Luanne Fendig has always lived a life of faith. Growing up in Marietta, she attended church weekly with her parents, but it wasn’t until eighth grade that something shifted inside her.
It happened while attending a summer camp hosted by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The group is a Christian-based network that supports students engaged in team sports like basketball, football and softball.
Fendig understands first-hand how important this organization is for young people.
“My dad was the head football coach at McEachern High School, and every summer some wonderful donor would pay for the football team and family of the coaches to go to Black Mountain, N.C., to FCA camp,” she said.
“It was there that I learned about a loving, gracious God. The talks at night, the fun, competitive games as group or huddle, and the atmosphere of humor, all showed me that there was so much more to being a Christian. While at a FCA camp, I gave my life to Christ.”
That one act changed Fendig’s life completely. She started behaving differently and with clearer intention, making sure all areas of her life reflected her relationship with Christ.
“From then on, I would see the world differently and look at those around me as the people God put in my care. There would be storms, but there would also be someone beside me,” she said.
It was that sense of support that helped carry her through high school and college. But it was further strengthened by the program that helped bring her to Christ in the first place — the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Fendig was active with the group throughout her education and into her adult life.
When she started her career in teaching, it continued to play a role.
“I was involved with The Gathering Place, another impactful organization that equips spiritual leaders. From time to time, FCA and The Gathering Place would sponsor events together, and so I continued to be a part,” she said.
After taking a hiatus from teaching to raise her children, Fendig re-entered the classroom in 2008. A few years later, in 2014, she was asked to become a co-huddle leader for the FCA. That is, an adult faculty member that oversees and offers space for the members of FCA to meet outside of school hours. The program itself is student-led.
As a former participant turned middle school teacher, Fendig can’t stress the programs’s value enough.
“Two things became very evident as I started on this new journey. One, middle schoolers desperately need Jesus. We all do,” she said. “And two, we all need a place to come and encourage one another. Playing games, meaningful lessons, worshipful singing, and going to Christian concerts all made up the huddle at our school.”
In the area, there are 11 huddles — groups of FCA members — at middle and high schools, as well as the College of Coastal Georgia. As the year begins, these meetings are also starting back up. It’s a busy time for Tim Harden, area director of FCA.
The organization builds relationships through area coaches, offering them materials and support, including joining teams on the sidelines during games.
“Our mission is to see the world transformed through Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes. The strategy is to and through the coach. A coach influences more people in a year than we do in a lifetime, generally,” he said. “So we just try to bless them and pour into them. If they want us there, we’re there. If they don’t, we aren’t.”
In the waning days of summer vacation, Harden has been meeting with area huddle leaders like Fendig about the year ahead. These leaders, like the coaches, serve as a source of encouragement for the students, with the FCA team supporting those efforts.
“We also have character coaches and chaplains, at private schools. They’re caring loving adults that are present with the team once a week at practice and go to games once a week. It’s a ministry of presence and encouragement. They’re not a coach or a fan ... we’re just there to love on them and let someone knows they care about them, beyond their performance,” Harden said.