Pastor & Sports Ministry Share God’s Love to Olympians

Pastor. Chaplain. Olympic dog sitter.

That’s Ryan Schneider, pastor of Saranac Lake Baptist Church in upstate New York near Lake Placid. Lake Placid is home to the Olympic Training Center where elite athletes come to train as they pursue their Olympic dreams.

In addition to his role as the church’s pastor, Schneider ministers in a variety of ways to the athletes in Lake Placid. Because of his role there, he’s working as a chaplain at the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. His family is keeping U.S. skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender’s dog while she competes in the Olympics.

“Team USA has graciously given me passes for most of the days that I’m here, to go in and mingle with the athletes,” Schneider said. “And then they have a daily worship service for the athletes just outside of their cafeteria. So I’m partnering with that and teaching a Bible study with them when I have opportunity.”

Schneider isn’t alone in his Olympic chaplain duties. Carl Dambman and Tim Pitcher of Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of Cru, are also on-site at the Winter Olympics helping to serve athletes in whatever ways they can and encourage the Christian athletes who are competing.

“The nations gather, and it’s a place where you can share the love of God across borders because sport is an international language without borders,” Dambman said.

Schneider, his wife Molly and their children have been in the Lake Placid area for several years, first at Lake Placid Baptist Church, then since 2013 at nearby Saranac Lake Baptist Church. Both churches are Southern Baptist congregations.

He teaches a weekly Bible study at the Olympic Training Center, where he has gotten to know a number of Olympic athletes well. His church, and some other churches that partner with them, help to provide housing for the athletes staying in Lake Placid on either a short-term or long-term basis. Though housing is available at the training center, many athletes prefer living with families.

In South Korea, Schneider is able to meet up with several of the Olympians he knows from Lake Placid. He understands the challenges they face and their unique needs as athletes. For example, athletes are ingrained with a performance-based mentality in practically every aspect of their lives. They are watched by a coach and by others around them. They are watched at the starting house (for sliding athletes) and when they get off the track.

Everything they do, Schneider said, is based on their performance or lack thereof. Then he gets to teach them that the Gospel is the exact opposite of that — that they can’t get to heaven on their own, and they can’t live a Christ-centered life without a desperate reliance upon the Gospel.

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Source: Baptist Press