This post comes with a warning label. Over my lifetime, I have seen countless kids drawn away from God because of intense participation in a sport. Rarely, have I seen a child who received massive college scholarships or went professional, in spite of untold hours spent in practice, travel and games. Your child is more likely to become injured and have to drop the sport before college or become burned out and no longer want to play.
If I were to advise you, I would say steer clear of anything more than the lowest level of involvement in any sport. Try to find teams and coaches who encourage and demand godly behavior from their teams. Stay away from coaches who encourage lying, cheating, doing questionable things to your body to “enhance” performance, etc.
If you decide to involve your children in organized sports, I would highly encourage you to find ways for them to serve others and share their faith by using their sport. Better yet, have your child develop his sports skills as a hobby and then use those skills to serve God by using them to serve others and share his faith. Here are some of my favorite ways for athletic children to serve others while sharing their faith and their passion for athletics:
- Have your child volunteer to speak to a class of younger children. If possible, have them teach the children a skill and share how God gave each of them talents and gifts to use to serve others and God. (Some environments will not allow faith sharing, so check before going.) Younger children look up to kids not much older than themselves. Encouraging your child to share his talents as a way of serving others and then introducing those he is serving to God is an easy way to begin using God given talents and practice simple faith sharing. It doesn’t need to be a sermon, just encouraging kids to realize everything comes from God and how to learn more about God.
- Partner with an inner city church and other friends interested in a sport and run a mini-clinic for children who live near the church. Have your child and her friends come up with fun drills and activities to help children practice the basic skills in their sport. Encourage the church to provide refreshments and invite the participants and their families to worship. Your children may even want to have a short Bible lesson that ties to an important godly principle before beginning each day of the clinic.
- Have your children go to a dollar- type store and buy inexpensive water bottles. Check with a local children’s hospital or children’s wing of a regular hospital and find children who would appreciate visits and need encouragement to do physical therapy. Have your child deliver the water bottle to the patient and share with the child how God has helped her when she faced tough obstacles. Encourage your child to keep in touch hit the child as he progresses in his therapy.
- Have your child volunteer with Special Olympics. Just attending the games and cheering for the athletes is a fun and rewarding experience. Often you can volunteer to cheer for specific children or even help coach them (depending on the age of your child).
- Have your teen consider volunteering to be an assistant coach in an area that has a difficult time recruiting coaches. Encourage him to teach his team godly principles whenever possible.
- Have your child think about what godly characteristics she can develop while participating in her sport. How can she share her faith with coaches and teammates in a way that draws them to God? How can she avoid the traps Satan has placed in her sport to draw her away from God? Have her write an article or talk and share it with other athletic children in your church to encourage them to develop their faith while participating in their sports.
Sports participation does not have to draw your child away from God. In order to prevent it though, you will need to be very careful God remains the number one priority in your family for how you spend your time, money, talents and passion. Encouraging your child to use their athletic skills to serve God and share their faith is a great way to keep them focused on God. If you have found other ways for your child to serve God using sports, I would love for you to share it with us in a comment below.