously ill. His constant presence at the club's competitions resulted in Woody being able to pray for the family, pastoral care given and a Bible given to comfort them.
â€¢ Being part of the community: Woody is a keen competitor and part of this community. As a result, like an overseas missionary he knows the culture of the club, knows the technical side of the sport and knows the language/jargon. This has helped him earn respect in his new role as chaplain.
â€¢ Be an encourager: Most people in life have people who pull them down and don't care for their deeper needs. A Christian is one who has a deeper interest in others and builds people up, encouraging them with the promise of life in the full. Woody is a great encourager, using this encouragement to guide people and point them to Jesus.
â€¢ Missional minded: Jesus went out from the synagogues to the market places to interact with the people. He did not wait for people to come into the building. It is the same for his approach to doing church: we can't be a church in waiting (for people to come in) but need to be missional in our outlook (going out into our communities).
Brian is Australian's first ever clay target shooting chaplain. Many might regard this as an unusual area. But as Jesus displayed wherever people are, God is interested and sends His workers.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and pastor of mooraboolchurch.org
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html