As the area Fellowship of Christian Athletes director, Arthur Hawkins — affectionately known as “Coach Hawk” — has the unique privilege to mentor local students, spiritually and otherwise, through the prism of sports.
His work with FCA keeps him primarily in touch with student-athletes in Newton and Rockdale counties. He and Terry Boddie team up to saturate the area’s student-athletes with light, love, practical guidance and, when the opportunity is presented, biblical inspiration and the benefits of having a relationship with Jesus Christ.
With multiple coaching stints, Coach Hawk is familiar with everything that goes into the day-to-day life of a high school student-athlete, as well as the coaches who impact and mold them on a daily basis.
But for him, high school sports, particularly football, provide so much more than a physical outlet or an after school activity. They provide an avenue for him to minister love to local kids in Newton and the surrounding counties.
“We’ve got 24.7 million kids that don’t have dads,” he pointed out. “I want to be that dad.”
Hawkins and Boddie, with the help of other character coaches and volunteer “FCA Huddle” speakers, saturate the two-county area with messages of love and faith. But they go far beyond just preaching and speaking, as you’ll be hard pressed to look around a football game in the two-county area and not see one or both of them pacing the sidelines.
Sometimes Boddie can be heard from yards away, barking out instructions to players on the field, serving as an asset for coach. Hawkins likes to spend one-on-one time encouraging players after a tough play, or celebrating their success.
For this reason, Hawkins calls what he does more than just benevolent desire or civic duty. It is his calling.
Sitting in a Panera Bread in Conyers, Hawkins energetically spouts out story after story from his life, shunning all the credit he could receive to others or God. He talks of his military days that hardened him from a boy into a man. He tells of his stint as a middle school principal that only he knew was part of the next chapter in his life.
He talks about his days coaching football when he was allowed the chance to minister to kids on a daily basis. And through every story, his passion for making a difference in the lives of boys and girls is revealed, whether he states it or not.
Hawkins’ calling to be a strong male role model may have stemmed from the lack of one in his own life.
“My dad left me,” he said. “But I never went to jail a day in my life. I didn’t kill anyone. I didn’t rob. I got three degrees. My wife is a doctor. If God can do it through my life,” he begins before interrupting himself with another story about a life he had the opportunity to pour into because his calling into sports ministry.
If his ministry had a coaching strategy, he says it would simply be the word, love.
“In everything you do, you have to show [the kids] that you care,” he said. “When you discipline them in love, and they know that you love them, do you know that that changes their life? Instead of yelling at them, just put your hand on their shoulder and say, ‘I care about you.’”
Hawkins describes countless stories of how this has happened in various ways during the most recent school year, and he credits the coaches and school administrators in both counties for allowing them to come into their schools and share the Gospel of Christ with students, never forcing the issue.
“There are so many kids who want what we have to offer,” Hawkins said. “We don’t have to force anything.”
Because of that, Hawkins said a little over 240 student-athletes in Newton County alone gave their lives to Christ, and the ministry has provided over 175 bibles to students-athletes who ask for them.
Beyond the faith-based ministry hundreds more students from all walks of life have benefit just from their presence and showing of unconditional love, regardless of their religious persuasions.
Back at that Panera Bread in Conyers, I got to see some Hawkins flex some of his ministry muscles in real time.
As we sat talking, a curious family sat across from our table and appeared to be intrigued by the stories and passion with which Hawkins spoke. As he and I wrapped up our conversation, he had already sparked a conversation with the curious family. He started explaining the FCA ministry to the mother, then motioned to the two children.
“We’ll love them,” he said.