Thursday, August 23, 2012

Organized Sports and Individual Hobbies - Appetites Can Lead to Addictions

We are heading in to the fall season.  School will begin soon, and many parents are trying to determine which and/or how many activities their children will be participating in for the upcoming school year.  Dance class.  Football.  Boy Scouts.  Youth group.  Karate... 


Here is the most recent question I received just a few days ago on this topic, which I'll address today.
"Hi Erika, I have a question for you regarding activities outside the home. Do you have your kids in any sports/gymnastics/dance classes? I have 5 kids. One of my daughters has been begging me to do gymnastics again (she did several months of it when she was younger) and she is very flexible and could do very well in it. My concern is that if I sign her up, then the rest of my girls will want to do something. Then I will be juggling a busy schedule not to mention a pretty hefty monthly payment. Up until this point, I have only let them participate in sports/etc one time here or there, not on a consistent basis. What are your thoughts? How do you deal with this in your family?" ~ Tracy
I would love to share with you what we have learned so far on this subject of outside activities and hobbies, and about the crucial mandate to keep our children's hearts.  Let's look at:
  • What God says we are to do with our lives
  • Appetites, addictions, and "golf widows"
  • Sports commitments on Sundays
  • Mentored - by the coach?
  • Coaches in charge of our family's time
  • Competitive sports don't build character; they reveal it
  • Music, Music lessons and church activities
  • If kids can work with their siblings, they can work with anybody
  • What if our child is a "natural" in a specific sport? 
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When Bob and I were at the beginning of our journey in surrendering our family planning to the Lord back in 2000, one of our many questions was, if the Lord were to give us lots of children, "How would we provide sports equipment and dance costumes and recitals for lots of children?  And we falsely rationalized, then, that if we we couldn't do it, that meant that we shouldn't have the children.  This can be the same with hobbies as well. Both new hobbies that have been discovered in adulthood or ones that have been brought forward from childhood.  The messages that our world gives parents are not Biblical ones at all.  It seemed to us that having a large family and satisfying all the worldly desires of both children and parents were not compatible. Eventually we chose to do what we believed God, not the world, was calling us and our family to.

While we were pondering some questions such as this which would affect our family planning decisions, the Lord brought authors and speakers Steve and Teri Maxwell, their books and teachings in to our life.  The Maxwells (parents of 8) do a masterful job of revealing life application and guidance directly from the Word of God for practical subjects in our lives, such as managing our lives as homemakers and homeschoolers, growing in character and spiritual maturity, raising sons to be the head of a single-income home, and on training up our children.  We have read and listened to nearly all of their materials (and would highly recommend all of them!), and two of their materials about this subject are the book Keeping Our Children's Hearts, and their message (available on CD) called, Sports: Friend or Foe?  Through resources such as these we saw God's truth on the subjects of keeping our children's hearts and on sports, which is very different from the world's message that we are bombarded with everywhere we go. 

What God says we are to do with our lives
The world says that our children should be able to play and play and play, and that they should pursue that with all their being.  But God's Word says that we were not put on this earth to play all the time and pursue entertainment but rather to serve one another as He served; to have relationship with Him; to populate the earth; and to pursue and do good work. Let's look at scripture related to these directives (emphasis mine).
"So you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water." ~ Exodus 23:25

"And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear [respect] the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statues which I command you today for your good?" ~ Deuteronomy 10:12-13

"Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling." ~ Psalm 2:11

"As each one has received a gift, minister to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." ~ 1 Peter 4:10

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels and then He will reward each according to his works.'" ~ Matthew 16:24-27

"Then God said 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created Man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves in the earth.'" ~ Genesis 1:26-28

"Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it." ~ Genesis 2:15

Appetites, passions, and "golf widows"
"Appetites, if fed, become passions; passions become forest fires."  ~ Steve Maxwell
It is always wise to carefully consider what kind of appetites we feed in our lives.  What do we pursue first when we have a little free time or money?  Do we pursue time with our children?  Or developing our character?  Or building our marriage by serving our husbands?  Considering how we spend our time and money will reveal our prioritiesFor example, if we have an appetite for sugar and we feed it too much, we will develop a dangerous addiction to sugar.  If we have an appetite for shopping, if we are not careful we can develop a passion for it which then turns in to an addiction; a potentially devastating habit for a marriage and for one's finances.  If we (men typically) feed an appetite for golf too much, it can easily become a passion - which then can lead a wife to feeling like a "golf widow", as her husband is out pursuing his passion with his time and finances instead of investing in his wife and children.  And if we allow our children to play sports for hours each day, to watch it on television, listen to it on the radio, and spend entire weekends competing in it - sports will become a passion, and then an addiction.  And it is almost a guarantee that the sports-addicted child will then take that addiction in to their life and their marriage. (If you're saying to yourself, "How can a sport be addictive?" please note that there are a great many underlying issues that form an addiction to something like sports or hobbies but that is not the main point of this post. I would encourage you to dig deeper if this is something that interests you.) The time and financial burden can be quite high for some of these activities which in themselves are reasons to consider seriously how life is being prioritized. There are a great many ways to justify these activities and expenditures and I cannot go over each one in detail. My hope is that by focusing on what God's word says we should be doing with our time, talents and treasures the application will be wider and more personal to everyone reading this.
(Warning:  The next paragraph is a very, very common scenario - but some people may not like to read it.  It is a truth that should be faced honestly, and evaluated while families are young and making decisions regarding the direction their family will take on the subject of organized sports.)
The sports-addicted child becomes a grown up who has to work a lot of hours to support his addiction (taking even more time away from his family).  He then watches it on TV with most all his free time instead of investing in his wife and children and feeding them spiritually.  He'll listen to the sports networks like ESPN on the radio while driving in the car.  He'll spend family gatherings such as Thanksgiving in front of the TV watching football instead of getting to know the family he sees a few times a year.  His wife usually struggles with resentment, loneliness, and exhaustion as she manages the family and the household alone.  His children are likely to not know him very well (maybe a little more so if he is feeding their appetites, too, drawing them in to his addiction with him) because he's always eating, sleeping, and breathing sports.  The family will spend Sunday, the Lords Day, competing in sporting events.  Other siblings in the family who are not sports fanatics or who are simply younger will likely take a back seat to the all-encompassing sports teams schedule and financial costs, resulting in resentment and feelings of being less valuable.  And sports will dominate dad's thoughts and his conversations...which will then have absolutely zero eternal value...at all.

Often times this time and financial drain comes in the form of a hobby and not a sport (played or observed) which can sometimes be even more damaging.  As an example, if a man enjoys (has an appetite for) something like radio controlled airplanes the costs can be quite high. The hours required to build a model, master it in the air, repair it when damaged etc., etc. can be an enormous loss to the family not to mention the thousands of dollars that will be spent along the way. Frequently this is not an obsession with airplanes as much as it is an obsession with feeling (being) accomplished in an area of great difficulty and where peer approval is a significant reward. In a micro-society like the hobby world it is quite possible for a man to be a famous celebrity. With the internet as pervasive as it is today it is no longer a matter of the guys at the local hobby field, it can be a world-wide notoriety not easily resisted.

Internet gaming is another hobby that can draw a man in and consume his time and the family resources. Internet/computer gaming has a serious and unique complication in that it seems rather tame and noninvasive on the outside. The initial financial investment is lower but serious gamers will spend large sums building computers that are bigger, better, faster. Game manufacturers come out with new versions of games at an increasing rate and new games come out all the time. Perhaps the most difficult part is that the computer runs 24 hours a day so dad can sit down and play when the family is asleep or away. This seems like the perfect way for a man to have a hobby and not impact family time but the reality is that sitting at the computer until all hours of the night and morning playing games or anything else robs the family of dad when he is around because he is not getting the sleep he needs. This lack of sleep will undoubtedly affect his work as well even to the point of missing opportunities or even losing good employment because his productivity will diminish to a sub-standard level.  And he may be falling asleep during family times because of the lack of sleep during appropriate times, thus still taking family's time away.  The gaming, unchecked, would likely seriously affect any job search following the loss of a job spiraling the family into all sorts of ruin. It is not just the literal mistress that will turn a man into a loaf of bread.

