Sports on Sunday

Elizabeth Kaeton has raised an interesting issue at her blog, Telling Secrets, about the Sunday morning competition between churches and sports leagues. I’m both a church employee and a long, longtime youth sports coach, and I’ve been swapping emails with her and one or two other folks on this topic. My thoughts are distilled beneath the “continue reading” button.

On Sunday Morning Sports

Hi Elizabeth,

You raise an interesting issue. I readily concede that our culture is too sports-oriented and too achievement-oriented. Many parents raise their kids to have the most attractive college admissions application possible, and that often include some kind of sports-related accomplishments. On the other hand, my kids’ values were more “in play,” so to speak, in their lives as athletes than in their lives as church members. I’ve certainly done more good as a coach than as a Sunday School teacher. (I think interviews with kids I’ve coached and kids I’ve taught would bear this out.) And I get something from playing ball and keeping myself in the shape to play ball that I don’t get from attending church, although my experience of Sunday morning probably isn’t normative because I am immersed in church business pretty much round the clock.

On a more practical note: My family has found 5 pm service on Saturdays or Sundays helpful, but we don’t attend these regularly during the program year because there is no religious education component. I have an appreciation how hard it would be to run youth formation programs twice each Sunday, so I don’t expect this to change.



To another correspondent:

Regarding sports/worship calendar conflicts: I think providing alternative service times is a good one, but as someone who has an easier time spreading the gospel on a ball field than in a Sunday School classroom, let me make two additional points.

1. Sports and drama provide some of the few opportunities kids have to assume adult roles and to receive public, communal acknowledgment for doing so. The more we can build this dynamic into our youth programs, the more popular (I think) they will be.

2. A passion for sports can feed a passion for mission. Visit the Home Run Baseball Camp Web site and learn about its outreach to a Catholic school in the Dominican Republic. The program is called Beisbol y Libros and you can learn abut it here.

There’s also a wonderful international organization called Right to Play, sort of a Coaches Without Borders.

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