Rage Against the Sports

The other day I retweeted a post about Community and Sports from @vibrantfaith, the author, Nancy Going, was a professor of mine who has helped me shape how and why I do youth ministry differently than I did 10 or even 5 years ago. (Here’s a link to the post: http://blog.vibrantfaith.org/2014/05/12/downton-abby-and-kids-sports/)

The post struck a chord within me. I had just recently read a stream of conversation on a facebook group and literally was feeling sick at how the conversation turned on our families for “choosing” sports over faith and how the church receives no respect from teams scheduling things on Easter weekend or on Wednesday nights. (Another topic another time, we live in a “post-Christendom” world, we need to get over ourselves a bit here…)

I was relieved to see this post and to unpack some of the ideas surrounding why sports are “choosen” over what is happening at church. I’ll be honest, I used to get really frustrated when a retreat had to be cancelled, or a kid had to leave confirmation early or come late. “Do they not understand what they are missing?” “Do they not understand how important this is for their faith?” “What message are their parents/guardians sending them about faith?” All of these were things I either said or asked.

Read those again and hear how judgmental those are, no really, read those again and listen for the judgement. If I’m honest with how those sound and the underlying selfishness that protrudes, then I can honestly say that I was not showing God’s love or speaking God’s love into those families lives.

Community plays a huge part of any activity we find ourselves drawn to. For youth it is exemplified even more, if their friends are not interested, they tend not to be interested. If a family doesn’t find or have the ability to build community, they will find it somewhere…

Of course, there are examples of superficial teams where no one really gets to know one another. But I wonder if we’d still be so frustrated with people’s choices if they were experiencing deep, powerful community with church. I wonder if it isn’t really the God-given desire to be shaped by community that is the real reason that sports take priority. There is the potential of being drawn in and formed by the team—and the families that surround the team.

So community and where one finds it plays a really important role. I also think this maybe an exciting opportunity for the church to equip our families to be the “priesthood of all believers”! To be the church not just at church, within those four walls of a building, but to be the church in everyday life, where everyday things happen and faith plays a role! (How exciting is that?)

Sports, activities, the struggle to “gain” commitment is likely only going to become more of a struggle in the years to come. I figure there are two approaches we can take as a church/youth directors: 1) We can take a stand against and say either you find this important enough to fully commit to it and say something of the importance of your faith, cutting off those who maybe need our love more than ever or 2) We can look at this as a great opportunity to meet families where they are, both spiritually and faithfully as well as literally where they are at, soccer field, basketball court, theatre or concert, whatever it may be.

I’m not sure what the next step is, other than to say to our families we understand the struggle, and we are here to walk alongside you, no matter how you choose to engage with the church, we will offer the tools and talk through what it looks like for your family…

That is my hope, that is my dream and that is what I’m going to show to those families who struggle with “choosing one or the other”, we can have both, we just need to work at figuring out what that looks like!

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