We live in a fast paced world and our children can be involved in many different activities that demand time, resources and energy. Many Christian parents wonder how involved their child should be in sports, activities and the church while trying to also balance family time and rest. The bad news is there is not a one size fits all approach to this question, but the good news is that as a believer in Christ, each parent has the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to give them direction.
A guiding Scripture for this discussion is Matthew 6:19-21. Jesus concludes this section with “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This passage is specifically referring to money but has implications beyond dollars and cents. With kids sports and activities (such as dance, music, gymnastics, boys scouts, etc), money is required to participate. For some activities the financial commitment is smaller than others but they all require a certain amount of money. Where you choose to spend your money is usually an indicator of where your treasure lies. At some levels of sports and activities the money spent is small but as time goes along the dollar amount increases. Each family has to think and pray through how much money they want to commit to a child playing a sport or participating in an activity. If 10% or more of your monthly income is going towards a sport or activity, it may be time to reexamine the long term and eternal value for your child.
Sports and activities for kids take a considerable financial commitment especially as the competition level increases, but the amount of time spent on these activities is also a factor. Your child will pick up the fact that you put a lot of energy and effort into making sure he never misses a soccer practice or dance lesson but never seem to have the same commitment and zeal for showing up on Sunday morning to worship and learn with other believers. The saying that “people care a lot more about what you do than what you say” is true especially for kids. The time commitment sometimes depends on the league, activity, coach or leader that is involved with your child. But as the parent, you are responsible for the time your family spends participating in various activities. As a soccer coach of 6-7 year old boys, I choose to practice one time a week and the games are scheduled once a week. For that age group I believe that one practice is enough so they can still be kids and play in the neighborhood, attend Wednesday night church, do their homework and enjoy being a kid. My family generally eats dinner together most nights of the week. We allow our kids to play one sport or be involved in one non-church activity at a time. The key here is not that my way is best for every family but to examine what is best for your family according to God’s Word and the leading of the Spirit. Families are made up of different personalities and age of children as well as different family structures, so there is no one size fits all model.
One major area to keep in mind with whether your kid participates or does not participate in certain activities is your family’s commitment to the things of God. Gathering with other believers is a biblical mandate that is necessary for healthy spiritual growth (Hebrews 10:24-25). When your child’s activities squeeze out your commitment to your local church, the message you send to your child is that her enjoyment of a game or activity is more important than a vibrant relationship with God and other believers. You are training your child to value something that is temporary and will fade while leaving out the more important area of pursuing an active relationship with God through Jesus Christ. As a parent, I know it is easy to rationalize why my child needs to participate in this certain activity at all costs, but I must continually seek the will of God for my family since as a parent I am responsible for training my kids in the way they should go. A great resource on sorting through some of the issues of whether to participate or not participate in youth sports (although it applies to all activities) and at what levels is Overplayed: A Parent’s Guide to Sanity in the World of Youth Sports by David King and Margot Starbuck. As believers in Christ, they explain and sort through the myths that exist surrounding youth sports. Throughout the book, the authors make it clear that there is not a specific model to follow, but they give great biblical and practical advice and questions to ask to decide what is right for your family and your child concerning sports, activities and church. If you would like to borrow my copy, feel free to email or call and I will loan it out. A willingness to read and pray through these complex issues is one barometer of your heart’s desire to listen and submit to Christ.
May God be glorified as you lead your family in placing a proper emphasis on sports and activities while making sure Christ is supreme in what you say you value and how that plays out in reality.