Now I know that seems pretty strong.  But it's a reality.  *sigh*  And the best and easiest way to avoid the sports and hobbies appetite being fed too greatly is to act prayerfully, preventatively, and decisively - moving ON PURPOSE in the direction that is best for the family.  We need to guard against feeding our appetites too much - and allowing them to become addictions.

Here is my husband's example.  He loves photography and always has.  He is naturally very good at it.  He currently owns nice equipment, but that which he has purchased used, using the family's finances wisely.  He also does not go off on his own, away from the family, in order to pursue photographic opportunities, clubs, or hobby groups.  He involves his family, taking great photos of us and for us, and teaches the children about his skill with the camera.  We look forward to teaching the children how they can also use photography to bless their family or friends, offering their skills as he does as a ministry to photograph families or weddings or homeschool events.  But he never lets it get in the way of family time, and he lets the editing process (which can take many days) take as long as necessary without compromising his family time to get it done.  And he holds his camera equipment with an open hand to the Lord - willing to let it go when necessary.  He has sold all of the camera equipment he's owned at least 3 different times during our 15 year marriage during times of extreme financial stress or unemployment in order to bring in the cash we needed for groceries.  And then he slowly saves a little money here and there and purchases a camera again years later. It's not bad to enjoy photography - what's bad is when a hobby appetite is overly fed, becomes an addiction, a passion, and then takes priority over all else, despite a wife's or a child's needs for time and financial stability.  (A wife should never have to take on a side job in order to have a little money to organize her home or to purchase items that her children need when the money is available but it's being spent on husband's hobbies or organized sports instead.)

So you're probably asking of me, Do we personally refuse all sports activities and hobbies from our children?  *chuckle*  *smile*  No, not necessarily.  There's nothing wrong with the sports in and of themselves.  Familiarity with sports and a little play time here and there as a family is totally different than committing to competitive team schedules and finances, letting the coach disciple our children, breaking God's fourth commandment to keep the sabbath day set aside for Him and for rest, and allowing an appetite to become an unhealthy passion.  Here's a recent photo of our extended family playing badminton together on our recent camping trip.



Sports commitments on Sundays.
Our time and financial usage proves our priorities.  God Word is very clear about keeping God's day set apart as a day of rest in preparation for another busy work week beginning the next day.  
"Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy." ~ Exodus 20:8
There are no justifiable excuses.  This is one of the ten commandments - and God means what He says.  It is point blank.  It is not a grey area.  It is one of His top 10 commandments for us.


Not giving our children to be mentored by a coach
Who ever has a child's heart, that is who is discipling them.  If children are away from home at school all day long, and then they spend their free time with their coach (or ballet instructor, or Karate teacher, or youth group leader) - then their school teacher and their coach is discipling them.  They have the child's heart.  Even if children are homeschooled but all their free time is spent practicing, playing, and competing in sports, then outside of school hours they are most likely following the lead of their coach, rather than their parents.  

If we desire to keep our children's hearts, to mentor and disciple them in relationship ourselves as God intended and instructs, teaching them about God's Word and leading them towards developing their God-given gifts so that they can serve Him well, and learn to raise up their own children towards the evangelism of others - then we must have their heart.  If we do not have their heart, then we are not their ultimate influence - the coach is (or their peers are, or their youth group leader is)...whom ever they value the opinion of most.

