Parents, on the Mahaney Sports blog, we’ve recently concluded a series on posts called Don’t Waste Your Sports. These posts are adapted from a booklet produced from a sermon I preached on the topic. If you’ve encountered this material, I’m sure you’ve thought about the intersection of sports and your responsibility as a parent. I’d encourage you to read these posts to apply the biblical truths found there to your own experience playing sports. Also read with your child in mind, and maybe with your child. This is a humble act of leadership on your part.
In fact, every practice and every game is an opportunity to lead our children. Often, as parents, we think we have fulfilled our duty by simply attending our children’s games and cheering. Not so! We are called to so much more. Informed by the gospel, we are called to lead our children wisely. Before the game, this includes preparing them to keep biblical priorities in mind while they play. After the game, this includes celebrating their expressions of godly character more than we celebrate their skill or the final score. Every moment our children spend in sports is a teaching moment.
There are a few more plays left in this game: we have some suggestions so that as parents, we don’t waste our children’s sports.
#1 Celebrate Godliness
Our children will pursue what we applaud. They will emulate what we celebrate. If we celebrate scoring and winning, our children will define success in these terms. But if we celebrate evidences of godly character in our children, we will help them define success more biblically.
Sadly, if we don’t lead our children, they may devote massive amounts of time to sports but fail to grow in godly character. We should celebrate qualities like humility, diligence, self-control, and perseverance in our children, whether they win or lose. Parents, you will be the difference makers here.
So what do you encourage before a game? What do you celebrate after a game? Is it the spectacular plays? the score? the win? the stats? Or do you celebrate the displays of godliness by your child on the field?
#2 Prize Your Family
Over the years I’ve observed families in which the children played several sports apiece, and as a result, almost the only time the family spent together was as spectators at sporting events.
Parents, I encourage you to consider whether the majority of your family’s time together is spent at sports events. If so, you may want to think about whether that time deepens and strengthens your family relationships. It might; it might not. This is why your leadership is so important.
And fathers, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address you about a temptation that I’m familiar with in my own life: the tendency to devote excessive amounts of time to playing or watching sports, to the neglect of my family. So let me ask you: if someone looked at a typical week in your life, would they see that your family is your priority? Or would they see a significant amount of time used in playing or watching sports? (These are good questions for your wife to answer. She’s probably more objective about your schedule than you are.)
#3 Love Your Local Church
Missing an occasional Sunday meeting because of a sports event does not automatically mean that you’re failing to lead your family. But what about the pattern? On the whole, which is the priority on your calendar: the local church, or athletics?
Parents, you have a unique calling to train your children to love and serve the local church.
If you and your family consistently miss your church’s gatherings, you forfeit far more than you may realize. You forfeit the nearness of God that is experienced when the church gathers to worship him corporately. You forfeit an opportunity to hear from God through the preaching of his Word. You forfeit experiencing the countless gifts that God has distributed in the people around you. And you forfeit learning from the models of humility and servanthood that you find in the church. You don’t want to give these up easily. You want to fight to maintain these priorities in your life and your family!
On the Last Day, when each of us gives account to God, you’ll have no regrets about investing your family’s time in your local church.
#4 Training For Life
Sports are a classroom for our children. Through sports we can teach our children to grow in godliness on the field. God has called you and equipped you to transfer biblical priorities to your children, and sports are one means to that end.
The time you invest into training your children to glorify God will bear fruit long after their days of playing competitive sports have concluded. And parents, these days will be over soon. Little League, JV, high school basketball—it all passes by so quickly. This is your opportunity. Don’t waste it.
#5 Application Questions for Parents
- After a game, what are you more likely to celebrate: athletic skill and victories, or the display of godly character in your child’s life?
- What is one way your child currently displays currently godly character, and how can you encourage him or her?
- What is one way your child could grow in godly character, and how can you encourage him or her to grow in this area?
- Are there ways that sports distract you from your family? In what ways can you use sports to build your family together?
- If someone were to study your life, which would they say you are more passionate about: playing and watching sports, or the Savior?
- Is your family devoting so much time to sports that it hinders your involvement and service in your local church? If so, what are some changes that you can consider for the future?
- Before your child’s next practice or game, take time to pray with him or her and to thank God for all the benefits of sports. Remind your child that sports are a gift from God, the giver of all good gifts.