Church and Sports – Finding Balance
by Amy Diller
I remember when my kids were young, and we signed them up to play soccer. It was a good way to get them active, to learn about teamwork, and to make friends. Of course, it was really entertaining for us to watch the little ones play their own version of the game as both teams ran together in one pack to chase the ball around the field while ignoring the nets. They were having fun, and so were we. It was a really positive experience for the kids and us that involved a small commitment of time, which worked well for our family.
Playing a sport offers many positives for kids. Not only does it promote exercise and health, but it’s also a great chance to learn what it looks like to be part of a team. Kids get to cheer each other on and appreciate the different talents each player brings. Having a coach to take direction from teaches respect and cooperation. It instills the idea that if you want to get better at something, you keep practicing. And it’s also an opportunity to meet and make new friends.
As kids get older, the amount of time spent practicing and playing games increases, and family calendars fill up. In a world where people are overwhelmed by busyness, adding another activity can increase that constant go-go-go feeling. Sports can affect church attendance as schedules conflict with Sunday and midweek services, which can stand in conflict with organized sports. So, what do you do as a Christian parent when your kids want to be on a team? How do you maintain a healthy balance between sports and church involvement?
Below, you’ll find some things to consider as you look to incorporate sports into your lives. Establishing balance is something that’s easier to do on the front end than it is to correct once activities are underway – not that it can’t be done later. These are ideas to revisit if your child continues playing through the years.
● Consider the costs. Playing sports can be expensive monetarily and in time commitments. Ask yourself whether you have extra of both and, if not, decide if you are able and willing to sacrifice other things in order for your child to play. Maybe limit the number of activities your child can be involved in at a time. Choosing between two or more good options is difficult for adults and kids, but it happens a lot in life. Guiding your child through making a difficult decision between multiple activities is a beneficial skill to learn.
● Value child-led participation. When children are really young, parents make the decision to have them try out a sport. As they get older, it becomes important to make sure your child is the one who wants to continue to play. Kids who are eager to join a team are better able to enjoy what they’re doing and put forth their best effort. Be careful that you aren’t the one pushing your child to participate. When you decide for your older kids, a sports season could feel a lot longer than it actually is with your child’s reluctance to go to practice, to play in games, and to engage with coaches and other players.
● Keep church a priority. This is an area that can be difficult to navigate. You want to teach your children that gathering together with other believers in worship is an important part of walking out your faith. At the same time, sports schedules may conflict with church involvement. Does this mean your family can’t participate in sports? Not at all. For a season, church can look different. Continue leading your family spiritually at home. Ask your children’s leader for lesson resources to use with your kids at home or on the go. When you don’t have a scheduling conflict, attend church. It’s tempting to take the day off, but you and your kids will benefit from being together with your church family.
● View sports as a ministry opportunity. Participation in sports means you’ll spend a lot of time with other families. Rather than scrolling through your phone or reading a book during games, get to know the other parents. We know people are more open to the gospel through relationships. Use the time to represent the Lord well to those around you. Teach your child that everywhere we go, we have a chance to show Jesus to others through our words and actions. This means the way you and your kids interact with coaches, referees/umpires, other players, and all the families in attendance is important. It should be evident to all that there’s something different about your child and you.
Wisely making decisions about sports for your child and your family can set the tone for future years on and off the field. There are so many positives your child can experience through sports. Approaching involvement on a team in a well-thought-out way is important as it honors your family’s time and resources. And always remember that every place you and your child go, it’s a chance to show others God’s glory.