Recently, I’ve read a lot of commentary about how families are choosing youth sports over church involvement. I need to let you know up front that I’m a youth football coach for young boys that play in both the fall and the spring. I view my sons’ and daughter’s involvement in sports and other extracurricular activities as an important part of their maturing into well-rounded individuals.
It always strikes me as humorous when those of us involved in ministry see other outside activities as competition for our events. First, I view the events that we plan for our children and families as valuable and important for everyone involved. Second, I see great value in other activities outside the church. It seems to me that we should ask ourselves Three Questions as we attempt to reach families and desire to teach them how to grow spiritually:
- When we offer an event, do we consider the family’s existing schedule and commitments?
- Is the event we are planning truly going to make an impact, or are we just continuing something because we’ve always done it?
- Are we scheduling so many classes and events that it would hinder a family’s opportunity to connect to their community?
Concerning question number one, too often the church calendar is planned without even considering community events. To me, this comes could be considered arrogant or even foolish. When a missionary goes into a foreign country, one of the things they invest a great deal of time in is discovering how that community functions. Why would we attempt to reach our community without the same mindset? If our goal is to reach our community, we should take the time and look at what activities are taking place inside our community as we begin to create our own schedule.
Question number two should be asked of every event we undertake. Too often, events at church are planned and presented just because it’s what we always do. Every event should be evaluated under the microscope of the event’s goal and value. Some events simply need to be reinvented while others simply need to be dropped because they no longer achieve the desired goal.
Now let’s take a look at question number three. My family and I moved from Texas (the belt buckle of the Bible Belt) out west to Arizona. I can say with complete conviction that the way most families view church here is a great deal different from how it’s viewed in the Bible Belt. I also know from personal experience that those of us active in church can become so involved with church activities that we are no longer connected with our communities. This tendency to become insulated from the outside is what one author dubbed the “Christian Ghetto.” The longer you have been a believer who is active in your church the more intentional you must be to connect with an unbelieving community. I believe our call to be “salt and light” is too often forgotten, and we simply become a “holy huddle” that is no longer focused on the “main thing.” Our family’s experience in youth sports has been one of the best ways to connect with our community. We have the opportunity to develop close relationships with many families who otherwise would have little or no connection to a local church. Our goal as a family is to share Jesus in a relational context by simply being who we are as a member of our community. Men who would never talk to a “pastor” will share what’s going on with their friend the “Coach.”
My challenge to all of us is:
- Ask the three questions of every event we plan.
- Make a commitment to find a way to embrace youth sports and other extracurricular activities in order to make a difference.
- Be “Salt and Light” outside the doors of our churches.
So what does your church schedule look like? What evaluation tool do you use following each event? What are some ways that you connect to your community? Leave a comment and let’s talk.