The Sunday Sports Dilemma
A few weeks ago, our son's baseball team played its last inning, and his coach walked to the bleachers. He wanted to nominate our son for the all-star team. It's a thrill for any boy who loves the game like ours does: a chance for a summer's worth of at-bats, dugout chatter, travel to other towns, and improved skills.
With games on Sundays.
This was the first time our family had to confront the issue of Sunday sports, but, with three athletic children, it won't be the last. Pastors say children's sports have become the biggest challenge to church attendance for American families.
The idea that Chariots of Fire runner Eric Liddell made it all the way to the 1924 Olympic Games before being asked to compete on a Sunday seems almost quaint. Today, the littlest T-ball player is routinely expected to show up on Sunday, and the demands only escalate as children get older.
The Association of Religion Data Archives recently reported that some churches have responded to the loss of families by adding alternative service times on Saturday, so church members can attend both sports and worship. Additionally, many churches have increased their offerings of sports-related activities, hoping to appeal to families who prioritize athletic involvement.
While churches and parents who endorse Sunday sports may think they've found a solution for their families, postponing worship-focused Sundays until after the season is finished forces children miss out the spiritual life lessons they need to learn right now. "For while bodily training is of some value," says 1 Timothy 4:8, "godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also the life to come."
Sports are good. It's good for children to use their bodies, to cooperate with others, to compete under authority, and to discipline themselves to perfect a skill. But the triumphs of the playing field are a dim shadow of the true blessings of Sunday.
Our sports-centric Sundays take our children out of the place where they can find their closest and most edifying relationships. The fellowship of the church is cross-generational, diverse, and unusual to a world that sees five guys with a basketball as the ultimate expression of teamwork. Christian parents, however, need to consistently allow their children to experience the richness of being knit together (Col. 2:2) with Christ's Body.
Our weekly detour to the ball field, instead of showing our children how much we love them, actually promotes a lie: children are not important in worship. Nothing could be further from the heart of our Lord who said "let the little children come to me . . . for of such is the kingdom" (Matt. 19:14). The worship of children is not expendable; their halting notes are just as precious as trained adult voices. When children are not present on Sundays, the whole team of God's people suffers. Our children need to know that the worship they offer is vital.
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