Sports and ministry are often viewed as competing forces. But keep reading for a closer look at these two areas.
“Did you watch the game last night?” Sports are an ever-present, increasingly influential fact of life in America. They’re the topic of conversation around the office, at the gym and on social media. Both participation in and identification with sports are as great now as ever.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m fan. I’ve enjoyed sports since I started playing football in my backyard. After my stellar playing career—5/6th grade basketball & 10th grade practice soccer squad—I’ve taken to playing recreationally and cheering on my favorite teams. For people who want to cheer and bet on their teams, they can do so online.
Most people are like me, I’ve discovered. They have some memories from the glory days, play a pick-up game occasionally, but mostly enjoy watching their favorite teams. But a few years ago, I realized I was more than just an active viewer. Upcoming games set my schedule. I increasingly spent nights in front of a TV screen. Not only did I experience the emotions of a good game, but they hung around afterward.
I recognized that sports was taking too significant of a place in my heart. Instead, I needed to go to bed and watch highlights the next day. I needed to prioritize pursuing Christ over my enjoyment of sports.
What I’ve wrestled with personally, I’ve also seen students and families walk through in ministry:
- How do you balance sports and church?
- How do you balance sports and academics?
- What does it look like to prioritize Christ in your pursuit of athletic achievement?
- How does your faith impact the way you compete?
- In what ways are you using sports to glorify God and advance the gospel?
- When have sports become an idol in your child’s life or your family?
Sports and ministry raise these questions and more for teens and families. Where do you turn for answers? Check out these resources on sports and ministry that might help.
Resources That Explore Sports and Ministry
1. On Sports and the Christian Life: An Interview with David Prince (Part 1 & Part 2)
David Prince provides answers to a wide range of questions about sports and ministry. He shares his own interest in sports, lessons from sports for the Christian life, and guidance for families with athletes. One of my favorite quotes comes from his response to avoiding sports idolatry:
Unthinking rejection or unthinking embrace of sports is a failure of Christian discipleship. I believe that the Christian with a rightly ordered, Christ-centered worldview is uniquely in a position to enjoy athletic competition as a good gift from God and his or her sports loyalties as a demonstration of providential rootedness in time, place, family and community. (See also this TGC post.)
For more from David Prince, see his book In the Arena: The Promise of Sports for Christian Discipleship.
2. Don’t Waste Your Sports – C.J. Mahaney
This eight-part series from a fellow sports-lover is full of great advice for athletes and fans. Mahaney’s focus is helping athletes play to the glory of God. If your child plays sports and wants to be faithful to Christ, Mahaney’s book based on these posts makes a great gift (Don’t Waste Your Sports).
3. Are Youth Sports a Friend or Foe to Christian Discipleship? – ERLC
This is an important question. The answer can go either way depending on parental leadership. We can use sports to serve ourselves or glorify God. Sports can pull kids’ affections away from Christ or compel them to live for Christ. “Sports, rightly understood, are but a means to a greater end of delighting in God. Though, like all good gifts, sports can be corrupted and become an idolatrous competitor with God instead of a means to glorify him.”
For other helpful resources, check out this podcast on Youth Athletics and ERLC’s Resources on Sports.