what it’s like being a team chaplain

The latest issue of ESPN The Magazine includes an interesting article about team chaplains in professional sports. The Mag talked to Anthony Johnson, former NFL player and current chaplain for the Jacksonville Jaguars, about what it’s like being a pastoral figure to millionaire athletes. Here is a bit of what he shared.


On his theological approach to the job,

“My focus is biblical, but I make it inclusive. No matter what a player’s faith, I’ll talk to him. And I’m not afraid to engage with players who are atheist or agnostic. Those can be great talks, too.”

On what it takes to get the job,

“Each team has a chaplain. A degree, but not seminary, is required to land the job.”

On what he actually does,

“We hold chapel during camp and the night before a game; as many as 35 players attend. We’re also available for pastoral care—baptisms, wedding preparations, deaths—and we lead a variety of Bible studies.”

On counseling players through tough life stuff,

“A lot of what I do is one-on-one counseling. Most questions are about juggling life as a Christian and as a player, but we talk about anything. One guy recently asked about how to resolve conflicts in his marriage. I wouldn’t say infidelity comes up a lot, but enough. These young men may wind up in situations deemed illegal or inappropriate. I try to help them understand how that would affect them and their loved ones.”

On whether God cares about wins and losses,

“I don’t discourage players from praying for wins. But I do stress that if God doesn’t answer that prayer, it doesn’t say anything about His purpose for the guy.”


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