Baylor University Launches Faith & Sports Institute to Develop Leaders in Sports and Ministry
Providing Christian sports leaders with research and training can renew ‘the true beauty of sport’ amid challenges, institute director says
WACO, Texas (March 16, 2021) — Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary has announced the official launch of the Faith & Sports Institute (FSI), a distinctive center for the comprehensive study and practice of sports and Christianity. The announcement follows 10 years of progress in developing leaders in sports ministry.
Housed at Truett Seminary, the new institute is led by John B. White, Ph.D., The Harold and Dottie Riley Associate Professor of Practical Theology, and Cindy White, adjunct professor of sports chaplaincy.
“From ancient times, people have been irresistibly drawn to sports,” White said. “There’s genuine beauty in sports and in the athletes who compete. But at the same time, there are huge challenges today — identity, idolatry, cheating, racism, abuse, mental health. Our vision is to provide Christian sports leaders with tools, research and training that reveal and recover the true beauty of sport. We believe FSI can be a catalyst for change with the potential for international impact.”
FSI fosters the thoughtful integration of faith and sports through four primary initiatives: a graduate degree program, an online certificate program, a high school retreat and the development of research and resources.
The foundation for FSI, Truett Seminary’s sports ministry graduate program, was established in 2011. Through the program, students may pursue a master of divinity (M.Div.) degree or master of arts degree in Christian ministry (M.A.C.M.) with a concentration in sports ministry.
In 2016, Truett was awarded a $600,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Youth Theology Network to create a retreat for high school student athletes. The seven-day FSI Retreat engages young men and women to become strong leaders in sports, church and their everyday life.
The FSI Online Certificate Program, which launched in 2020, builds on the work of the graduate program and the FSI Retreat by providing busy Christian leaders in sports an opportunity to process and explore critical issues in sports from an informed Christian perspective. Courses in this non-credit professional development and continuing education program cover topics including theology, leadership, mental health, race and biblical interpretation.
Undergirding each of these initiatives, FSI’s scholars and interdisciplinary network of collaborators take on significant questions in alignment with Illuminate, Baylor’s strategic plan, providing research within a Christian environment to advance the understanding of athletics and contribute to human flourishing in the world of sports.
“One might wonder if it is possible to think Christianly about sports,” said Todd D. Still, Ph.D., The Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran DeLancey Dean and The William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures at Truett Seminary. “The Faith & Sports Institute at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary exists to demonstrate that it is not only possible but that it also important and even necessary. Working at the intersections of theology and ministry, the academy and society, FSI stands at the vanguard and serves as a resource for those who would seek to please God through the way they approach and engage in play.”
Along with John and Cindy White, the FSI staff is composed of scholars and practitioners with demonstrated expertise in sports and theology. The Institute also is supported by an advisory team that includes Gene Habecker (former president, Taylor University), Frank Reich (head coach, Indianapolis Colts), Rachael Denhollander (author, attorney and advocate), the Rev. John Vaughn (executive pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church), Navid Mahooti (sports physician, Gordon College Athletics), Marcus Sedberry (senior associate athletic director, Baylor University), Lisa Fenn (author and former ESPN sports producer), Tracy Hanson (professional golfer and sports ministry leader), Sam Starling (founder and owner, JetPro), Deanna Starling (director of marketing & research, JetPro) and Corinne Pence (nonprofit business strategist).
“I believe that FSI is ideally poised to have a remarkable impact in the world of sport,” said Habecker, chair of the FSI advisory team. “This incredibly talented group of men and women is bringing forward research-based practical application of Christian convictions to some of today’s most challenging issues surrounding sports. It’s both exciting and humbling to see the vision.”
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 19,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT GEORGE W. TRUETT THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary is an orthodox, evangelical school in the historic Baptist tradition that equips God-called people for gospel ministry in and alongside Christ’s Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, Truett Seminary provides theological education leading to the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Master of Theological Studies, Doctor of Ministry and Ph.D. in Preaching. The M.Div., M.A.C.M. and M.T.S. degrees also can be completed at the seminary’s Houston campus. In addition, Truett Seminary offers joint degrees: M.Div./M.S.W. and M.T.S./M.S.W. with the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, M.Div./M.B.A. with the Hankamer School of Business, M.Div./J.D. with Baylor Law School, M.Div./M.M. with the School of Music and M.Div./M.S.Ed. or M.Div./M.A. with the School of Education. Visit baylor.edu/truett to learn more.