“To change lives” is why self-proclaimed “kingdom player” Robert Green has committed to being the Ocoee Region area director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
Since 1954 the FCA has been challenging coaches and athletes and touching millions of lives through youth sport activities.
As a high school tennis player with aspirations to play at the pro level, Green was positively influenced by the FCA. He saw first hand how FCA, the largest trans-denominational school-based organization in America, empowered and encouraged people to make commitments to “finish strong” with Christ.
One year as a teenager in a little Baptist church in Glen St. Mary, Fla., his life was changed two days before Christmas. He began a journey of discovering the joy of knowing Christ.
“From that moment on, God repaired a broken relationship with my dad and started me on the right path of redirected my life,” Green said. “When I turned down some scholarships because I couldn’t reconcile my behavior on the court with my newfound faith and what was happening in my life with Christ, my mom and stepdad were not pleased.”
A pivotal crisis moment was staring Green head-on. He could continue with the way things were or he could put his trust in Christ. Making things more difficult for Green was finding out his parents would not pay for him to attend a Bible college because, to them he was just “going through a phase.”
“After seeing the U.S. Army’s ‘Be all that you can be’ commercial at the optimal time, I joined the military to get the educational benefits.”
When speaking about his time in the military Green doesn’t expound too much on his notable achievements which earned him a position with the U.S. Army Special Forces as a Green Beret, but gleams with joy when he talks about being able to lead 40 guys he served with to Christ.
Shortly after leaving the military he met his wife, Teresa. Together they started in the ministry where Green became an evangelist for the Church of God.
Their journey brought them to Cleveland when he received a call to fulfill the role as student pastor at Westmore Church of God. Relocating to Cleveland is something he considers a double blessing because he was able to complete his education at Lee University while serving 12 years at Westmore.
As a Christ crusader Green believes in being active in the community. He made Cleveland a home for his wife and two daughters, Mariah and Sierra, and began volunteering with the juvenile court system, where he led a chaplaincy program and served as the chaplain for the Cleveland Fire Department.
When the doors opened up for FCA he had his family sit in on the meeting to see what the position of area director serving Bradley, McMinn, Meigs and Polk counties would require. After praying about it as a family Green accepted the position.
“We feel God has called us to FCA for ministry in this four-county region to focus on presenting athletes and coaches, and those they influence, the challenge of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
“The Church of God denomination has foresight and encourages — even assists me — with reaching others with out-of-the-box type ministry,” said Green.
Green decided to begin his new role with FCA by modeling for youth pastors what it looks like to be a chaplain to an athletic team.
“Rather than asking churches for money I decided to sow into their youth pastors and give them a platform for ministry, and train them in chaplaincy work and character coaching, which FCA does around the country. I told them to pastor more than just your local kids — to pastor the community.”
Two Rev. Billy Graham quotes Green centers his FCA ministry around are, “The local coach is doing more to influence and shape lives of teenagers than the local pastor” and “A coach will impact more lives in one year than most will in a lifetime.”
Believing coaches are pivotal figures in young people’s lives, Green has set out to provide strength to the coaching staff and support for their marriages and their families.
“If you have good, strong legacy coaches it makes a difference,” said Green.
He has been trying to convince youth pastors and leaders to get out there and impact these coach’s lives because the trickle effect will positively affect the athletes.
On the Cleveland High School campus Green is a familiar face. Being on the sidelines at sporting events, conducting coaches’ Bible Study on a weekly basis and handing out popsicles after a hot football practice in 100 degree weather has made him someone coaches and students have come to trust and rely on.
“On the Cleveland campus — not because of me but because God is working in lives — coaches have started serving as huddle leaders,” Green said. “Coach E.K. Slaughter is the first football coach we have ever had as a huddle leader.”
According to Slaughter, Green’s presence on the school campus has made them better coaches, better husbands and better fathers.
“I was doing a coaches’ Bible study every week sowing into their lives. Our relationships are deepening. One Cleveland coach told me if he won every game (but) lost his wife, it wouldn’t be right.”
“Another coach, with tobacco on one side of his mouth, threw his arm around me and asked me to walk with him.”
Green said he will never forget the day this coach told him his wife was about to leave him — especially since this particular coach had been a little standoffish.
