Kiwis are helping develop Sports Chaplaincy ministry in France.
Matt Gwynne, from Blenheim, now lives in Biarritz, on the south-west coast of France. He has been there for five years, while working for Youth with a Mission (YWAM).
‘A significant part of my vision in coming was to help train and disciple Sports Chaplains to provide services for professional rugby clubs in France,’ Matt says. He works with several players as a ‘sports mentor chaplain’. As he does this, he is building relationships with local clubs and groups such as Pacific Rugby Players Welfare.
When in New Zealand, Matt was involved with Athletes in Action, and helped recruit chaplains for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Training for Sports Chaplaincy in France
Now Matt is part of with Holistic Sports, which was set up earlier this year to promote Sports Chaplaincy in France. Holistic Sports ran their first training for Sports Chaplains in September. The three people who lead this were all trained by New Zealanders Ross Georgiou and Matt Hawkins in Switzerland in February. Ross, currently living in Germany, is on the board of Sports Chaplaincy NZ, and was our founding National Director. He also ran Sports Chaplaincy training at the Christian Surfers International Gathering in France later that month. Matt Hawkins is Training Director for SCNZ.
Eleven people took part in the Holistic Sports chaplaincy training. This included coaches, former professional players, journalists, students, health professionals, teachers as well as missionaries. They represented the sports of golf, football, ice hockey, basketball, tae kwon do, snowboarding, tennis and rugby.
The topics covered included:
- understanding the sports world and its culture;
- God’s plan for sport;
- issues for sportspeople: adrenaline, pressure, injury and addictions;
- the history of chaplaincy internationally and in France;
- values of chaplaincy;
- different models and profiles of chaplaincy;
- chaplaincy in a club context in France;
- chaplaincy at major sports events.
The training also featured stories from Sports Chaplains and former professional players.
‘Sports Chaplaincy is a very new concept here in France, but it seems to slowly be gaining traction,’ Matt explains. ‘Rugby, I think, will be a slightly softer ground to sow in. This is partially due to the large foreign, and particularly Polynesian and South African, population in each team. So it’s exciting times!’
Matt is also part of a team creating a Sports Chaplaincy degree track through the University of the Nations.