We shouldn't wait until someone steals our children's hearts.  We should be proactive in protecting and keeping them.  It is the parent's God-given responsibility to disciple their children.  But what does this mean, exactly?  Here is a paragraph from my post on why we homeschool that touches on what discipleship is and how it effects a child's worldview:
From Voddie Baucham’s message, Why Homeschool? A child’s world view – what they think about God, man, knowledge, ethics, and truth – affects all of their decisions and actions through out their lives.  And what people believe effects how they behave.  A child’s world view is formed informally, and uncritically.  Children do not realize or recognize when or how these views are being formed, and the government schools intentionally take advantage of this when children are young, establishing foundational thinking for their whole life.  For example, when a 5-year-old child is read the book, Heather Has Two Mommies, she thinks to herself, “I have one mommies, Heather has two mommies, that must be wonderful.”  The child does not think critically, analyzing why Heather would have two [homosexual] mommies and whether or not that is okay and good for her.  She simply accepts this fact as morally right.  Today, less than 10% of Christians possess a Biblical, Christ-centered world view – and this includes all of the public and private school teachers [coaches, youth group leaders, etc.] that parents place their children under the tutelage of.  A Biblical world view includes beliefs such as:  there is absolute moral truth that is right for all people, in all times, in all places; that adultery is not okay; drunkenness is not okay, homosexuality is not okay, abortion is not okay.  Scripturally, these things are clear; black-and-white.  And there is no such thing as morally neutral education [or educator].  All teaching, all instruction communicates a world view.  
...And people who disciple our children will also communicate a world view to our children.  Here is some scripture on the parent's responsibility to disciple their children, and to protect them from bad influences.
 “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).  Who does not walk in the counsel of the non-Christian coach.

 “…Guard what was committed to your trust [your children], avoid the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith” (1 Tim. 6:20-21).
 

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20).  Children should not be allowed to have too much time with foolish companions - an entire team of same-age children will not be a good influence, guaranteed.   

Coaches in control of our family's time
We are personally not willing to have our family's time dictated by what the coaches determine to be the necessary practice schedule during the week, and competition schedule on the weekends.  Running around to multiple children's activities will steal all of our family's dinner times together in the evenings, will determine the quality of food we have time to eat on the run, will severely restrict the amount of time we have as a family, and the times when we are then home need to be spent scrambling around to get home responsibilities done such as laundry and house cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. If we participate in organized sports, then when my husband comes home after a long day's work we would all be rushing out the door (or more likely, rushing out the door without him), not spending any quality time with dad.   It is highly unlikely that we would have time for family devotions when we're gone from the house 3-6 nights each week. Our children's spiritual life, mentoring them and developing their character should be of utmost importance if we are serious about living a life for Christ.

Picture starving children in third-world countries.  Then imagine our sports-addicted children being like that on the inside, spiritually starving because we're too busy to feed them.


Competitive sports don't build character; they reveal it
We think this is a very profound statement we heard from Dr. Voddie Baucham, one of our all time favorite preachers.  Many people believe that participating in sports will develop their child's character - but it is simply not so.  If it were true, then the best examples of strong character should be seen in the NFL.  *laugh*  And that is clearly not the case!  Sports rolls models - divorced, obsessed, morally corrupt, materialistic, broken in body in many ways from years of abuse from the amount and type of physical activity (and which uses up their physical body and takes that away from their children), and with nothing of eternal value to their life - that is what we see in the NFL.  Now of course I am aware of the few professing Christian professional sports figures, but we're talking about the vast majority of what is found in the sporting arena.  Competitive sports reveal the character that is already present in a person.  And children do not need to participate in sports in order to develop their character; they can have plenty of character-developing opportunity at home!  *smile*


Music, music lessons and church activities
Music is an area where many people can become especially blind to the dangers related to what I have been talking about here because music is frequently categorized in such a way as to be immune from scrutiny. We highly value music, music lessons, choir and other music expression in our family but we try to always keep in mind that this too can become a problem when taken too far.

