A look into an organization that is changing lives
As the clock ticks near 8 p.m. on Monday nights, a room within the Judy Rose Athletic Center fills with the sound of excited chatter. The room becomes silent as the lights dim and faint strums of a guitar are heard. For 45 minutes each week, a group of Charlotte students pause their school lives, take a break from working out and plug into the gospel.
Fellowship of Christian Athletes, or FCA as it’s more commonly known, has taken the Charlotte campus by storm. After starting with four members meeting outside of Prospector in 2012, the meetings quickly grew as each of the four members would bring friends back each week. After a few months of the makeshift meetings, FCA had its first official meeting with 30 students in attendance. The group now has anywhere from 60-90 people showing up for services on Monday nights. At Winter Blast this past December, an annual FCA retreat, the group took 75 students – more than any other school in the Carolina’s.
Ryan Gloer first joined FCA when he was 19 years old and playing football at Shorter University. After college he started working full time with FCA and eventually felt the calling to serve on a collegiate level. Months of praying landed Gloer and his wife in the Queen City with the task of starting an FCA chapter on the campus of Charlotte.
“FCA means more to me than I will ever be able to put into words. It is the avenue that God used to change my life when I was a college athlete. My college football coach introduced me to the organization — and it changed the trajectory of my life,” Gloer said.
The multitude of student-athletes that are a part of FCA all have various avenues that brought them to organization. The majority of them, however, all begin the same: a fellow teammate or friend invited them come a Monday meeting.
“There is a generation of leaders who are genuinely multiplying themselves— leaders who are coming alongside their teammates and challenging them to grow in their faith and sport, taking them to the next level both physically and spiritually,” Gloer said.
Within the FCA family there are representatives from almost every sports team on campus, creating a greater sense of community within the athletic family. Ashleigh Handchen became a believer with the help of FCA. The company offered by the group was truly an answered prayer for the runner.
“The first thing I prayed about when I came to know Christ was for community. We’re not called to do this alone. We’re called to be in a community: to pray for each other, to hold each other accountable and to call each other out if we’re falling away,” Handchen said.
Sophomore football player Ben Jacques also values the group of people that make up FCA.
“There are always people around who are just excited to pour into you and to help you grow. People who may be more mature than you or maybe at the same level as you, but you can always go to them for community. That’s been huge for me, personally, to just have that accountability and having people pouring into me to help me grow,” Jacques said.
With the setting of college, there are multiple groups one can plug into. Jeff Gemmell sees the benefits of becoming involved with FCA and the friends that come with the group.
“You are who you hang out with, whether you like that or not. Coming to FCA and being around a group of people who share the same beliefs as you and are chasing a common goal, it’s really encouraging,” Gemmell said.
A big appeal to the group is the sense of belonging and accountability that members hold for their teammates.
“I love that all of the teams on campus can come here and feel like they have a safe place,” Darren Drake said.
Through the various outlets offered by FCA, many athletes have been able to know Christ. This has become an aid when injury strikes.
“A lot of my growing up spiritually was my injury. I had to balance, which not many people go through, an injury in which I had to quit my sport,” Isabella Osborne said. “I had to take a summer to really pray and get into the word and talk to people older than me that have wisdom to figure out that soccer wasn’t in my plan and I had to let that go. That was hard for me. I know that there is a reason why I’m here. If athletics hadn’t brought me to Charlotte I wouldn’t have been saved, I wouldn’t have gone through what I went through and I wouldn’t be here. So athlete to non-athlete, but still a daughter of Christ.”
After a concussion sidelined Abby Coffey, she found a new purpose within her team.
“Now I’m at this level of peace where I know that I am not on my team to play soccer. My purpose is not to play soccer. My purpose is to be on the soccer team and to reach new people and develop relationship and pour into my non-believing teammates. From transitioning from that winter retreat to current day, it’s been an amazing opportunity to find this new sense of identity that a lot of people don’t have,” Coffey said.
While there is love for FCA, all in attendance on Monday nights know there is a much greater purpose than to socialize.
“It’s not FCA that’s so great, it’s the God we serve. Through FCA, we get an opportunity to serve and to reach out to people. It’s a good doorway to share the gospel with them,” Gemmell said.
Though the name can be deceiving, FCA isn’t restricted solely those who play a sport at Charlotte. Any student, whether a mathlete or an athlete, is welcome. Main meetings are Monday at 7:49 p.m. in the Judy Rose Athletic Center.