Initiations: How you CAN get involved

Date posted: 02/10/18



 This article was first published by the UCCF's Peter Dray on his personal blog. We're grateful to him for allowing us to republish it.

A while ago, I was sitting with a group of Christian students who were chatting about sports team initiations. The question was posed: what advice would they give to Christian freshers about how to deal with them?

For some Christians, the thought of the initiation is enough to put them off joining a sports society; for others, the pressure to conform can be very high – and some stumble. I thought the answers that the more seasoned students gave were wise. Here’s a flavour of what they said:

1. Be aware that you don’t have to do anything.

Many Christians feel rightly uncomfortable about some aspects of some sports initiations – particularly if they involve drunkenness or taking off clothing. But team secretaries can’t ultimately require team members to do anything. You always have the right to say no – and in doing so, you may be a blessing to others who feel similarly uncomfortable with aspects of the evening, Christians or otherwise.

2. Know that not all sports initiations are the same.

Some are pretty raucous, but the majority are much tamer. Often stories are exaggerated. One student spoke about how the initiation he was involved with for the darts team involved merely playing darts in a pub. (I’m pretty sure that when I was on the Bristol University archery team it was something similar!). Ask the social secretary in advance as to the sorts of activities that will take place so that you can prepare accordingly.

Initiations: How you CAN get involved


3. Decide your limits in advance.

Ideally work this out in conversation with other Christians. Think ahead to the sorts of activities you will decline to involve yourself in. Some Christians have a teetotal policy during Freshers’ Week or sports initiations, others handle it differently. But by thinking through your limits in advance, you’re more likely to make a wise decision when it the moment comes (even if accompanied by peer pressure).

4. Remember what sports initiations are all about.

Effectively the team captain and social secretary will have arranged the initiation evening so that the team can bond together. Go in with this aim – to help the team bond. If you show that you truly are a team player, and that you’re concerned to get on well with others on the team, you’re less likely to be singled out as a prude or a killjoy. Do as many of the same activities as you can as everyone else, but perhaps drink milk instead. And pray that you can play your part in helping your team gel!

5. Be willing to suffer for the gospel.

One student told of how a Christian friend of his refused to drink a ‘dirty pint’, but keen to play his part for team bonding, instead offered to drink a vile concoction of non-alcoholic alternatives that the team put together. He was ill for two days afterwards. Teammate after team mate asked why he didn’t just drink the alcoholic mix – great opportunities followed as he started his time in the team as a distinct Christian, willing to pitch into the team dynamic but prizing devotion to Jesus above all. Suffering for Christ prompts others to ask of the reason for the hope we have: that includes in the arena of sports initiations!


Other resources

Pray Play Say Book 2 study - Coping with a drinking culture.




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Peter DrayPeter Dray
Peter is Head of Creative Evangelism with the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship. He is an elder at Grace Church, Doncaster.