If you’re a student-athlete, you may be familiar with the idea that Sunday night can bring a mixture of emotions.
As a college student-athlete, Sunday would roll around after another whirlwind week, and reality of the coming week’s burdens would set in: daunted by the week to come, in awe of all that had passed in the week prior, overwhelmed by all the tasks to be accomplished, yet grateful that God had given me strength and energy for the previous week.
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Somehow the looming, weighted tension I felt always led me to reflect on how I was using my time. The common challenge I encountered week after week was navigating how to live missionally for God as a student-athlete, while balancing the rhythm and responsibilities of everyday life.
Here are some things I learned to incorporate into my life as I sought to make the most of where I was for God’s Kingdom.
Be bold in communicating the Gospel
Sharing the Gospel can be scary because we don’t want to mess up, offend someone, or ruin a relationship. Though these are normal hesitations, they are only a result of our limitation to see the work that God wants to do through us.
Remember that God has not given you spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7)! If we are faithful to his calling to spread his good news, He’s going to work through us, no question. Each Gospel encounter may not always seem “successful” and it will likely be awkward, however, you never know the influence you may have down the road on someone’s spiritual journey.
Practice communicating the Gospel with friends, set goals to be intentional, and invite others to hold you accountable. Be encouraged and motivated by the potential to make an eternal impact on your teammates’ lives.
Pray for your teammates
Praying for your teammates is loving your teammates. The first step to sharing the Gospel is always prayer.
Here are some suggestions to consistently and effectively pray for your teammates.
- Ask your teammates how you can pray for them.
- Use notecards to track prayer requests or life events that need prayer.
- Pray through a passage of scripture on behalf of a teammate
- Spend five minutes praying for one or a few teammates each day.
Know the Bible
It’s daunting, but the more time you spend in scripture, the more familiar it becomes. And it’s true that knowing God is just like knowing anyone else. What better way to invest in your relationship with Him than by reading the words He has given us!
God says in Hebrews 8:10: “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”. As you spend more and more time in God’s Word, his mission will also be written on your heart.
Show Grace to Yourself
The reality is that living on purpose/making the most of your time is never going to be perfect. There were many of the Sunday nights during my college years when I felt like my focus had completely strayed from living purposefully or that a lot of my decisions had led to wasted time.
Ephesians 3:20 is a huge encouragement, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."
Ask good questions, maintain eye contact, and be present in conversation. It’s a simple, yet powerful skill that but can be challenging in a culture that is all too fast-paced, loud and impatient. James 1:19 says “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Practicing this requires patience, self-control, and intentionality.
In a world where everything is instant, listening well opens opportunities for deepened trust and richer conversation between teammates, friends, and loved ones.
Spend less time on social media
I’m just as prone to get lost on Instagram as the next person, but it can be freeing to not know what all of your friends are doing 24/7. As an athlete, you are in a pivotal point in your life during which you make many decisions about how you manage your time.
Intentionally set boundaries that will help you not get sucked into wasting idle time investing in others’ lives instead of your own. Pick the social media platform you are most tempted to waste time on, and say goodbye to it for a set amount of time. Invite a trusted friend into your journey for accountability if you can’t handle the temptation of your phone.
It’s far more difficult to hear God’s voice and sense His direction when we are clouded by the whereabouts and the highlight reels of our “friends”. Whether or not this is a big sacrifice for you, evaluate how you are using social media and how it makes you feel. Do you post a lot of selfies? Does bitterness bubble up in your heart at the sight of others’ postings?
Invite God into that aspect of your life and ask Him to help you glorify him through this platform.
Read a book
Not for school, for fun! Even if you think you don’t have time, use your weekend or morning off of practice to read, even if it’s a few pages worth. There are a lot of smart people who write about two topics you may be interested in: Jesus and sports. Grasp a bigger picture of the Gospel, gain wisdom, and hear how God has changed lives beyond your immediate community.
For a list of sport-related book recommendations, check this out.
Go on a summer opportunity with AIA
Attend UTC, go on a sports tour or project with AIA! These opportunities are unique and you won’t find many like them outside of your collegiate years. If you want to meet other cool people who love Jesus and go deeper with how the Gospel fits into your sport, GO! It is well worth the cost of your time, money and energy.
Through attending Boston Project in 2015, I learned the value of being known and knowing others as a significant aspect of living out the Gospel. A summer opportunity with AIA can serve as a catalyst in helping you make the most of your ministry as a student-athlete, as well as assist you in your confidence about owning and sharing your faith.
You Got This
Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, God wants to use you to be affect what heaven looks like. He’s empowered you with His Spirit to do good works that will bless others and bring glory to His kingdom. You don’t need a special formula, “more experience”, or the label of full-time ministry to make a difference.
As you step out in faith and choose trust over fear, prepare to see God show up in some amazing ways. Living missionally is uncomfortable, but it’s worth it.