Several Phoenix athletes are members of Campus Outreach, a national collegiate ministry that serves university communities. According to baseball player junior Niko Fraser, the group brings the meaning of Christianity to campus.
“I think all the athletes that are involved in Campus Outreach are there because athletes are attracted to each other, but I think it’s the messages taught there that draw these types of people together,” Fraser said.
Fraser serves as a Campus Outreach student leader, leading a Bible study and weekly youth group. Through his service, he brought members of the baseball team to the organization, and built relationships with other teams and students.
Junior offensive lineman Gavin Billings said he came to Christ during New Year’s of 2010, along with Fraser and other Phoenix athletes. According to Artie Van Sciver, campus director for Campus Outreach, this sort of bond is not uncommon.
“The initial entryway is through these relationships. I can definitely say that about the athletes that are involved now,” Van Sciver said. “They got connected through people on their teams, or from another student on campus, and they share that with the people they know.”
These relationships often bridge other universities and athletic teams. Tim Garber, a junior and former cross country runner, found the group through his sister, a runner at UNC Greensboro.
“At Summer Beach Project, a Campus Outreach training program, she had met a couple of the Elon guys,” Garber said. “When my sister introduced me to the Campus Outreach guys at a football game I was tied in immediately.”
To the members of Campus Outreach, the immediate connection between athletes and Christians just makes sense.
“Athletes are programmed to work hard and oftentimes, Christ seems like something to live up to,” Billings said. “Campus Outreach allows athletes to experience that.”
Phoenix players who found Christ through Campus Outreach said they transfer their beliefs to the team.
“I learned a lot of humbling truths as I grew closer to my teammates and coach,” Garber said. “It allowed me to grow close relationships with my friends on the team and to learn how to incorporate the Gospel into every aspect of my life, whether it be running, hanging out with the team or even relating to somebody’s problems.”
This ability to live in Christ is what Van Sciver believes to be the greatest gift. In his position at Elon, he watches students learn what it means to be faithful.
“We were created to glorify God,” he said. “As we do what we we’re created to do, we experience life to the fullest. So really, the reward for me is getting to see that convergence take place.”
Van Sciver encourages members of Campus Outreach to ask what they can do to make God look good. For athletes, this becomes an integral part of their sport.
“I saw my time as an athlete at Elon in a completely different light,” Garber said. “No longer was I running for my glory or to see my name up in lights, but I wanted to use my ability to glorify Him most and spread the Gospel to my fellow teammates who did not know Him yet.”
According to Fraser, interacting with teammates in this way has fostered valuable relationships.
“It’s great that it’s another venue for a group of friends,” he said. “It’s really cool to have my baseball friends and Campus Outreach friends. I’m living with guys from Campus Outreach near guys from the baseball team. It’s a good balance.”
With this balance, the national conversation about God in sports comes back to Elon.
“I think about Tim Tebow, does it affect his performance on the field?” Van Sciver said. “I don’t know, but I think it definitely affects how he plays football, and how he sees football, how he prepares and what he says when he’s interviewed. It’s part of everything he does.”