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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo

Beyond the jerseys: FCA unites athletes

Hodgson shares ministry vision

You may have seen number 34 towering at 6 feet 10 inches playing in front of students dressed in costumes, all waiting in silence.

The player is Caleb Hodgson, and the event is a beloved spectacle which students and sports fans across the nation have to come to know as Silent Night.

Caleb Hodgson came to Taylor to continue pursuing the calling God placed on his life, and it so happened that competing in Silent Night was a part of that.

During his undergraduate studies at Central Michigan University, Hodgson served in sports ministry. At Taylor, he is pursuing his master’s degree and is continuing to connect athletes across campus through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, also known as FCA.

FCA stands to disciple others by empowering coaches and athletes to grow in their relationship with Christ.

This is right in line with what Hodgson was doing and what he wanted to continue doing. At Central Michigan, his favorite part of college — other than playing basketball— was doing athlete ministry.

Hodgson graduated from Central Michigan in 2023 and still had two years of eligibility to play basketball because he red-shirted one of his years, and COVID-19 took away another one. 

After hearing about Taylor and talking with the coaches, Hodgson is now pursuing his Master of Arts and Ministry, playing basketball and leading FCA on Taylor’s campus. 

The combination of being able to compete on a basketball team with other Christians like him and having mentors and coaches on campus willing to invest in students’ lives is enriching for Hodgson.

It is a different experience than what he had at Central Michigan.

From Hodgson’s perspective, FCA made perfect sense because of his ministry involvement with Athletes in Action at Central Michigan. 

However, when he came to Taylor, FCA was not a functioning program on campus. It had existed before the pandemic but died out when a lot of the leaders graduated.

The ministry needed a jump-start.

At the beginning of this year, Hodgson started building the leadership team. There are now a total of eight leaders (four guys and four girls.) Some roles students can serve in include being a worship leader and a social media coordinator. 

The group gained momentum, and it is back and running again.

Athletes involved with FCA on campus meet every Thursday, and the leaders also meet separately to plan and prepare. 

Hodgson believes one of the most important aspects is the small groups that everyone breaks into. It is the relationship building and discipleship that is pivotal.

“With any ministry, you can’t just go, ‘Alright, I’m going to have a big event,’” Hodgson said. “You gotta have relationships and, of course, people who are committed to it.”  

FCA at Taylor has seen growth since its revamp in the fall. Now, there are about 50 regular attendees.

Hodgson appreciates the unique environment that FCA offers athletes to fellowship together given that Taylor is a place with a lot of discipleship already built into the framework.

Nevertheless, he believes the real significance lies elsewhere.

“It’s not really about the numbers … it’s more about the relationships and the hearts and lives being changed through the community and letting God work with the opportunity we have to gather together,” Hodgson said.

FCA values integrity, serving, teamwork and excellence. The organization’s strategy is to engage, equip and empower. This vision began in 1954 and has spread all over the world.

Hodgson could tell many stories throughout his time serving in the sports ministry of how people's lives transformed. One of them came from his experience with a friend at Central Michigan.

“When I first met him in the cafeteria, he got in a fight with somebody on the ground,” Hodgson said. “By the end, he was helping me lead Bible studies.”

Hodgson also believes that FCA promotes a sense of unity among athletes.

One of the guys on the track team, after getting to know two baseball players, has grown to love them, where he once perceived them as distant and not very spiritual.

Hodgson sees how FCA has created a place where athletes can unite as followers of Christ and move past the toxicity that can exist between sports teams.

It is a joy for him to break past those barriers himself and get to know the athletes on the other teams.

“I really get to know them for who they really are and for more than what their sport is or what they do,” he said.

FCA also served as a landing place for Hodgson, who, as a grad student, felt like a freshman again in some ways, being new to Taylor. 

Leading a ministry like FCA gives him a place to be himself and sink into the community.

“That’s been really fun,” Hodgson said.

Hodgson wants to steward the growth and work that God is doing so that it lasts longer than him or any one leader. He and his team are working hard to equip the next set of leaders to continue building the ministry amongst Taylor’s athletes through FCA.