In this podcast, Noah Corsten had the opportunity to talk to the Buffalo Bills Chaplin Len Vanden Bos. Over the years Len has been blessed being a disciple for Christ through ministry and coaching. Before becoming a chaplain for the NFL, Len was a football coach for Wheaton College, Western Michigan, and Western Kentucky.
After he knew his coaching days were done, he felt like God was leading him into ministry. Len had been in Chicago for 23 years, coaching part-time for Wheaton College just outside the city for 17 seasons. So, he started by building his church in Chicago. Len was able to develop a lot of genuine relationships with people that would last a lifetime. Through his relationships and connections from the church and coaching, he got the opportunity to be the part-time chaplain for the Chicago Bears.
After serving with the Bears for two years, he felt like God was calling him to Buffalo. Head coach Sean McDermott hired Len to be the full-time chaplain for the Buffalo Bills knowing he would be a great fit for the team. Len has been with the team for four years now and loves where God is leading him.
Some of his fondest memories during this time have been the Bills ending their playoff drought and playing in that legendary "snow game" against the Colts.
How did you end up as a chaplain? How would you explain your job?
Len grew up knowing about Christ, frequently going to church, and talking about God around the dinner table. But, he didn’t really understand it all until junior high. In junior high, Len went to a Christian camp in Michigan where he truly accepted Christ and what it meant to be a believer. After that summer, Len was baptized and spent many summers at that camp where he learned so much about God. This helped set a solid foundation for his faith.
Fast forward and after coaching for many years, Len knew he wanted to lead others to Christ and felt like God was calling him into ministry. He thought the role of a sports chaplain was the perfect job for him. It would combine his love of sports with the ability to minister to others.
Buffalo Bills Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier knew Len well from attending his church in Chicago. Leslie liked his character and was able to put in a good word for Len to become the full-time chaplain for the Bills.
“I want to be one guy in the building who doesn't want anything from them but to serve them in a godly way.” -- Len Vanden Bos
Len said his job as chaplain is three-fold:
- To be a person the players can come to when they are in need
- Guide them and help them grow in Christ
- Create real relationships with the players
Len is consistently at practices and meetings, meeting one-on-one with players, holding weekly chapel service, and offering Bible studies for players to get away from all the noise.
How do you stay connected with God? What have times of uncertainty taught you?
Every morning Len starts his day with God by going for a walk, praying, or reading his Bible. This time with God is free from the distractions of the world and gives him a firm foundation.
He said that early morning time with God may not be best for everyone, but he really encourages people to find alone time with God every day. It doesn’t have to be long; just enough to acknowledge how amazing God is.
In the podcast, Len addresses several times in his life when he felt a lot of uncertainty about where he was headed and what the next right steps were. Len stresses the importance of listening to God’s calling and trusting His plans above all else.
He says that uncertainty, adversity and challenging times will make a person's faith grow because that’s when we realize just how much we need a rock on which to stand.
To hear the podcast with Noah and Len, check out “The Sweat Room: Sports and Faith” Episode 3 on Spotify and Apple Music.