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Are you skipping church for your kids’ sports?

>> by Joy Fisher  A seasoned dugout mom

Courtesy of HomeLife Magazine.

My 9-year-old daughter played most of last spring’s softball season without attending practice. When I signed her up, practice was held on Thursdays. After the first couple of weeks, the coach announced that practices had been switched to Wednesday nights. Without hesitation, the mom standing beside me blurted out, “We have church on Wednesday nights, so we can’t come.” We were in the same boat.

The coach was understanding and supportive, but we felt out of place with the team all year, wondering if other parents resented that our daughters showed up for the “fun” part or understood what the big deal was about missing church for a few weeks.

What is the big deal? Each year, 35 million children (ages 5-18) suit up for organized sports. When they suit up is sometimes a gray area for Christian families. Regular church attendance is a must for parents who want their kids to put God first in their lives. So what impact does skipping church for sports have on that worthy goal?

Karen Daniel, mom of two teenage girls who love competitive cheerleading, gymnastics, dance and swimming, sums it up: “Gone are the days of safely being able to get exercise playing in the neighborhood with your friends until Mom calls you in for dinner.” So, many parents sign their kids up for sports.

Janis Aston, now a grandmother, remembers when schools and sports teams didn’t have games, rehearsals, practices or programs on Wednesday nights because of church activities, much less on Sundays. “This is a reminder of how the secular world continues to creep into our spiritual lives,” she said.

In the movie “Chariots of Fire,” 1924 Olympic runner Eric Liddell discovers that the heat for his race will take place on a Sunday. He refuses to run so as not to compromise his Christian convictions. Nearly 90 years later, individuals and families still find it difficult to decide what to do when faith and sports collide.

Father of two Chris Roberts isn’t willing to simply accept the new status quo of sports on Sundays. “We have to model for our kids what our priorities are,” he says. “If enough kids didn’t show up, teams or leagues would have to re-evaluate the schedules.”

The first time their son was invited to play in a travel soccer league, Joe Ed and Michelle Conn said no. Last year they let Ethan play, and the family missed six Sundays at church. Joe Ed gave the situation a lot of thought.

“I was brought up not to miss church ever, so it has been particularly hard on me,” he admits. “But at the same time, we don’t want our church attendance to become a matter of legalism. Ethan goes to a Christian school, and Michelle works in a Christian ministry. Most of our recent ‘vacations’ have been mission trips. I don’t think our son misses many opportunities to see the importance of our relationship to Christ. Seeing that living relationship is more important than whether we made it to the church on Sunday morning.”

Also important in making choices about how to allot precious family time is the notion that children need to honor commitments and be good team players. Sarah and John Galloway are the parents of three boys under the age of 11. Sarah says, “Church commitment and nurturing a relationship with God is something we hold very high and have instilled in our boys from birth. We also nurture loyalty in commitments our children make, be it sports, academic or extracurricular. If you join a team, your team relies on you to be there.”

“When church and sports fall on the same day and time, we make a decision about what’s best for our family,” Sarah explains.

Perhaps a good approach to balancing faith, family and sports involves fewer extracurricular activities to participate well in each. As parents, you’re working toward the trophy of kids who know who Jesus is, not perfect attendance at Sunday School. Practice your priorities with your kids and see where the Lord leads you.


Author: Guest Writer

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  • Joseph

    Suprisingly watered down and compromising. I expected differently. See where the Lord leads you? You don’t have to look far to see that. Just compare it to the Bible. I’m athlete and grew up in the dugout, but even I can see that there’s too much compromising and justifying going on. Here’s the answer I expected. “No parents, the example to set is not to compromise your commitment to God above anything or anyone else. Period.” What more needs to be said? Not two pages of justifications for the sake of trying not to make anyone feel convicted about their parental (spiritual leadership) decisions. Show me in the Bible where i’m wrong please.

  • Phil Palmer

    What a disappointing article. What was the purpose of reprinting this? It broke my heart to read the last half of the article listing family’s sad attempts to justify their compromises. We are called to challenge each other to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24). This article just presents a collection of lame excuses.

