Tuesday, September 16, 2014

No Time for God

Fall is among us in full swing!  How is your schedule looking these days?  My guess is it is full, really full.  It seems to me we shuttle our children from event to event at a ragged pace.  Why do we do this?  At what cost do we do this?  Is it really worth it?  These questions have been tinkering around my mind for some time now as I look around me and see the crazy pace of parents hauling their children from one even to another.    Please don’t take this as me judging you, or anyone for that matter; this is really just my pondering the issue of extra curricular activities as it relates to my family's relationship with God.

This summer our small group Bible study explored the book of Joshua.  We came to this verse at the end of Joshua, just as summer was coming to a close, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, chose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods of which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods to the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).  This verse really struck a cord with me as it related to sports and the craziness of our schedules today.  I can’t help but think that the mad dash of life leads us away from God and towards the things of this world.  I really want to give God priority in our home and I fear that small pulls will lead me astray.

Growing up there was never any conflict between sports and church because I wasn’t in church.  That made things easy.  Now, I’m a Christian and church is important to me.  It is a priority for my family and me.  Yes, I am a pastor, but that’s not why I go to church—if I ever reach the place where I’m going to church because I’m a pastor, I’ve got some big problems.  I love church. I’m committed to worshiping, serving, and being a part of my local church because I’m a Christian.  I doubt it’s exclusive to Southern California, but with our great weather there is a great pulling of people toward all sorts of events.  It seems to me there are many Christian children absent from church on Sunday regularly because of commitments to athletic teams of all sorts.

Really, I’m not being legalistic at all in this.  I’m simply wrestling through questions and concerns that I have.  Is it okay to ever miss church?  Sure, of course there are times.   Will a sports commitment take priority over my commitment to church?  I’m feeling more and more convicted that I need to respond, “No.”  

Maybe this post is more for research.  These are questions I’ve been struggling with:  Can my kids participate in sports without having to decide between the sport and going to church?  What happens to kids who don’t participate on Sundays?  If I encourage my child that it is okay to participate in a sport that requires them to ditch church on Sundays, am I demonstrating to them that sports are more important than church?

I’m curious how other Christian parents handle these questions.  I don’t think there are easy answers, but I’m starting to think that without careful thought, it is easy to get sucked into this vortex.  


Anonymous said...

Interesting topic and a factor in our home for sure. I don't claim to have an answer. Just my thoughts since you asked. Each family will be different based on the sport level, type and number of kids involved. I believe there needs to be both church and sports(team or solo). Until this year, all kids were at 1 field for practices. Practices were also on Tue and TH, and games only on Saturday. This left Wed studies and Sunday to have no conflicts. Easy. However, up to this time I have coached volunteering a ton of time in order to help drive the schedule and not conflict with Awanas or church. Part of the benefit of coaching. I had control. Best of both worlds.

This year, 2 of our 3 were asked to play on competitive/travel teams that play in weekend tournaments and occasional Sunday games. Practice fields are different, but all within a few miles, so the driving really is minimal. 2 can attend Awanas with no interruptions, but the older, misses occasionally due to Wed practice. Two or more of us miss Sundays if it is a morning game. My control of no Wed or Sundays is now gone.

Solution to both? Looking at an evening service, which immediately corrects the missing Sundays if we have a game and we should have done this sooner. I still help coach to push schedules and I get to be with my kids as coach and dad to help monitor and watch/influence the team attitude, conduct, etc... The issue or question is what to do with kids excelling in a sport, asked to play up, they want to play and love the sport and church friends, but we know this will pull them away from church occasionally. At the same time, missed practice and missed games, means more time on the bench, and much less playing time even if a strong player. Playing time is tied to commitment and team work, attitude, heart/effort. So missing some, translates to then not playing at all. That becomes the worst case, missed church to sit and not play. For my oldest, 1/2 the team is in high school and will play sports 5 days a week like you and I did. Like you, there was no church in my youth so this wasn't an issue. You and I shared a lane in the pool, then went to Taco Bell.

My biggest concern, idle teenage hands. I know where I was and what I did. For the most part, full time school and full time sports kept me out of trouble. When I wasn't playing, I was looking for something to do. And found the wrong things. Idle hands isn't an issue now. But in high school, around friends or away from supervision, what will happen? An old friend once told me, nothing good has ever happened after 10 pm.

Totally agree time in Gods Word, studying or hearing Gods Word, directly affects life and level of faith. We can do a home bible study as a family, wife does studies with the girls, etc. Like any other life situation, things will try to get in the way of God. Whether that is Awanas, Sunday service, Men's study, Wed nights etc, and caused by youth sports, travel for work requiring a Sunday flight, vacations, car died, etc etc... each one has to be taken under advisement of the family and prayed about. With out a doubt, it will require a constant effort to keep God in front of the kids and all of us.

Long conversation and could turn into a great Christ centered study/book. Ultimately, I believe they need both. Clearly God must be the foundation, period. With that, we must ensure that the life lessons our kids learn from sports or any activity, (the good, bad and the ugly) always come back to Christ as the true focus.

Just My 2 Cents.

Gunnar Hanson said...

Very well thought out response. I appreciate it. I think I know who wrote it, although, I'm pretty sure your wife had to have written it because it's so articulate with no typos! LOL. Very well said.