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February 10, 2021

CU Bible Courses for Female Athletes Thrive at Cornell

By Anne Kerhoulas, Staff Writer

Athletes understand the concept of family; a group of people you might not have chosen becoming the ones with whom you share life. The team forms such a family where sacrifice and faith in one another drive these individuals towards a common goal. It’s no wonder that athletes share a particularly special bond when they come together around the Gospel. And the female athletes at Cornell have been doing just that.

Ministry Fellow Liz Thomforde has a heart for ministering to student-athletes. A former college athlete, when she joined the Christian Union Vita team just a year and a half ago, there weren’t many female athletes regularly participating in the ministry; it was an untapped demographic that she wanted to reach. Today she has thirty-five female athletes in a Bible course and they are forming a robust community of encouragement, accountability, and mission. 

CU liz onlyLiz Thomforde “The athlete’s Bible course has been a huge encouragement. Many new athletes joined our Bible course this semester and faithfully met each week over Zoom to study the Gospel of Mark, share, and pray together,” Thomforde says. “The community has grown very close and the girls have supported each other through this difficult time, as many of them have faced the disappointments of losing their seasons. Through these trials, the girls have constantly encouraged one another and reminded each other of the truth and hope they have in Christ.”

Student-athletes live a busy campus life. Between practices, weight-lifting, games, tournaments, traveling, and off-season conditioning, being a student-athlete is like having a full-time job on top of being a student. Because of this, ministering to this group of students can be challenging simply because of the lack of time and full schedules. Athletes can also find themselves living a very insular social life that is almost solely comprised of spending time with their teammates or other athletes. But while these might be seen as obstacles to ministry, Thomforde is tapping into the strengths that athletes have rather than seeing them as negatives.

“Our times of study in the athlete’s Bible course are always very rich because the girls are eager to learn and apply the promises of God the gospel to their lives and to share the love of Christ on their teams,” says Thomforde.

These women are hungry for the Gospel and to be in the word together. Because it can be challenging to connect with people outside of their teams, an athlete’s Bible course allows them to connect with like-minded believers on campus who understand the struggles of being on a team, injuries, and wanting to glorify God in their athletic endeavors. 

Along with offering a Bible course that is able to work with their schedule, Thomforde started a GroupMe for the athletes where they are able to share prayer requests, devotionals, and find times to meet up together for a meal. Thomforde has been deeply encouraged to see how quickly the group has grown and how many women from different teams are joining. Women from the rowing, hockey, gymnastics, track, and softball teams are all participating and inviting their friends.

“It has been really sweet to see how encouraged by the community they have been. Last year, they had begun going to each other’s games and cheering each other on,” Thomforde says.

But an athletes ministry isn’t totally new to the CU Vita community. Thomforde’s husband, Jim Thomforde, was the ministry director of CU Vita for six years before he left the ministry to return to work in the investment industry. This summer, Jim Thomforde stepped back in as a part-time ministry director to lead the ministry in this unusual season. Thomforde had previously created a robust ministry to athletes and served as the chaplain of the football team for five years. As a semi-pro baseball player, Thomforde was also able to minister effectively to athletes on the baseball, rowing, track and field, and wrestling teams. 

With so much growth in the midst of a difficult season, it is exciting to see how the Lord will continue to work in the athletes at Cornell through CU Vita.

To learn more about Christian Union's ministry at some of the nation's most influential universities, please click here.

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