Sport on Sunday

I have received a question from a Mrs Trellis of North Wales (Ok, the question is genuine but not the name) and it runs exactly like this …..

"I would be interested to know how Youthblog readers approach the perennial problem for parents of children wanting to play sport on a Sunday morning when their parents perhaps feel they should be going to church. In my case my eldest son (who is 10 in March – yr 5) would like to play rugby. However Rugby is not played at his school and all junior rugby is played on a Sunday morning. Hence the dilemma.This also applies to junior football leagues and other sports.Some parents i know approach this problem by alternating between church and the sport. I would be interested to know what other readers think"

I’m not sure whether you see yourself as ‘Youthblog readers’ as it sounds a bit serious? However switching to theological and reflective mode ….. and considering what you say to parents and young people, lets have some pithy, short but thoughtful answers. I know there will be a whole RANGE of opinions on this one so please don ‘t get into either attack or defence, just lay out a considered piece of advice please! (no bonus points for using words like ‘contextualise’ or ecclesiologically’)
(PS I REALLY like the idea of a ‘Problem Page’ on Youthblog, do e-mail questions whether silly, e.g, should all male youthworkers have goaties? or serious ones, e.g, the above)

13 Replies to “Sport on Sunday”

  1. I know I’m not a ‘youth leader’ never mind not being a ‘leader’ of any sort but…
    Didn’t Jesus say that the Sabbath was made for man not that man was made for the Sabbath?
    Bluntly – which decision would turn the youngster away from God? either able to do rugby or not able to do rugby? I can’t answer that question but the point, I think remains…
    An agony column… interesting….

  2. It is a problem facing all churches as the nature of Sunday has changed over the last 10 years. Why do we try to blueprint how we have always done Church onto a new generation.
    Sport is healthy and fun and has many emotional and spirtual benifits for young people. Church in many ways can not compete, but should we try to ??
    We can offer an alternative… a safe and healthy place were young people can discover more about themselves and God, were does it say in the Bible that being a christian is only for Sundays. We have many young people in our church involved in sporting acvities, but they still attend church on a regular basis, just not at 10:30am on Sunday mornings.

  3. i do think that in the main a young person should be at church. i agree that the issue here is helping young people connect to God and my worry is that if sport leads to regular and long term disconnection from church then that young person’s faith development will suffer.

  4. I think that it is important to recognise the young person’s right to choose. In my church we have an exceptional basketball player who was chosen to represent the region – all of the games were on Sunday’s. We embraced him into our youth group (which met on a Monday evening) which he then told his parents was ‘his church’. We encouraged him to use his abilities to glorify God, playing fair etc – all the usual stuff, hoping and praying that it was making some difference to him. This last season he decided to stop playing basketball for various reasons and now attends church on a Sunday as well – and loves it (as much as any young person does!) and I think this is because we allowed him the space to discover for himself his Lord and Saviour. Obviously I cannot say what might have happened had the situation been handled differently, but I think it is important to remember that in each person’s life God is moving and that lasting faith is that which is experienced, rather than enforced. I hope this story serves as encouragement for anyone experiencing this sort of situation, it did for me.

  5. I have some young people for whom this is true. I also have a few for whom our service is just TOO EARLY on a Sunday. We always try and focus on giving some teaching outside of Sunday, say at our Saturday youth clubs or in house group. For some young people, the youth group IS church so much so that two of my young people opt to work SUNDAYS so that they can volunteer as young leaders on Saturdays.

  6. The idea that there should be some attachment between young people and the Church is a good one and important one. But a question, would we have the same debate if a nurse said she had to do shifts in the hospital on a Sunday morning? I don’t think so!!!!! I would suggest that as long as there is time during the week, for the young person to connect with God in whatever way, then he should connect with his community. It strikes me that this sports person could have the best of both worlds, if he has that connection with God during the week, and then imacts his community, his culture on a Sunday morning, then isn’t he doing on a sunday morning what the Church should be doing anyway, being salt and light in the world.
    I would also suggest that it is not just down to the church for his spiritual development, it is also the responsibility of the paretns as well, so he should be getting good solid christian imput during the week form parents and church, and be able to impact his community as well, best all round for him and the ocmmunity.

  7. We regularly have, and I’m sure will continue to have this problem with conflicting pressures on young peoples time.
    I’ve seen various approaches. At the one extreme you have the “you will go to Church” attitude, which ultimately has the opposite effect. Equally I know parents currently who are operating the alternating idea, trying to balance sport with Church. There are also young people who you rarely see at a Sunday morning service now, but who still turn up regularly at Youth Group.
    Ultimately though, I think if we’re serious about wanting young people to be part of the Church, we need to be trying to get the Church to fit into their lives, rather than stubbornly trying to get them to conform to us. So if they can’t come on a Sunday morning, we need to be looking at what we can do for them at times that do fit in.

  8. I think listening to the needs of young people and changing our church ways to respond to this new generation is really important.I agree with the comment ‘ you will go to church’ attitude can have the opposite effect.Personally,when I had a similar dilemna,I decided to support my son and I believe that a different decision in my case could have had a negative effect on our relationship.

  9. Broadly in agreement with most of the above. Church is more than what we do on Sunday morning. The problem sometimes is dealing with the conflicting demands of parents – those that don’t want to fight their offspring over sport on Sunday, but want you do ‘teaching’ at youth club, or accommodate them into a different age group that meets at a more convenient time. But had a positive experience with a couple of lads who were starting to drift out of church. They came along to the Friday youth club, which I kept strictly social (no God Slots). With the older youth’s permission I allowed them to come along to the evening 14+ group, but refused to dumb it down. The result is that they come on Sunday mornings whenever they don’t have training or fixtures, and are enthusiastic members of the other groups and camps (and they gave me a nice cake for Christmas).

  10. There is something about the importance of communal worship and celebrating the risen Christ on a Sunday. Something also about worshiping as a family together.
    Children have to learn that putting God first is paramount in that person’s life. We have three children and have insisted that they attend church on a Sunday. Our eldest (now married) is a very committed Christian, our second age 20 is getting Baptised this month and our youngest (12) is now asking about football on a Sunday morning.
    If he does play football, we will at the very least encourage him to attend worship with us sometime during that day.
    I do (sometimes reluctantly) see the wisdom of eg having family orientated worship on a Sunday afternoon, but worry about the need to continuously bow down to pressures of society on this matter.

  11. My children have to go to church. They don’t have a choice, but that is because they are both under 11 – and I do try to ensure that church is a positive experience for them. As they get older, I expect to extend more choice to them (but still hope [expect?] that they will continue to attend).
    To me, the sport v. church thing is a spiritual barometer. If you give the youth the option, you know where they stand and are better placed to encourage their spiritual growth. If you give no choice, you don’t know where they stand. And are possibly just putting off the rebellion until the later tenage, or college years. I have never seen a good outcome from teenagers compelled to attend church.

  12. Yep, when they get to about 11 (the whole secondary school thing makes a big difference) you have to give them a bit of freedom and choice. If you don’t it’ll never be their faith and unless you’re really really controlling that’s going to be a problem when they’re 25.
    Churches must be flexible. Not because rugby is more important than God. But because each generation must be won anew, and the ones we want to reach are the ones that are somewhere else. We have to make it good to come to meetings, we have to make it desirable. We expect kids to change their schedules, isn’t it time the organised church learnt the same thing.

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