“These people relate to the church probably just as positively as they do to sports…only less actively.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1928
Dear Christian Parents,
This letter is not intended to (1) create guilt, (2) return to “the Law”, or (3) attack anybody. Rather, it’s just my attempt to get at and explore a phenomenon which I and pretty much every single pastor I ask about these things are curious about.
Let me preface this letter with the following statements that I really do believe are true. Athletics are good, build character, and help children grow. If our kids commit to a team, they should be taught to stand by their commitments. I played sports in school (albeit, poorly!), and am glad I did. My daughter plays, and I’m glad she does.
With that being said, let me ask some question that have arisen from lots of conversations, lots of watching and listening closely to people, and lots of (frankly) grief over what I think is a damaging trend among Christian parents and their children concerning athletics and the body of Christ. My point here is not that you must be at church every single time the doors open or you are a “bad Christian.” Far from it. My point is not that your child should or must always choose a church event over an athletic event. Far from it. In fact, my point is simply that there is now an observable, verifiable shift in priorities among Christian parents that is overall damaging to our kids, to the body of Christ, to our corporate and individual witnesses, and to our and our children’s spiritual development.
With that, some questions to (honestly) ask yourself.
- What percentage of your child’s ballgames do you attend? What percentage of church services do you attend with your child? Which is higher? Why?
- If your child said, “I just don’t feel like playing in the game tonight,” what would you say to him? If your child said, “I just don’t feel like attending church this morning,” what would you say?
- For what reasons would you allow your child to miss practice? For what reasons would you allow your child to miss church? When you compare those reasons, how are they alike or different?
- What percentage of practices does your child attend? What percentage of church services does your child attend?
- Do you view your child’s team as “a team”? Do your view your church as “a team”?
- How excited are you about seeing your child excel in athletics? How excited are you about seeing your child excel in Christlikeness?
- If the church has scheduled an event and your child’s team has scheduled practice, which, on average, will your child go to?
- Do you “expect” your child to attend practice faithfully? Do you “expect” your child to attend church faithfully?
- Do you “expect” your child to contribute to the team? Do you “expect” your child to contribute to the body of Christ?
- Which is a more exciting thought to you: your child receiving an MVP award for his team or your child leading a friend to faith in Christ?
- How excited do you get about the big game? How excited do you get about corporate worship?
- If your child routinely asked to stay home from practice, would you speak with him/her about “commitment”? If your child routinely asked to stay home from church, would you speak with him/her about “commitment”?
- What is commitment?
- How would you define “idolatry”?
- What do you figure is the overall spiritual and psychological impact of communicating to your child that sports are crucial and the church is optional?
- If your child attended the same percentage of practices as he/she attends worship services, would the coach let him/her play in the game?
- If your child attended the same percentage of practices as he/she attends worship services, would the coach let your child stay on the team?
As I say, just something I’m curious about arising from something I (and others) have been observing.