Former NFL quarterback Jeff Kemp found support and encouragement during his career by meeting regularly with other Christian players on his team. Now he's encouraging groups of men to gather in locations throughout the U.S. for Stepping Up Super Saturday, an event that addresses manhood and is designed to help them become godly leaders in their homes, churches and communities.
In the year since its release, more than 70,000 men have gone through Stepping Up, a program based on Dennis Rainey's Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, according to a press release. Rainey is the co-founder, president and CEO of FamilyLife, a subsidiary of Cru that seeks to "effectively develop godly marriages and families who change the world one home at a time," the organization's website states.
On Saturday – the day before the Super Bowl – men will gather in churches and homes across America for a special event featuring video lessons on manhood from Christian leaders such as Mark Driscoll, the preaching and vision pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle; Matt Chandler, the lead pastor of The Village Church; and Tony Dungy, the former Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, among others.
Kemp, who now serves as the vice president of FamilyLife, says one of the most powerful features of Stepping Up, which can also be experienced in a 10-week DVD series, is that it encourages men to dialogue about important issues.
"Manhood is bestowed in the company of men," Kemp told The Christian Post. Many people learn about being a man from their father or grandfather, he says, but those who weren't fortunate enough to do so need the support of friends, teachers, coaches, employers and others who are men.
Kemp says the Super Bowl for many men is all about being a consumer, but the Stepping Up event gives them the opportunity to invest in their own character as they work toward becoming better husbands, fathers and followers of Christ. He admitted in a recent blog post that it's easy for him to get caught up in the spectacle that is the big game, but says it's important to remember that there are more important things in life.
"Only that which is about God's Word and relationships with human beings and passing His blessings on to others will last for eternity," he says.
Kemp's father, Jack Kemp, was also an NFL quarterback who would later become the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George H.W. Bush. Jeff Kemp says he was raised in a faith-focused home and his family regularly attended church together, but the faith he had in junior high school was a sort of "mental faith" that was more of an "insurance policy" than a transforming, heartfelt relationship with Christ.
In high school and college, Kemp says, he tried to become popular and successful. Toward the end of his time at Dartmouth College he was in a fraternity, had been the school's starting quarterback and had acquired a contract with the Los Angeles Rams. He had achieved both of his goals.
But, during a week of parties that took place just before he graduated, he began to consider who he was and where his life was headed.
"And I wondered, 'Why, if I'm so successful and everything's going so good, am I feeling so empty?'" he said.
He had memorized Romans 8:28 as a child, he says, and the verse entered into his thinking and helped him realize that his problem was that he had made his life all about himself instead of Jesus. He then gave turned life completely over to God.
Kemp says he quickly met other Christian players when he joined the Rams and began participating in small group gatherings and developing friendships with them. He also connected with believers on the other teams he played for during his 11-year NFL career.
The thing that Stepping Up does for men today, he says, is the same thing those small groups did for him.
People interested in participating in Stepping Up Super Saturday can search for a local event to attend on the program's website, or they can choose to watch with friends and family at home through Stepping Up's streaming video service.