Don’t Let Sports Distract You From Discipleship

Sports can be the enemy, but you can redeem the value of sports in your child’s life by reflecting on how the sport helps you accomplish spiritual objectives for your child.
September 1, 2021

Sports and Discipleship

What is more important? Your child’s participation in sports? The amount of playing time awarded to your child in his sports program? Your child’s team earning the top award? Could it be coaching your child to see that your family can use your child’s participation in sports as a ministry opportunity? 

Priorities matter, and your values as a family, whether stated or unstated, will be embraced by your child. Sports-crazed families often produce devoted sports fans obsessed with money, time, and excessive energy invested in sports successes. On the other hand, sports do not have to be the “bad-guy” competing with your family’s time and attention over your family’s time and attention given to spiritual matters. What if sports could be the vehicle the Lord uses to teach your child about discipleship? What would that look like for your family? 

Your Spiritual Filter for Saying “Yes” or “No”

Faith in Jesus and your child’s spiritual development should trump every other decision your family makes as a Christian family.

Here are four questions your family can ask to determine if the activity fits your family’s values? 

  •     Does this activity put the activity as a priority over our commitment to our church? Will it interfere with our church commitments? 
  •     Are there things about this activity that leads our children astray from godly values and standards (what they hear, how they dress, competing values they are exposed to)? 
  •     Can this activity be used as an avenue for ministry for our family to share the gospel with another family this season? How will we pray for that end result of sharing the gospel? 
  •     Is there another way to focus on my child being exposed to personal development in this sport without connecting it to a team that requires a more significant commitment (such as private lessons, the family doing the sport together)? 

Balance Is Key

Some families are so busy carting the children to extra-curricular activities that there is no margin for family discipleship and ministry. Some families manage this time constraint by limiting the number of extra-curricular activities either per child or even per season (meaning that your family might have to limit how many family members have extra-curricular activities at the same time). 

Agree to Use the Activity to Minister to Others

If your family engages your child in team sports, how can you help your child be involved in ministry to those on the team? Here are five things you can help your child do:

  1. Pray for leaders and team members.
    Have a specific prayer journal that you are using with your child during the season. Ask people on the team how you can pray for them. Encourage your child to ask the coach or trainer if the team can pray before games or meets.
  2. Invite families to your home.
    The best way to get to know the spiritual temperature of a family is to spend time with them. Use the hospitality tool to get to know team families better and have informal conversations about faith. Ask those families in your home how you can pray for them.
  3. Ask your church leaders to sponsor a team day.
    Your church can be ready to host an entire team for a day of Bible study, worship, and possibly lunch. Invite a Christian coach or someone from the sport to speak to the group at lunch.
  4. If you have to miss a Sunday, take Bible study and worship with you.
    Your age-group ministry leader can equip your child with resources to lead a Bible study for peers while at a weekend-away event. In the digital age we live in, you can be equipped never to miss a week of Bible study or worship. Simply ask the age-group leaders to help you or your child prepare to lead your child’s team or even just your family in Bible study and worship when away. This works for family vacations as well.
  5. Invite families to attend church with your family.
    More often than you might realize, the reason a family doesn’t attend church is that nobody has cared enough to invite them to attend or to walk with them through the first day at church. Simply ask, but don’t be offended if the other family refuses. You will have done your part. 

Sports can be the enemy, but you can redeem the value of sports in your child’s life by reflecting on how the sport helps you accomplish spiritual objectives for your child.