From Gold and White to NFL’s Black and Gold - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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May 13, 2022

From Gold and White to NFL’s Black and Gold

Kent Chevalier, Steelers ChaplainKent Chevalier ‘99 arrived on Geneva’s campus in 1995 like many freshmen; he was unsure of what he wanted to study and what laid ahead of him in the future. He had recently come to a saving faith in Christ, and that faith, along with his mother’s employment at Geneva, led him to College Hill. He was playing on the baseball team while also helping football as a student trainer, but beyond that he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life.

In his freshman year, he came into contact with Rich Grassel '84, who served in Geneva’s youth ministry program, and over time Grassel became a mentor for Kent. It was Grassel’s involvement in his life that led Kent to focus on student ministries. Through Grassel’s discipleship, Kent came to understand that ministry can mean more than just preaching in a pulpit each week. The opportunity to have ministry, especially in a young person’s life, can come in many different forms, and it quickly became evident to Kent that this was how he wanted to spend his life serving in Christ’s Kingdom.

In his senior year, through Rich’s connections, Kent took over a position as a youth pastor at Christ Church at Grove Farm. After graduation, he and his wife Erica (née Snyder ’99) spent almost 20 years ministering in churches in both Pittsburgh and Detroit. In 2018, a new ministry opportunity arose while he was serving at North Way Christian Community, one that he could have never imagined.

Vance McDonald, who at that time was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting tight end, was worshipping at North Way, and Kent had begun a friendship with McDonald that included leading a Bible study with McDonald at a restaurant. It was then that McDonald mentioned the Steelers were without a chaplain, and Kent began to realize the position as an opportunity.

However, Kent soon realized that the chaplain position was actually not under the Steelers organization, but through the Athletes in Action organization, and it was a position that would require Kent and Erica to raise all of their yearly salary and benefits through fundraising. That initially caused Kent and Erica, who have three daughters, to have significant reservations, but the Lord softened their hearts over a matter of weeks and the two ultimately decided to accept the position.

Over the last three years, Kent and Erica have served the Steelers together. Kent oversees all of the men’s ministry, while Erica oversees the ministry with the women in the organization, including wives and girlfriends of players, coaches and staff members.

“We minister to the needs of people within the Steelers organization,” says Kent. “Much like a pastor of a church does for his congregation, in some sense the Steelers organization is the church that we get to pastor. It is a very unique calling.”

Kent and Erica spend their week ministering in numerous ways. They organize Bible studies, with Kent overseeing a weekly worship service. They have weekly activities for couples, whether married, engaged or just dating, showing couples what healthy relationships looks like. They have done premarital counseling, and Kent has also officiated weddings. He is also there to minister through hard times, including death, with Kent overseeing a recent funeral for a staff member’s wife.

Kent travels with the team during road trips, and he finds those times some of the best for ministry, with players and staff more willing to talk when they are alone and contained within a hotel.

“Before games is when off-field issues come out for players who are struggling and want to get something off their chests.” says Kent. “I will often get a text from someone wanting to meet and talk somewhere in the hotel. I call them Nicodemus what is going on but need support under the cover of darkness.”

Much like a pastor, the job for Kent and Erica is not your normal 9-to-5 job. While they have many activities scheduled throughout the week, they also respond day or night when someone needs help, for whatever reason. Then in the offseason, they spend a lot of time speaking and going to events to help fundraise support, as well as spending time at conferences that are part of the Athletes in Action ministry.

Chevalier says, “Together we walk alongside members of the Steelers organization, whether that is through a Bible study, a couple’s study, or having them into our home for a home-cooked meal. That’s just typical discipleship. That’s what Rich Grassel did for me, and that’s what we’re trying to do for the Steelers organization. To have that privilege and responsibility, and to do it with my hometown team, is just unreal.”

Geneva College offers 19 NCAA Division III varsity athletic teams, intramural sports competition, and a bachelor's degree program in sport management. All athletics, academics, and activities are integrated with a Christian life- and worldview. Learn more at www.geneva.edu.

- Chris Mathews '00

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This article was originally published in Geneva Magazine, Winter 2021 edition.