Aussie sport teams ‘screaming out’ for pastoral care
West Coast Eagles chaplain says the greatest need is at the grassroots
Sports chaplaincy is the most exciting ministry in Australia, says Paul “Morro” Morrison, chaplain for the West Coast Eagles.
“If you were in a business that had that level of demand, you would think ‘I’m about to become the richest man on the planet’ because every sporting association we meet with – West Australian, over east, football, amateur football – all want chaplains in their clubs,” Morro told Eternity during a break in his busy schedule.
“It’s about saying ‘how can we love and serve you?’” – Paul ‘Morro’ Morrison
“The churches are slow – they’re missing an opportunity. There are over 76,000 sporting clubs in Australia; there’s currently about 750 sports chaplains and I reckon, of the 76,000, I could easily say 8000 of those would have a chaplain tomorrow – if we could supply one.”
Also a musician and breakfast radio host in Perth, Morro has served as chaplain for the West Coast Eagles AFL Club for ten years. He gives about 14 hours a week of his time on a voluntary basis. Morro says he operates on the principle of being pastorally proactive but spiritually reactive.
“Being pastorally proactive means you’re looking for people that are going through difficult times that need care, that need support, they need love, they need someone to talk to – maybe you can connect them with someone,” he said.
“So I’m on the front foot all the time pastorally, but spiritually reactive means if you intend anything spiritual it’s in response to where people lead you – not the other way round – because everyone’s worried that you’re going to proselytise [attempt to convert someone to a religion].
“The undergirding belief is that people are made in the image of God and they matter, regardless of their beliefs,” continues Morro.
“Scripture says God loved us and while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us – Romans 5 – so it’s not about going in and [Bible] bashing people; it’s about saying ‘how can we love and serve you?’”
“Local clubs are crying out for sports chaplains.” – Paul ‘Morro’ Morrison
Morro says he is trying to get the message out to those attending a local church who love sport and love God, that the opportunity to serve is right on their doorstep.
“Local clubs are crying out for sports chaplains,” the West Coast Eagles chaplain explains. “Over in Victoria they reckon they are losing football coaches and volunteers because they want to coach football but they can’t handle the fact that little Johnny’s mum and dad have split up, or big brother has just got out of jail on drugs charges.
“There’s all these pastoral issues that a volunteer football coach didn’t sign up for – it’s too much pressure. ‘Give us a chaplain, give us someone who has the time and the love to walk through [this]’ – and I go ‘man, they’re screaming out for the churches to come and love people.’”
Morro says churches need to recognise that we are living in a “post-church community” and shift their attention from the current model of seeking volunteers for church on the weekend.
“There is opportunity out there for people to serve in this capacity. It’s so exciting because it puts the word of God in that space,” he says.