Is there really much difference in having a child who is naturally gifted in physical ability and is driven to succeed in hopes of earning a scholarship or professional career in sports where fame and fortune might be had? We think there is not. In our family we sing and play music as part of our education and to honor and worship our Lord but when it becomes an object of pride or monetary gain the previous intentions or motivations become lost and unhealthy behaviors, character and lifestyle issues are likely to follow.

There are a great many benefits to playing music and/or singing and we personally try to include them in our home whenever possible but not at the expense of our core beliefs or family unity as a whole. In our area, there is a very well developed youth symphony that would be a tremendous opportunity for our children who play instruments to participate in. Unfortunately as with so many activities like this, the time commitment is enormous and must be considered critically and prayerfully.  We are currently not participating simply because we have so many little ones that I would need to be managing there on location; and we do not feel that our older ones are ready to be dropped off all day without us.  So that opportunity is on hold until our family is a little older.  One of the really great things about music in a family is that the older more advanced children have the opportunity to teach the younger children which helps build relationships and can significantly sharpen the abilities of the older child when forced to communicate their knowledge to a sibling that has little or no experience.

Singing in church as a soloist, as part of an ensemble or choir is something that I have personally loved and enjoyed since I was 12-years-old both in and out of church.  I lead a children's choir for special events, performed in musicals and plays, and even traveled a little with a singing group (in high school and college).  When Bob and I began to follow God's lead in the area of family eventually I had to lay this down for a while so that I can focus on my primary responsibilities. There are many voices and worldly influences that would suggest I have lost part of my identity or have been robbed of something that I should not have given up and should now be bitter about. This is not truth, it is an anti-family world looking out for its own interests. I cannot imagine how costly it would be to my husband, children and home if I was still spending the time and energy it takes to prepare for rehearsals, attend rehearsals, arrive early for church etc. just to sing on a single Sunday morning much less be involved in any leadership capacity or be preparing a special event like a Christmas eve or Easter service.  Measuring the value of these activities by the activities alone is an incomplete assessment. The things that don't get done and the moments missed must also be weighed and from my perspective the costs are far too high. I look forward to the time when our children are older and/or transitioned into adulthood to take up singing again but until then I have to choose to focus on my current calling and ministry to my family.


If kids can work with their siblings, they can work with anybody, I've heard it wisely said.  Especially if they have a large group of siblings to draw opportunity from. *chuckle*  They will need to learn to work with both genders, varying ages, and with varying personality types.  And in combination with the instruction from both parents, those children will be far richer in character than they would be being sent to spend vast quantities of time with a bunch of kids who are all the same age, all lacking the same amount of wisdom.  ("Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child." ~ Proverbs 22:15)


What if our child is a "natural" in a specific sport?
That doesn't mean they should commit their life's focus to something of absolutely no eternal value at all.  Just because a daughter is very limber and has perfect balance doesn't mean that all of the other facts stacked up against playing organized team sports is then negated, and that child should go out for the gymnastics team.  God has given that daughter other gifts for her life that will further His kingdom, and which can lead her to hear from her Heavenly Father one day, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."  (Matthew 25:21)  That is the direction we should be directing our children towards.  And, we should not make decisions for our children's futures based on their physical abilities; we should make decisions based on God's Word.

Our bodies are to be used for God's use, not for our own selfish ambitions.  We need to keep our appetites in check.  We are created by Him; then He bought us with a price, the death of His son for our eternal salvation. 
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body."  ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service."  ~ Romans 12:1
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Steve and Teri Maxwell point out in their message, Sports:  Friend or Foe?, that the question to consider should not be, "What's wrong with organized sports?" but rather, "What's right about them?"


