Youth Sports: Delightful Or Damaging

Christianity And Keeping Up With The Jones’s

There is a certain keeping up with the Jones’s mentality that pervades the American family culture, and specifically the American CHRISTIAN family culture. Like a bunch of lemmings, our families tend to look and act more like the cookie cutter worldly modern family than we do “strangers and exiles,” (Hebrews 11:13) who are passing through this earth towards an eternal weight of glory.

Please hear me for a moment: I believe God has placed so many good gifts around us to delight in but we distort these good gifts by turning them into gods or griefs which leads to devastating results (ironically, anything else other than God that we make a god will undoubtedly become a grief/curse to us).

Nowhere else in the world offers the family unit more wonderfully tantalizing time-fillers than America does. From theme parks, to outlet malls, to outdoor destinations, to museums, to a variety of school options, to YMCA’s, and, to, wait for it… youth sports, American families have every opportunity to fill every waking second of their lives doing something fun and exciting!


Having A Healthy Acts 17 Perspective

All of the items listed above at first glance are incredible gifts that most American families have access to 12 months out of the year. There is nothing inherently wrong with these items and we SHOULD have an Acts 17 perspective about them (“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” (Acts 17:26). God has orchestrated and has provided the gracious means to determine when we live, where we live and how we live. If this is true, then how we spend our time, energy, and resources matters to him. There is no need to be ashamed of the gifts He gives us to enjoy. But are these gifts crossing the boundary of becoming gods to us. We must ask the question “Have I taken a gift and made it a god?”


America And Our High Octane Culture Of Youth Sports

This, my friends, is what American Christian parents and families have done with youth sports, especially as the youth sports culture is pushing further and further away from traditional Christian values and discipleship.

Here are a few thoughts/numbers/stats that reveal the magnitude of the youth sports culture:

  • An estimated 35 million kids are involved with youth sports (ca. 2013)

  • 66% of boys play organized sports (52% of girls).

  • Americans families on average spend around $700 per year, per child (2013)

  • Depending on their affluency, parents start putting their kids in sports as early as age 2.

  • Many sports offer year round opportunities for kids as young as 5.

  • No longer are Saturdays deemed youth sports day, but now Sundays as well.


How To Call An Audible On Youth Sports

Do you notice any red flags above? If you do, may I offer up a few thoughts to consider when it comes to the youth sports culture as parents?

1. Youth sports are a gift (“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17).

  • As mentioned above, we tend to make youth sports an idol, where we seek satisfaction - whether through vicariously living out our dreams through our kids or idolizing our kids and their abilities themselves.

2. We should look to redeem youth sports, rather than reject or receive. Youth sports provides yet another opportunity in life to glorify God through an enjoyable gift and to make Him known to a dark world.

  • Rejecting youth sports outright is to have a separatistic mindset, leading to a “we’re better” approach to life, while at the same time completely abandoning an opportunity to be selfless and others-focused.
  • Merely receiving youth sports can be okay, but this tends to lead to a "me" or “we” mentality and we end up missing the “you.”

3. Youth sports should be something that our children aren’t “forced” to do. I realize that our kids need a little prodding but if gifts are meant to enjoy, and our kids aren’t enjoying this gift, then it will become a grief.

  • Bring your kids in on the decision making process. Please try to minimize the manipulation.

4. If Youth Sports Are Pulling Your Family Away From Your Discipleship Rhythms, Quit Immediately. I realize this one is going to be controversial because it is invasive, personal, and somewhat dogmatic in tone, but please prayerfully consider what I am saying, because I say it with great humility and empathy.

  • If your discipleship matters to you (and discipleship is supposed to happen within the local church), then NOTHING should get in the way of any of your church’s regular discipleship rhythms and routines.
  • If you regularly miss out on Sunday morning gatherings and mid-week moments with your local church, you are setting your family up for disaster. Please do not sacrifice your family’s spiritual well being for the sake of “chasing a dream” (Somewhere around 3.5% of high school athletes will play in college. Less than 1% will make it to the pros).
  • There are plenty of opportunities that don’t take up Sundays and aren’t year around. Do those.
  • Your kids don’t need sports. Neither do you. But they (and you) need Jesus. Don’t forget this.

5. Youth sports can and should be used as an opportunity to connect the outside world to Jesus. Surprisingly, what would be and should be one of the easiest means by which we take Jesus to the outside world, ends up being yet another way that we end up making all about ourselves, our agendas, and our “rights.” And what happens in the process? We create more harm than good and end up at times leaving people with a bitter taste of Jesus and His people in their mouths.

  • If you choose to participate in youth sports, hold it very open-handedly but be invested. Get involved. Be the first one to the practices and games. Coach (or help to coach) if you have the capacity. Be generous. Open up your home for hang-out times. Be an affirming and joyful cheerleader. Be gracious and say “thank you” a ton.

There you have it. Hopefully these thoughts have sparked a few thoughts in your own mind. How has this impacted you? I am interested in hearing how you have dealt with this hot button topic in your own home? I would love to learn from you and I value any feedback you may have. Please leave a comment. Thanks.