Last week, I was away with a group of students headed up to Durham University as Freshers. As part of the weekend, a panel of students took questions about aspects of university life. A question was asked about how Christians should engage in sports team initiations. Here’s some of the wise advice that was given.
1. You don’t have to do anything. Many Christians would feel rightly uncomfortable about some aspects of some sports initiations – particularly involving drunkenness or taking off clothing. Team secretaries cannot ultimately require team members to do anything. You always have the right to say no – and in doing so, you may be a blessing to others who feel similarly uncomfortable, Christians or otherwise.
2. Not all sports initiations are the same. Some are pretty raucous, but the majority are much tamer. Often stories are exaggerated. One student spoke about how the initiation he was involved with for the darts team involved merely playing darts in a pub. (I’m pretty sure that when I was on the Bristol University archery team it was something similar!). Ask the social secretary in advance as to the sorts of activities that will take place.
3. Decide your limits in advance – ideally with input from other Christians. Think ahead to the sorts of activities you will decline to involve yourself in. Some Christians have a teetotal policy during Freshers’ Week or sports initiations, others handle it differently. But by thinking through your limits in advance, you’re more likely to make a wise decision when it comes (even if accompanied by peer pressure).
4. Remember what sports initiations are all about. Effectively the team captain and social secretary will have arranged the evening in order that the team can bond together. Go in with this aim – to help the team bond. If you show that you truly are a team player, and that you’re concerned to get on well with others on the team, you’re less likely to be singled out as a prude or a killjoy. Do the same activities as everyone else, but perhaps drink milk instead. And pray that you can play your part in helping your team bond!
5. Be willing to suffer for the gospel. One student told of how a Christian friend of his refused to drink a strong alcoholic mix of drinks, but keen to do his part for team bonding, instead preferred to drink a vile concoction that the team put together. He was ill for two days afterwards. Team mate after team mate asked why he didn’t just drink the alcoholic mix – and he had great opportunities to start his time in the team as a distinct Christian. Suffering for Christ prompts others to ask of the reason for the hope we have: that includes in the arena of sports initiations.
There’s more from Christians in Sport here.