Apr 14, 2015

Teaching Kids to Worship the Sports Gods

Did you know the average child that attends church only comes once a month?

One of the major reasons for this is parents teaching their children to worship the sports gods on Sunday instead of being at church worshiping God.

They probably wouldn't agree with this assessment, but actions speak louder than words.  What you put first in your life is what you worship.  And what you put first in your life is what your kids will put first in their lives.

I'm not anti-sports.  I played Little League as a kid and other sports all the way through school...but not during church.  My parents taught me that sports were beneficial, but not something to put before my commitment to God's house.

And it seemed that the leagues I played in agreed as well.  Games were not scheduled on Sundays.  Fast forward to today and that's often not the case.  Sunday is just another day to fill with games.  And parents, who want to make sure their kids don't miss out on anything, make the choice to skip church and head to the sport's field.

For many it becomes a slippery slope, enrolling their kids in 2 to 3 sports at a time.  Before they know it, sports has taken over their entire life and they are spending every Saturday and Sunday at the field.

Each year, parents are spending an average of $671 per child on youth sports with 20% spending $1000 or more.

And then there are the elite teams...aka...traveling teams which are the ultimate example of misplaced priorities.  Kids are pulled out of church for weeks on end as they travel out of town and many times out of state.  You'd think it was the NFL.

My fear is that we are teaching an entire generation of kids that church is somewhere you just go when there's not a sport's game or other priority standing in the way.

So what can we do as church leaders to encourage families to put God first on weekends?

Realize it's the misplaced priorities of parents more than it's the misplaced priorities of kids.  Many parents feel the pressure to help their child excel in sports and in some cases... are even living out their own sport's dreams vicariously through their child.

Kids don't drive themselves to the sport's field and they don't drive themselves to church.  We must speak into the lives of parents and help them see how important it is to put Christ first on weekends.  We must help them see that the choices they are making at the most critical time in their child's life will set in motion a life-long pattern of church attendance.

Teach kids the importance of attending church faithfully.  As we teach kids about the Lordship of Christ in every area of their lives, we can help them see the importance of putting Him first in their church attendance.  As God works in their hearts, they can develop a faith that will say "no" when asked if they want to skip church for the sport's field.

Make church more attractive than sports.  The truth is...the church has to shoulder some of the blame for this pattern.  Can you blame kids for trading in an hour of "Biblical boredom" for an exciting game of soccer?

It's time we make church a place that's more exciting than any ballgame.  It's time we make church so engaging and relevant to kid's lives, that they wouldn't think of skipping.  It's time we make church a place that kids drag their parents to. 

Get kids connected and known.  As I mentioned above, it's vital that we create irresistible environments for kids.  But engaging and relevant alone are not enough.  Kids must also feel known and connected.  When Jill knows that Mrs. Burns is waiting to see her,  she will want to be there.  And when Terrance knows Mr. Callagan is going to ask how his week went and really listen to him, he won't want to miss church.

When we combine exciting, engaging environments and real relationships...we will see kids make the choice to worship God over the sports gods. 

The floor is yours...
Do you see kids missing church for sports in your ministry?  What are you doing to encourage kids and parents to put God first on weekends?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

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