Sports Chaplaincy Australia
For 35 years Sports Chaplaincy Australia (SCA) has been connecting the Christian community with one of the central gathering and formation places of community in Australia – sports clubs.
For many years SCA focused on elite sport and provided chaplains to the leading sporting codes. In the last 5-10 years this focus has expanded to community sport. SCA provides chaplains for two purposes: one on one pastoral care to a sports club and critical incident response for a trauma event. Once the chaplain-sports club relationship is formed, chaplains are regularly present at club activities and build trust by consistently offering pastoral care focused support.
In 2020, SCA completed a VFFF funded pilot project in junior netball in north western Sydney. This grant led to 17 new chaplains in junior sports, six new partner churches and new relationships with sports associations.
The success of this pilot informed the development of a NSW chaplaincy hub model, a partnership between SCA, churches and local sport clubs. VFFF is seed funding these chaplaincy hubs in NSW over a three year period, by funding regional coordinators.
These roles work with local churches by engaging them in the model, assisting their connection with local junior sports communities and accrediting, resourcing, and guiding their chaplains. VFFF’s seed funding role seeks to provide SCA with sufficient time to further develop relationships with grassroots sporting CEO’s, heads of church denominations and corporate sponsors. It also provides them with the staff and resources to do this.
In considering this grant, VFFF consulted with a number of sports representatives who clearly demonstrated the strong demand for more chaplaincy support in junior sport and their confidence in SCA to deliver this. Each representative had called on SCA to support their work in junior sports, both in times of crisis incidents and in the provision of general pastoral care. They talked about the value adding role of pastoral care for young people and that they have witnessed first-hand how SCA chaplains carefully and thoughtfully build connections with families.
To date, the churches have been eager to meet the needs of their local sporting communities and the growth of chaplaincy opportunities in junior community sport is positively impacting more people than SCA could ever access via elite sport. Responses to critical incidents in junior sport have allowed SCA to give support to thousands of young people within the junior ranks of netball, rugby, soccer and basketball.