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Do Kid’s Traveling Sports Teams Teach Wrong Priorities?

Leadership / Parenting / Spiritual Formation //

There are over 35 million kids involved in youth sports.  Over 21 million of these are involved in non-school teams.

I love sports.  I played sports all the way through my school years.  I believe sports teaches kids valuable life skills such as discipline, teamwork, perseverance, and more.

That being said, let’s talk about traveling teams.  If you’re in children’s ministry, you’re probably very familiar with traveling teams.  These are teams that travel to other cities and states to play.  They require a much higher commitment level and are normally made up of kids who have above average skills. 

There is a financial cost.  Parents whose kids are on traveling teams currently spend over 7 billion dollars a year on travel alone.

But I believe the biggest costs cannot be measured financially.

How about the cost of disrupted home lives?  A traveling team means increased practices, busy weekends away from home and hectic schedules.

And the biggest cost…misplaced spiritual priorities.  In most cases, traveling teams can take kids out of church for weeks at a time.  I have personally seen families miss church 6-8 weeks at a time due to this.

What message are sending to kids when this happens?  Are we teaching them that sports takes a priority over being in God’s house?  In churches across the country, families are attending church less frequently.  The average family who attends church is showing up twice or less each month.  A percentage of this can be attributed to traveling teams.

I have a feeling I am getting some “amen’s” from children’s ministry leaders who are reading this.  So…what can we do to encourage families in this area?

We must teach parents the importance of bringing their children to church consistently.  In a positive way, we must share the difference it will make in their lives spiritually.

One of the best times for this is when parents are young.  If they can get this right when their children are in the nursery, they will continue when their children are in their pre-teen years.  I talk in this post about a key way you can do this.

We must teach kids and their parents to follow Matthew 6:33 in every area of their lives.  Seek God and His kingdom first.  There is nothing wrong with kids playing sports…as long as it doesn’t replace God at the top of the list. And where you’re at on Sunday shows where God is on your list.

We must help kids fall in love with Jesus.  As we model what it means to be in love with Jesus, kids will see this as more attractive than putting sports first.

We must make sure kids are personally known at church and are missed when they are not there.  When a child knows Mr. ______ or Mrs. ______ is waiting to see them at church, they will want to be there.  When they miss a weekend and get a handwritten postcard in the mail letting them know they were missed, they will want to be there.

Kids who are on the edge of the crowd will be prone to get involved in activities that take them out of church.  Being connected is a glue that keeps kids in church when traveling teams come calling. 

We must create environments that have kids dragging their parents to church.  When kids are part of a ministry where they have fun…are loved…are personally known…and can’t wait to be…they will not want to miss…for anything…including sports.   

What are your thoughts on this? Do traveling teams affect kid’s attendance in your ministry? How do you encourage kids and parents to put Jesus first in this area?

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About the Author

Dale Hudson is the Director of Children's Ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in South Florida. He has been in children's ministry for over 25 years. He was named one of the top 20 most influential people in children's ministry. He is the co-author of 5 books. He writes daily about his children's ministry journey at www.relevantchildrensministry.com.