Baylor chaplain John Maurer seeks to transform student-athletes

Baylor Chaplain John Maurer. (Photo courtesy of the Faith and Sports Institute)

The Faith & Sports Institute (FSI) at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary was publicly launched in 2021. It is a place where Christian sports leaders are nurtured and equipped through theological education, compelling research, and training. practice.

One of FSI’s supporters and collaborators is John Maurer, who has served as director of sports ministry for Baylor Athletics since 2018. FSI recently spoke with Maurer to discuss his journey in sports ministry and theological education , and why he thinks Baylor is a special place. for these two passions.

How did sports ministry become a vocation for you?

The seeds probably started in high school in Cleveland, Ohio, when friends from my football team dragged me to a youth group meeting. This is where I really learned what it means to know Jesus on a personal level. When I went to the University of Dayton to play football in the 1980s, I met a leader from Campus Crusade (now Cru) who trained me and my teammates and helped us grow.

This leader gave me the idea that I could do the ministry of sports. He basically told me that the things I was already doing—leading a Bible study, serving my teammates—were things I could do as a Campus Crusade athletic ministry staff member, Athletes in Action.

So that’s what I did. I graduated from Dayton in 1987 and joined the AIA team. I married my wife, Missy, shortly after, and she’s been with me ever since. We’ve had plenty of stops along the way, administering sports programs at Miami of Ohio and Rutgers, serving as a chaplain for the Chicago Bears, and spending a few years abroad in Kazakhstan.

But 35 years later, I’m still there, doing sports ministry, just in a different context now at Baylor.

Along the way, you became interested in theological education, earning a master’s degree in theology from a seminary in Chicago and now pursuing a Doctor of Ministry program at Truett Seminary. What sparked your interest?

When I started the ministry, I thought seminary was just for pastors. But over the next two years, I began to feel the need to grow intellectually, to learn the Bible, to learn to think theologically about everything in life and ministry.

That’s why I ended up doing an M.Div. in the early 1990s. My thought was never to have something that I could hang on the wall and say to people, “Call me Dr. Maurer.” For me it is about increasing in depth and knowledge, loving God with my heart, soul, mind and strength. It’s about being a continuous learner, always stretching and growing.

That’s why I started the D.Min. program at Truett a few years ago. I’m finishing my classes right now, and on the horizon is this thesis project which is really the focus of the degree. For this, I will essentially take a look at my life’s work – the discipleship of college student-athletes – and dive deep into the sports culture in which they were trained. What is it about this sports culture that actually helps Jesus’ disciples walk in his way and replicate it in others? What is it about this culture that impedes the process?

We will develop a curriculum, then design a research intervention and collect data to see if the elements we are putting in place actually move the needle in terms of helping the spiritual formation of student-athletes.

I know I don’t have a writing career ahead of me, but I feel like I have over 30 years of sports ministry experience to give, God willing, to the next generation. . Wouldn’t it be cool if this project could become something fruitful and usable, not just here at Baylor, but for other people working at the Department of Sports?

How does Baylor connect to your vision for the Ministry of Sports?

Our President, Dr. Linda Livingstone, explains how much the world needs a Baylor. I really think that’s true. It is a unique place, with the elite sporting level, academic orientation and Christian mission.

For me, the Ministry of Sports is a key part of this vision. We have this incredible opportunity within the Baylor Sports Ministry to impact the lives of our student-athletes, coaches and staff and see them transformed and then ultimately sent out into the world to impact people in and through sport, and probably in thousands of other ways, too.

And we also have these great resources. We have the Baylor Built program in athletics. We also have you at the Faith and Sports Institute, developing resources and training graduate students who can gain hands-on ministry experience with us, serving our student-athletes.

The goal is not just to meet spiritual needs. It is also to help those who already know Christ to embrace this larger vision of life and ministry in and through sport. Not just while they’re here, but as they leave and go in a whole lot of different directions – we want them to impact the Kingdom wherever they are.

If someone involved in sports asked you for advice on attending the seminar, what would you say?

I truly believe that a theological education is absolutely necessary to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Learning the Bible, learning to think theologically, learning to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength – this is necessary for every follower of Christ

Now, this education can take various forms. It will not always be a seminar. But the cool thing is that in today’s world, there are many accessible and flexible options for people interested in formal theological training. So if anyone asked me, I would encourage them to discern like they do anything else: Seek the Lord, seek God’s guidance, gather information. God will make it clear if this is something He would have you do based on your calling and the direction of your life.

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If you want to learn and grow with Faith & Sports Institute, visit our website to learn about our graduate programs, our online certificate program, and more.

—Paul Putz
Faith & Sports Institute, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

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