This is a segment I did on 98.5FM earlier today. For those who want the text version or who missed what I said.
It’s the first day of winter and we are entering that period of the year many pastors dread… Sunday sport is starting up again. Footy, soccer, basketball is happening and Sunday is usually the day of choice. Historically it’s been a very knotty subject for those of us in churches as we have pondered how we address it. Church numbers decline, the energy wanes and it can be hard to feel enthusiastic when it can feel like everyone else is spending their energy elsewhere.
Well… in this post I want to ask you to re-think your stance on Sunday sport , particularly those who are parents and have children in sports clubs.
You may have said, ‘Sunday sport – hey it’s no big deal missing church – you can go again in October. Your sport is very important to your happiness and we wouldn’t want you missing out.
I want to ask you to rethink that position.
You may have said NO WAY you are missing church for footy – no way ever! Church comes first – always has – always will. This isn’t even up for discussion.
I want to ask you to rethink your position too.
So whatever your position at the moment I’m not asking you to change your mind necessarily – but I am asking you to think again about why you do what you do and what the costs and benefits are (to you and the church) and what God may be saying to you at this moment in your life.
If you don’t think it matters to skip church because your children’s sporting activities really need to be prioritised then I want to put it to you that the gathering of the community once a week is also a priority we read about in the Bible. Christianity is inherently communal. And when you aren’t there it’s not only you who misses out. Other people miss your presence.
And sometimes when we choose to neglect the call to worship and gather with other Christians we are at risk of creating an idol – and I don’t think the idol is sport in this case. I think we can make idols of our kids and we can choose to sacrifice whatever it costs for their happiness.
The problem is that in doing so we model priorities to our kids and they hear what we do loud and clear. I want to suggest to you that if this is your path then it is short sighted and will eventually backfire on you.
We can’t replace worship of God with any other form of God and not call it idolatry.
So please if that is you – re-think what you are doing.
And to those who see church as set in stone and completely not negotiable let me ask you to do the same. Attending church is never a law we want to enforce. It’s not a duty or a chore we must perform and if it’s couched in those terms then maybe it needs to be stopped anyway. The point of church attendance is to worship God and to gather with other believers for support and encouragement.
And you don’t have to do that on a Sunday morning. You may be able to form a small group with other parents & kids to gather and worship at another time. Your church may have more than one service. There are other ways to gather for those with the initiative to do so.
Church attendance made law can be very destructive to those on whom it is inflicted, especially older teen kids who don’t believe. You can make up their minds right then about what path they want to take if you are too heavy handed.
I am a pastor of a church where Sunday sport has a significant impact and I make it a point to never shame or berate those people to get back in church. I respect their ability as adults to listen to God and make the decisions they believe are best for their children’s faith development at this point.
What I do ask is that they and you constantly rethink your position and realise that just because you chose this path last year it isn’t necessarily appropriate to choose the same path this year.
As parents we are the ones primarily responsible for the faith formation of our children. Some days that will be saying ‘no – you can’t have what you want . In my judgement it isn’t best for you.’
Other days it will involve saying ‘ok let’s do this – but because we orient our lives around Jesus and his call let’s figure out how we are going to make sure that we position ourselves to be in growth mode – as it’s just too easy to drift and end up on the rocks.’
So- my call is to rethink and make sure that what you are doing is going to contribute rather than detract from the spiritual formation of your children. You may arrive at the same conclusion, but why not take time as a family or even as parents to talk and pray about this issue and listen what the spirit may say to you
As a pastor I rest easy if I know this has been a carefully made decision and not just a way of avoiding a conflict with a feisty child.