Blessings on your family's path,

Recommended resources:
Keeping Our Children's Hearts, ($12) By Steve & Teri Maxwell
Sports:  Friend or Foe?  ($5) By Steve & Teri Maxwell, audio CD
Family Driven Faith ($10) By Voddie Baucham, Jr

You might also be interested in my posts:

40 comments:

  1. Excellent thoughts! When we decided on one outside activity for our family we originally chose gymnastics. All our children had class the same night, they enjoyed themselves without being obsessed, and it didn't run our lives. We stepped away from it a year ago and over the summer allowed them each to spend a week in the summer doing their fave activity (horseback riding, basketball and drama camp). We allowed this much activity because they, again, coincided perfectly for our family so there was no excessive running around, no excessive time away from each other, etc. We liked that they had a taste of their favorite things (one week) without weekly or monthly commitments.

    Just a thought!

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  2. Thanks for sharing this interesting post Erika. I believe that I agree with the heart of what you're saying... but I do feel that it may be painting with a very broad brush.
    For instance, I have a very close friend who's husband was never allowed to play any organized sport while growing up and now he would *definitely* fit your description of a sports "addict" to a T!
    In our family, we are careful to manage outside activities & pursuits in way that does strengthen our family. My daughter's piano lessons allow us to enjoy singing together... our Choir participation allows us to serve the Lord through a ministry of music... and when it comes to sports, one child is allowed to play per season & we LOVE gathering together with picnics at the games to cheer 'em on.
    I think you provide an important warning here, but please don't make the mistake of believing that all families that allow their children to pursue athletics or individual hobbies are necessarily a weaker family unit or failing to properly disciple their children. ♥ Blessings!

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    1. Oh music lessons are part of educating our children well-roundedly, we totally agree; and church choir also does minister, of course, and provides the joy of singing for Him and doing so as a family, it's free, and it's not time consuming. Totally agree.

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  3. I'm sorry, this post is just plain silly. I believe that the scenario you describe with the addicted sports fan is about as extreme to one side as you seem to be on the other. As a mother of eight, I totally understand the need to limit the outside activities. But I would never eliminate them all together and have us stare each other in the eye, every day, all day long, for the sake of family time and proper discipleship. We have participated with many different kinds of sports and activities run by many organizations: YMCA, local youth organizations, homeschool activities, private businesses, Scouts, Awanas, etc and we have fun-as a family. None of them have ever held sports time or meetings on Sunday. No coach can dictate your time-if you sign up to play a sport you can still decide to skip a day whenever you need to-or want to:) And not all mentors outside the family are bad mentors. You make a huge assumption that you as parents are the one and only place your child can receive guidance. There are so many great people out there...you just need to choose wisely. As a mother of a large family with limited finances, I tell the truth to people out there- we can't "do it all" and we won't. I'm not going to use the Bible as an excuse. We make choices and live within our means. As for not letting children follow their passions... there is a little girl named Jackie Evancho. She has a voice like an angel. If her parents felt the same way you do, she would never have been on television as my father-in-law lay dying in the hospital. He never would have heard her sing and never would have thought angels were visiting him. He never would have believed that Heaven was for real and changed his beliefs just hours before he passed away. The take home lesson is-you don't know God's will or God's purpose for you or your children. Not all passions turn into evil addictions.

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    1. Pinaster, I totally agree. I like this blog but sometimes feel like it's so extreme and fear based.

      Certainly you're not turning your kids over to any Joe Schmo who teacher or coaches. There is also a level of personal responsibilty that has to come into play.

      As a kid my sister and I took EVERY lesson. Played all kinds of sports and enjoyed many social activities. Yet there was still PLENTY of time for family, church and the bible. Neither one of us are now, nor have we ever been addicted to sports or other outside activities. The whole premise posted here just seems to sheltered, fear based and extreme.

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    2. I should add that my kids aren't into sports and my husband has no interest in them.

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    3. KL - I don't believe we are fear-based at all; I'm sorry you got that opinion. But it's totally fine if you disagree of course. =)

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    4. Erica,

      It seems to me that you believe in a meticulous, pedantic God who makes it hard to get to heaven and easy to mess up.

      Maybe that's not what you intended to convey but that's certainly the impression i've gotten from this blog.