    Regarding the man who implies that expecting people to attend church is legalistic, what a corrupt misunderstanding of legalism. Scripture says we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Believers love other believers ( I John 3:14) and want to be with them. This gentleman has already compromised his parents standard and his son will further compromise on his beliefs. It is a shame he cannot see that. He then tries to excuse his compromise since his son attends a Christian school and his wife works at a Christian business. His logic implies that those who send their kids to public school or work at secular jobs shouldn’t be excused from missing church. Yet he thinks I am legalistic for frowning on missing church for sports?

    Expecting faithful attendance to church is not legalism. Demanding it in order to gain or keep one’s salvation is legalism. Expecting attendance from someone who claims to love Jesus is normal. I love hearing God’s Word preached, I love singing His praises, I love being in Sunday school and discussing God’s Truth with other believers. I also love playing soccer and watching football and seeing my kids play sports, but I don’t love those things as much as being with God’s people.

    Another quote in the article stated that when church and sports conflict, they decide what is best for their family. What about seeking God’s will for their family? Does a Christian really need to decide between time with God’s people and time with the world’s people? I John 2:14 says “Do not love the world nor the things of the world. If anyone loves the the world, the love of the Father is not in him”. There is no decision to make for the believer who understands that God has called us to a higher standard. No Christian parent should ever have their child ask “Are we going to church tomorrow?”. We faced this decision in our family when our kids were young. It was hard to tell them they had to miss games and tournaments, but we knew it was the right thing to do and God has blessed us and our children for keeping our committment to faithful church attendance as the highest priority in our family.

    My comments do not come from a position of one who knows it all and is condemning others. No, I have made and will continue to make foolish decisions, but we should learn from the mistakes of others. We should diligently fight to keep other believers from falling into traps that will harm them or their families (Gal. 6:1-2). This article, though it started strong, failed to encourage, challenge or warn and for that I am deeply disappointed.

  • Scott Hamilton

    I have three sons who are very involved in baseball and basketball. Sunday tournaments have been a constant source of conflict for our family for ten years (thus far). I have very strong convictions about Sunday Church attendance, and they are not legalistic convictions. They are, for starters, based on Hebrews 10:25 and the pattern set by the early church. Second, my convictions are a result of daily spiritual warfare…As a Christian, I am at war with Satan and sin and worldliness. I absolutely need that first day of the week to come away from the routine of daily living. To come to a fellowship of refreshing exhortation and edification. I need a regular renewal.

    Christ is more important than sports. Sports is a secondary thing. If we let the world’s practices push secondary things into the primary position for us, then those secondary things become idolatrous. Sports have their place (and it is a struggle to keep them in their place). But they are not first! As parents, we know it’s really hard to tell a ten year old boy that he can’t be there on Sunday to play with his team in a championship game. It takes backbone to tell your child no. But I’m trusting there will come a day when he will understand…a day when he will realize what matters most in this life.

    We make it known upfront that we are just not available on Sundays. If that keeps us off a certain team, then so be it. God is sovereign! Believe it or not, we’ve helped some others to decide for church on Sundays instead the ballpark.

  • Saint

    Thank you for providing the harsh truth. As the truth should set me free. I was upset at bible study when someone made a comment that they question my salvation because my kids were not at a Christmas Church rehearsal. My kids come to Sunday School on a regular bases and I serve for a bunch of Ministries at my church. So, I felt it was okay for my kids to occasionally miss some church events. I have an awesome relationship with God so I felt that was okay. However, I have to remind my kids to seek first the kingdom of heaven and all his righteous and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33. Boy, do I feel silly for being upset with that person now. Thank you for caring enough to share the truth and not sugar coating it.

  • Pat Brown

    When my daughter was in sixth grade, she wanted to do track. At the first practice we were told that anyone who did not attend the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday practices would not be able to compete on that Friday. I explained to my daughter what that meant and she understood, but still wanted to attend the practices she could. The first week of practices was scheduled before our school schedule of Wednesday night activities started, so my daughter was able to attend the Wednesday practice, and, therefore, the Friday track meet. At the track meet, she lapped all the other competitors! After that, there was never anything said about her not attending the meets. As it turned out, that fall was the only time she was able to compete. That December she had surgery which saved her life, but left her unable to continue track. I am not sure that allowing her to compete without abiding by all of the rules was fair to all the teams who did attend all of the practices, but I am grateful for the opportunity she had to participate in the sport for one season.

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