by Jared Hines
Contributing Sports Writer
About 20 chairs in the shape of an oval filled a conference room in the new third wing of Rogers High School on Sep. 19.
The seats were set up for the first Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) meeting of the year with senior leaders directing the traffic into the conference room and providing treats such as cookies and chips. A couple students entered nervously and made their way to the back of the room, not sure really what to expect. Soon, dozens of others did the same, as the conference room turned from a small group circle to a room full of 60+ students ready to hear about their faith.
“Coming together with people that have the same thing in common is always great but it makes it so special when its about two things I love” said senior leader Ashley Huettl. “Sports and God. I think it’s important to express and give credit to who really gave us our talents.”
FCA huddles have been around for many years, with the Rogers chapter beginning in 2011. Since then, the meetings have moved from the basements of members’ houses to the conference room of the high school to accommodate space. Led by RHS teachers John Kapsner and Tim Nelson, FCA shows how God and athletes are tied together.
“It is a different place than just a normal youth group because we get to see some teachers and fellow students from all branches of Christianity,” three-year member and senior leader Tanner Palm said. “We also get to relate our shared faith through athletics which church groups don’t do. It personally is two of my biggest passions and I know it is for others so to combine them makes us grow in faith.”
Everything about the first FCA meeting of the year was welcoming for underclassman and new members who didn’t know what to expect when they walked in. Along with the free food, senior leaders welcomed the students in and had them answer the question of “what is your favorite thing about the school year?” on the whiteboard before sitting down.
After everyone is settled, the senior leaders went around and introduced themselves. Besides Huettl and Palm, the senior leadership team is made up of Collin Franz, Tate Nelson, Megan Secrist, Abbie Ellis, Kyle Kornovich and Haylee Fingalsen. The group of eight attended leadership training at Northwestern College over the summer where they learned about the theme for the year; Rise.
“With it being my last year I really want to leave a lasting impression,” Fingalsen said. “I want people to understand that God is bigger than any problem you will ever encounter in life.”
The meetings start with a weekly sports report, where any player—varsity or JV, sophomore or freshman—can share about how their team is doing. It keeps the students engaged in what is going on around the school and what other events their friends are participating in with in the little free time that high school students have these days.
Led by two teachers who have been around FCA for years, the meetings are run smoothly, with Nelson and Kapsner guiding the discussions along on a weekly basis. Nelson and his wife helped launch FCA chapters around the area over the last handful of years, while Kapsner has been involved since 1985 at Wayzata High School. Eight years later he joined as an adult leader and has continued conversing with kids each year since then.
“My faith has always been super important to me and at my church I didn’t have a core group of people to connect with,” Secrist said. “At FCA, I already know these people and to connect school, sports, and faith, you can get so much more out of life and relationships.”
The numbers have tripled in the past couple years for FCA programs, not just locally, but nationally as well. People have continued to try to pinpoint the exact reason as to why, but to no avail. Students continue to just love that safe space to talk about God and sports together.
“To me, FCA is an opportunity to share God’s love and a chance to help shape our future into the creation he meant for it to be,” Franz said. “It’s a place to decompress and relax during our busy sports schedule.
While members of Rogers FCA announced that you didn’t have to be an athlete to join the meetings and talk about God, almost all the members are in one sense of the word, an athlete of some sort, whether it’s a traditional sport or not.
Each week provides a different mini-theme that relates to the “Rise” campaign that FCA chapters are teaching in 2016-17. The first lesson of the year for Rogers was about worry, where senior leaders read a line from Philippians (4:6-7), and discussed how it can relate to them both on and off the field
“I want FCA to be a place where people are safe,” Ellis said. “I’m excited to see FCA develop.”
Membership of the program is never as high as the first day, but Kornovich and Co. continue to attempt to bring back familiar faces back to their weekly Monday evening meetings. Some come because their friends are going, and some enjoy the one time of the week where it’s acceptable to speak about your faith within the four walls of a school building. Regardless on why they are coming, the fact that membership continues to rise makes the senior leaders happy.
“I’m excited to get everyone else as excited for FCA as us leaders are,” Secrist said. “We truly love it and I hope everyone else falls in love with it and can feel comfortable and welcomed.”