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How Involved should my child be in sports, activities, and church?

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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.

Jeff White
Associate Pastor of Families/Missions
Posted by Jeff White with

Football, Fear, Overcoming and Victory

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In high school a varsity football coach had a profound impact on my life . . . in a destructive way.  I could bench press 275 but was a whopping 185 pound offensive and defensive lineman.  I was often outweighed 40 to 100 pounds by every opposing player I went against.  I loved my offensive line coach, but my defensive line coach was an abusive person.  He would grab your facemask and throw you to the ground.  He would kick you when you were in your stance, and then when you stood up he would slam you on the helmet and yell to get back down, repeating this over and over.  One day when I was over the ball as offensive center that coach began to spit on my arms, saying that even that couldn’t make me tough.  When I drove that defender backwards he yelled I was still an expletive.  Looking back, it is no wonder that I loved playing offense under one coach and absolutely froze and panicked when I played defense under the other coach.  Dread, doubt and fear of a lashing are a bad formula for success in sports.  My offensive coach was tough at times, but in a positive way.  During one practice he kept telling the defensive linemen where the play was going before each snap, with a smile on his face.  The defender would naturally rush to that area and I would be told by the coach to do 20 pushups each time I missed the cutoff block.  He knew he had stacked the deck against me.  After I had done several hundred pushups the offensive line coach said, “Lile, we have a great win-win going on today.  You are going to either get much better at blocking or much stronger.  Agreed?”  “Yessir,” I said, shaking my head and smiling.  I loved that coach!  He was being hard on me, but with his support and confidence I was being trained for success.

Almost 40 years later those memories are still vivid.  And they remind me of a much bigger picture that Christians are enduring in life.  Life involves many of the same elements experienced in Texas high school football: doubts, clear successes and defeats, overwhelming odds at times, fear of failure, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!  Sometimes the news makes Christians feel our opponents and circumstances are overwhelmingly superior and are certain to crush us.  Sometimes the defeats make us question how we can find the motivation to go on.  And other times we tend to let a little success lead to pride that sets us up for a hard fall.  Christians have very dark and ominous archrivals: our old sin nature, the world with its fallen system, and Satan and his demonic host.  These oppose every area of our lives including marriage, parenting, relationships, economics, politics, work and more.  Some Christians feel they are holding their own against their opponents and some feel as though they are being driven to the turf play after play.

Satan’s desire is to kill, steal and destroy humanity, attacking what God most desires and values.  He is the voice and actions that tell us of our worthlessness, our inability to succeed, our powerlessness... we are the object of his ridicule and scorn.  The Bible says Satan is a liar, our accuser, the deceiver, a slanderer, the tempter, an adversary and a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour.  Satan kicks you when you are down and knocks you down when you stand up.  He tries to bring destructive and defeatist focuses to our mind, our will and our emotions.  He unleashes division into once strong relationships.  We mustn’t let him shape thoughts into hopelessness, fear, doubt, insecurity, weakness, failure and condemnation.  If we do we freeze up when the lights are on and the big games of life are here.  If we believe and follow his accusations, we play and live life at our lowest level of confidence and identity rather than being confident and secure in both our strengths and weaknesses.

Jesus is the ultimate life-coach!  He has played the game.  He has been in the trenches.  The Bible says He is sympathetic, having been tempted in all ways as we are, and yet without sin.  I always feel a special bond with football players, knowing they understand the suffering and price to play and win the game.  Jesus invites us to “know Him and the power of His resurrection and fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that we may attain to the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

Jesus, as a good and perfect life-coach, sometimes chides us (Luke 24:25), rebukes us (Matthew 16:23), disciplines us (Hebrews 12:6) and even allows us to endure failure to fulfill a higher goal (John 21:18).     

When you are afraid, anxious and doubtful about the world and events, turn to Jesus and focus on His promises.  God promises, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).  Scripture also exhorts, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Ernest Hemingway stated something that is in many Christians’ thoughts today.  “The world breaks everyone, and afterward some are strong at the broken places.”  Believers should be the stronger ones after brokenness because we have a far greater relationship in Christ and a far higher purpose for living.  Regardless of how the game is going or the power of the opponent, we must remember our purpose, our destiny and that we serve Christ from victory and not just a hope to achieve victory.  He has already won.

Life, attitude and focus are beautifully expressed in the words of Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow.
‘Tis the set of the sails
And the gales
Which tells us the way to go.
Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate,
As we voyage along through life:
‘Tis the set of a soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.   
 

Play the game of life in confidence.  God’s grace is sufficient.  In Christ we have already won.  You are a part of a much greater, victorious team.  Ignore the voice of destruction, doubt and condemnation.  Follow the instructions and commands of the perfect and glorious life-coach, our Lord Jesus Christ!

Pastor Craig Lile

Posted by Craig Lile with 1 Comments

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