Since its beginning in 1958, Bethel University’s athletic department has operated with the mission of keeping Christ at the helm. They are committed to assisting in the transformation of lives into the likeness of Jesus Christ and equipping student-athletes to become servant leaders who positively influence their teams, campus, and world for Christ.

“The athletic department’s culture is the best I’ve seen it in my 30+ years here at Bethel,” says Chris Hess ’93, associate athletic director and head women’s golf coach. “Our campus may look very similar, but there is so much more diversity. That, combined with a Christ-centered culture, makes it a very special place to be.”

With 500+ student-athletes, the coaches and directors of BU Athletics hold great responsibility for fostering an atmosphere that sets students up for success both academically and athletically.

“We have four pillars that dictate everything we do,” says Tony Natali, athletic director at Bethel University. These four pillars are spiritual formation, athletic development, servant leadership, and academic excellence.”

“We talk every day with our staff all the time about what we’re doing to impact our teams, our kids, when it comes to the kingdom,” Natali continues. “We’re very intentional.”

That intentionality is carried out on the fields and courts where the Pilots play. Pilot athletes are intentional in letting people know that Christ is the center of everything they do, including praying with the teams they play after a game.

“We recently won a men’s basketball championship, and it’s the same thing with that,” Natali remarks. “Many of the coaches and players made comments about how this was now part of their witness they can use to bring people to Christ. That can be countercultural.”

Natali also acknowledges that not everyone comes to Bethel with the mission to play for Christ, but their lives are still impacted by the Christ-centered culture.

“Our coaches recruit athletes letting them know about chapel and Bethel, but until you get here, you really don’t know what you’re going to see. It’s neat to see their progression over time at Bethel and where they end up when they’re done.”

He continues, “There are other instances with student athletes where it doesn’t resonate during their time here, but in God’s timing, maybe two or three years after they graduate, and they’ll come back
and tell me something’s happened in their life, and they’ve accepted Christ.”

“I want it to be an everyday natural occurrence to point back to God,” says Natali. “It happens a lot now,
we’re excited about that, but we’ve got a ways to go.”