Well, this post may get me in trouble. Let me say from the get go, I am striving to challenge you to think and struggle through this particular topic. I am not the expert pontificating from on high. I am smack in the middle of a very strong youth sports culture where I live. And although sometimes I loath it, I have also come to appreciate many aspects of sports and what they develop in the youth I work with. But with that said, I will come out directly and say what I mean:
If you are a disciple of Jesus and would like your kid to become one, then they cannot play certain sports.
I am not targeting specific sports, although there are historically certain sports that are the worst offenders. Even that is changing though. Oh, and by offenders, I mean they have two traits in common:
1.) They play games/have regular practices on Sunday mornings.
2.) Take up inordinate amounts of time/money for the reward that is gained from them.
I know this is not something that will earn me kudo points, but this is a serious problem and I feel the need to speak directly to it. And it is certainly complicated. Because sports isn’t really the issue; it’s priorities. We are in a culture anymore that has no boundaries. I remember a common complaint in college was that every professor gave homework like their class was the only one you were taking. We live in a world that is the same way, where everything is weighed as if it has the utmost importance, as if you and your child could give all your time to that one thing. So in order to not end up with an absolutely hectic life, or even worse, raising children in a “Christian” household without instilling any Christ-like values in them, I have three questions to ask about whatever sport/activity you are contemplating with (or let’s be honest and say for) your child:
- Will you through participating in this sport be able to bring glory to God and minister to others in Christ’s name?
- Will this sport fit within the priority structure of what is best for your kids discipleship, their family life, their personal improvement?
- Will the cost of participating in this sport outweigh the benefit your kid will receive?
Some sports will not fit these questions. You cannot consistently miss Sunday morning worship with the community of Christ and claim that the benefit of being of the sport outweighs being brought up in the teachings and community of Christ. You cannot claim that a sport or activity which pulls your family in all directions and makes for a hectic schedule will benefit your child’s family life. You cannot watch your child compromise their faith while improving as an athlete and claim that brings glory to God. The thing is, your “yes” to allowing a certain sport or activity always means you say “no” to something else. It is a basic truth of life. “Yes” to this kale and being healthy, “no” to this doughnut and being fat. “Yes” to practicing your piano, “no” to the hour your child could spend playing video games. “Yes” to liking good music means “no” to liking country music (low blow). “Yes” to playing a sport or participating in an activity means “no” to whatever else could have filled that time. We are presented a clear choice. That is not to say that every “yes” to sports becomes an automatic “no” to following Jesus. But if that sport challenges your priorities and what you are doing to raise up your child in Christ, you better believe that saying “yes” to it will be a “no” to what God desires to do in your child’s life. If it seems a little black and white, let me end by offering some advice.
- Learn how to say no. It is an acquired skill and you use it already in a passive-aggressive way when you make decisions without declaring what they will truly mean. Teach your child how to say no and how to determine what they want to do and not what you want to do for them.
- Learn how to work with coaches/instructors/directors. I was speaking about this topic with Bob Witte from Ozark Christian College, and he gave some instruction on how to approach situations where you have to assert the priority of Christ. Have this conversation: “Coach, I noticed you have a practice on (whatever time that interferes with a priority of faith, family, etc.). My kid cannot make it, as we have a commitment at that time. What can they do to make up for missing out on that practice/game(what can they do to show that they want to improve and still consider this a commitment)?” Bob told me that in all of the times he has given that advice and heard feedback, the results were very positive, and that even now he is using that kind of conversation with his own kids. This conversation is only in a sport/activity situation that has fit within your priorities. You cannot tell a coach your kid cannot make it to the games that happen every Sunday morning because you shouldn’t be choosing it in the first place. There I am being direct again. And it may also not work. But it has to be done, and we are talking about a sport and a coach, not some slave master that rules your kid’s destiny.
- Speak with your minister about these decisions. I can say from my own heart, I want to help you in whatever way I can by teaming up with you on how to best disciple your child. What I despise and want to warn you against is the thought that by dropping your kid of at Sunday School/Youth Group/Children’s Church (when of course there are no other commitments), you are “discipling” your kids by letting the “professionals” do it. Engage in conversation with your minister or Elders on how your child can participate in sports and activities in a way that grows them in their faith. You may need a reality check and have to hear some things you don’t want to hear (or read them!), but it is necessary in the partnership between the household of God and your own household.
I hope your toes aren’t too sore. But I would love to hear any thoughts you have. Feel free to comment below with your profundities and thoughts, and send me a personal message with any beef you might have with me! Ha!
Until later, live well my friends!