Matt Kowalczyk knows local sports fans will never abandon their attention on the Packers, but he is increasingly getting them to view sports on the whole through a Christian lens.
Kowalczyk is the host of a weekly sports talk show on the area’s largest Christian station, WORQ-FM. Sports Faith Radio, which Kowalczyk hosts with Alan Creamer and Keith McCray, has sports news and views from a Christian perspective and interviews with Christian athletes. Kowalczyk has interviewed Packers players, members of major league baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers and well-known college football coaches in Bobby Bowden and Dave Wannstedt.
A year-and-a-half ago, Kowalczyk launched SportsFaith.com as an online outreach to share and provide additional content from the radio show.
It has been a journey that has seen Kowalczyk’s priorities change since he committed his life to Christ five years ago this month.
“I had been very successful with my insurance business,” Kowalczyk explained. “Ever since I gave my life over to Christ, He has whittled me into what I am today.
“I’ve seen my business go down. Many people have right now. It’s almost as if God is saying, ‘You love me now?’ as these changes have happened. I know that He is molding me into what he needs me to be.”
While maintaining his insurance career, Kowalczyk is trying to turn his ministry into a full-time endeavor. That takes commitment along with financial hardships and other sacrifices.
Case in point was the recent eBay sale of a professional saxophone, Kowalczyk said. He has played music since he was six years old and was prompted to sell the instrument to keep up with his mortgage.
“My wife and I cried over it, she knew how important it was to me,” Kowalczyk said. “It showed how God will provide for you even if it takes sacrifices. Not a week later my brother, his wife and two other family members went out and got a new one for me. The way they explained it me was, ‘Matt, this is how God works.’
“It’s not always easy as a Christian to follow the decisions you need to make sometimes. It brings home that the biggest thing we’re doing now is for Him and not just for me.”
As his ministry has grown so have the benefits and the hurdles.
Recently SportsFaith sponsored a community event with music and entertainment in the Green Bay area. Kowalczyk said the event was generally well-received with many public school children in attendance. He said some of the adults thought the Christian message underlying the event was “a little extreme,” although the event was billed as faith-based.
“The funny thing is that some of these same people who find it extreme will go tailgate in sub-zero weather at Lambeau Field (for a Packers game) and scream their heads off.”
The ministry has also expanded by doing outreach to school groups by way of the Power Team strength and acrobatic exhibition. Going into these exhibitions, Kowlaczyk said messages are often focused on making positive life choices rather than overtly Christian content.
For the most part local schools have understood Kowlaczyk’s faith-based background and are fine with the tenor of the performances, but that hasn’t always been the case.
“We had one school who refused because a parent threatened to sue if they let a Christian school come for an assembly,” Kowlaczyk said. “When you do this kind of outreach, occasionally you’re going to ruffle some feathers.”
In the long-term, Kowlaczyk hopes to see SportsFaith grow its reach, particularly affiliating with churches interested in having a sports ministry presence and possibly syndicating the radio show to elsewhere in Wisconsin or the Midwest. Ultimately he believes how it expands is out of his hands.
“I know that it’s going to be wonderful to see how God is going to help us grow,” he said.