“He said he had heard how God restored my marriage and he needed some help with his,” Green said. “What the enemy tried to destroy me with I am able to take and use it to help others.”
Under Green’s direction, all the coaches have gone through the “Love Dare Challenge” and understand there is more than just going out and serving on the field.
Being there on a regular basis, students have developed a relationship with Green, making it easy to confide in him.
“Kids ask me to pray for them and with them and I have over 40 letters from players already this year. What God is doing on Cleveland High’s campus is going on at Meigs, Polk and McMinn too.”
A few weeks ago, a football player was sitting in detention when Green walked through. He motioned for him to come get the note in his hand. In the note he expressed gratitude for how much Green has meant to him and how his life has changed. In his 11th-grade handwriting he quoted Psalms 119: 103; “Your word is sweeter than honey to my lips.”
“He said he wouldn’t remember the Friday night games 10 years from now but he would never forget their talks,” said Green. That makes everything worth it.”
One of the talks the student-athlete is referring to is the one about “Cheerios” which Green developed a week’s worth of devotions on and of which he said they really seemed to “get it.”
“It was about the unbroken circle, about the marriage covenant and the power of the “O” [offensive] line.
Green brought a box of Cheerios cereal to a pregame devotional. The youthful faces followed him around the room as he told them they would her people cheering at the game but it would be nothing compared to the cheering they would hear in heaven.
“I shared with them the only thing that causes heaven to cheer is when one person comes to Christ and that each of them have the opportunity to hear some real cheering,” said Green. “Instead of showering the coach with water after the game they poured Cheerios on him.”
One parent whose son was sent to the hospital for a concussion during a football game, where Green was on the sideline with the team, was touched when Green came to the hospital.
“He stayed until the early morning hour to have prayer with my son and to see if there was anything he could do,” the parent said. “It meant so much to us and especially to my son. He was one of the last to leave.”
Green is speaking to civic groups, churches and businesses on how they can help FCA with fundraising to continue fulfilling the mission of FCA ,which is to present to athletes and coaches and all those they influence the challenge and adventure of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and serving Him in their relationships and the fellowship of the church.
The immediate goal is to establish FCA presence in all of the 22 area schools. To do so they need community involvement through volunteering and funding to provide Bibles, place a chaplain with each team, help with the “One Way to Play” drug and alcohol-free program, send a coach and spouse to couples retreat, provide scholarships to FCA student camp and more.
Out of the 300 area churches in the region there are currently only four that have committed to invest in FCA. Churches can help by establishing a sports night or becoming an Olympian sponsor.
Green is currently conducting weekly devotions for wrestlers, is doing a sport-specific 10-week basketball devotional, and is about to begin six Bible studies on discipleship for area coaches.
The plan is in motion to have a chaplain on each of the 10 to 14 sports in every school of the region. Green thinks it can be accomplished if the many youth pastors and youth leaders here locally step up to serve beyond the walls of their church.
“Anyone from the community can commit to giving. We have two college students who said we can count on them. They give $10 a month because FCA has made a difference in their lives,” Green said.
Recently, 1000 local girls were able to attend a UT Lady Vols “Girls Night Out” clinic to hear Pat Summit speak. Many FCA events give students opportunities to brush shoulders with well-known coaches and professional players. According to Green, many girls received Christ at the “Girls Night Out” clinic.
When a student receives Christ, Green contacts their Youth Pastor if they are attending church to let them know to follow up with them.
On April 7 the “Get on Track” campaign will feature Peerless Price, one of NFL’s best wide receivers and most likely UT football coach Derek Dooley. The public can attend by sponsoring a table or purchasing tickets.
Anyone who wishes to help FCA as a huddle leader, character coach, chaplain, clerical assistant, grant writer, worship leader, camp volunteer, video producer, fundraiser, or special speaker for events can contact Green at 284-0105 or through e-mail at email@example.com. To fill out a Ministry Leader Applications online, visit www.fca.org. To keep up with the local FCA and what is happening in local schools, visit www.ocoeefca.org.
“The community has an opportunity to invest in the youth and leaders of tomorrow by supporting FCA today,” Green said.