Youth Sports on Sundays: A Paradigm Shift

Jesus Christ understood the concept that if you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done before.

When Jesus was about to ascend into Heaven, He told his disciples: "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." THAT is probably the GREATEST paradigm shift ever, when Jesus left this world and the Holy Spirit came to live in US. Now our responsibility is to USE the gifts and talents that God has given us to share the love of Jesus with all those we come in contact with. The challenge in this verse is for us to be "Jesus with skin on". 

You have heard the ole saying: "that kid will be playing on Sunday one day." It seems as though the HIGHEST level of all sports are played on Sunday. 

Chances are that sports are a part of your Sunday routine, whether it’s watching the NFL, NBA, NASCAR, Major League Baseball, or simply playing catch in the afternoon with a friend or relative. Our Sundays involve plenty of sports, and now that trend has extended to YOUTH sports as well, the truth is it stinks. More than ever, young athletes and their families are spending entire weekends at tournament after tournament with their travel teams and their families – some of which would normally be in church, but many of which don’t go to church anywhere anyway. 

Most people will agree that, in general, youth sports today are a much bigger deal than they used to be 5 or 10 years ago. The good news in this is that families are spending time together. A negative byproduct of that growth is the increase in tournaments and games that take place on weekends - including Sundays, which naturally creates a conflict for those families who have commitments to both their sports teams AND their church families! 

But this dilemma also creates an opportunity to reach out to those who are NOT churchgoers at all. If these families were not going to these tournaments, they probably wouldn’t be coming to church either! As we all know, the vast majority of those who make a profession of faith do so because of a TRUSTED relationship. What better way to build trusted relationships with non-believers than to spend all weekend together OR multiple weekends together!

Wouldn’t it be great if there weren’t any sporting events that conflicted with sports families going to church every Sunday? Absolutely! But the reality is, these are the circumstances we find ourselves in: families are being forced to choose between going to church or going to tournaments on Sundays, and the Church had nothing to do with that change, it is just a sign of the times – and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon. The question is: how will the Church respond to these circumstances? 

Unfortunately, when families choose sports, they are all too often looked upon with disapproving eyes by some of the leaders of the Church. Understandable! Unless you have a child who is a gifted athlete; if you DO have a child that has a love and gift for sports, it truly causes plenty of anxiety - in many cases these tournaments are the only opportunities for exposure to the next level of play...which could lead to college scholarships or ultimately a professional career. We know that the chances of that happening are very slim, but everyone wants to play at the highest level for as long as they can!

When families are discouraged from attending these Sunday tournaments, we could be missing out on an AMAZING opportunity for ministry; AND it’s very possible that we could be creating a wedge between the Church and these families, not to mention the families who aren’t going to church anywhere to begin with.

What if we were to approach this circumstance completely differently when it comes to sports families within the Church? What if we were to recognize that these families have been blessed with an incredible platform to be examples of Jesus Christ? Maybe it’s time for a major paradigm shift as it relates to how we disciple these young families. What if we were to prop them up, instead of tearing them down?

Churchgoing families missing church to attend their kids’ sporting events on Sundays IS a problem…but it’s not nearly as big a problem as all of the families that don’t attend a Bible-believing church at all. 

If they won’t come to church with us, then we are commanded to BE the Church to them! I believe God is providing our church member families with an opportunity to use their gifts and talents in sports to share the love of Jesus at those events. Instead of shunning these families, instead of shaking our heads when they miss a Sunday morning service, maybe we, the Church, should:

  • TRAIN them – show them how to be intentional about BEING the Church to other, non-churchgoing families at these tournaments.
  • PRAY OVER them – come together corporately and lay hands on these families in prayer; they are going out on MISSION!
  • SEND them – instead of judging them for leaving, pray that the Lord would bless them on their MISSION as you send them out the door!
  • CELEBRATE with them – publicly recognize them upon their return; let them share all the amazing things that God is doing on their MISSION field.

This would be a huge paradigm shift! A shift that could literally change the landscape of youth sports as we know it today, and generate so much more excitement and encouragement for these families to use sports as their personal ministry outlet. You can bet that when Jesus referred to us being His witnesses to "the ends of the earth," that statement included the people who show up at youth sports tournaments on the weekends! 

Isn’t it incredible to think about all the unique opportunities our God gives us to minister in this world? So many gifted witnesses are already out there, ready to go – let’s TRAIN them, let’s PRAY for them, let’s SEND them, and by all means let’s CELEBRATE what God does through these good and faithful servants upon their return. If you want something you’ve never had, you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done before.

Find out more about how Upward Sports can help your church create a new ministry pathway out of these circumstances.