      I have a more expansive view of God. One without an endless list of hoops for me to jump through to be/remain in good standing.

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    5. I can't speak for Erika, but since we live a life very similar to hers, I would like to comment for just a moment.

      There is NO FEAR in my family's life. That is the amazing part of being a Christian! We know that we haven't been given a spirit of fear and so we aren't afraid of anything this world can throw at us and we certainly aren't "afraid" of God, though the Bible talks about the fear of the Lord which is simply a healthy respect.

      We cannot earn our way into heaven. If that were true Jesus' death would have had no value. We also cannot "lose" our salvation because of any of those "hoops" because we do not hold our salvation...God does!

      As for the things that we do that we reference the Bible for, we do out of an extreme LOVE! We love the God who gave His Son for us, who rescued us from sin and a certain eternity in Hell, so much that we desire to please Him. Just like our children love us enough to obey our household rules and standards out of their desire to please us.

      Though we can do nothing to earn/keep our salvation, we are NOT free to live as the rest of the world. And in truth, a Christian cannot live like the world because the Holy Spirit dwells within us and changes us.

      As I said, this may not be Erika's view...just my own experience.

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    6. Very well said, Sarah. =) Thank you. We walk the narrow path that is God's way to heaven. There is only one way, not many and not varied, and it is narrow; but open to all who love Him and make Him their Lord. Simple. Now always easy, but simple.

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    7. Thank you for explaining your perspective.

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    8. Reality-based fears are good--you should be afraid of the consequences of doing things like drugs or driving too fast without a helmet on a motorcycle. Counseling against harmful things is wisdom-based. Maybe a smaller family can make team sports into a family event, but my family of eight can't for all the kids.

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  4. ErIka,

    I am subscribed to your blog and when I got the email tonight, the title of your post immediately got my attention. I too feel the same way regarding sports. As I continued reading through your post I spent the time nodding my ahead in agreement. I know some will justify and disagree with you on some points, but as woman, mother, and wife who has surrendered her life to Christ, I can't help but agree with you 100%.

    Thank you for sharing this and God Bless

    Jaclyn

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  5. Thank you so much for posting about this issue! I played volleyball at my Christian high school and was intimidated by my "Christian" coach into playing club volleyball every winter in order to make the team the next year. This meant I spent every Saturday and Sunday for months playing for at least 12-14 hours a day, skipping church, and getting home far too late to focus on my homework. It was expensive and I absolutely hated it! I finally quit volleyball my senior year and I was so happy! When I think about all that time I wasted it makes me so mad.

    I've often wondered why so many Christian and even pastors' families enter the organized sports cycle. It just seems the time and finances could be better utilized. It may be permissible, but is it beneficial? Adults become obsessed with how well a ten-year-old performs at a certain sport. It's sick!
    I also enjoyed your Voddie Baucham quotes. If you've ever read his book "Family Driven Faith" he explains why his kids don't play organized sports.

    It drives me nuts when people say their kids have to play sports because "it teaches them lessons you can't learn anywhere else". Well, if that is true, how did George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Jesus(!), or anyone raised before 1950 for that matter make it through life?

    I can also personally attest to the fact that playing sports at a Christian school will not alleviate the issues at hand. At my parochial high school I witnessed favoritism by coaches, a pastor and other "upstanding" adults thrown out of sports events for rowdy behavior, and a coach yelling at and intimidating members of her prized track team because they decided to play soccer instead of track. All in the name of good Christian fellowship, right?

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  6. I truly couldn't agree more!!! Thank you for having the courage to speak out on this subject. I think Katie S. hit the nail on the head too. My husband played baseball all during his younger years. He said he can still vividly remember the deacon from his church being thrown out of the stands due to his unruly behavior towards the officials. I believe sports is an idol of our day.

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  7. I have to agree with Erika. I don't think she was saying not to do any activities ever, but "to keep our appetites in check." That's an important lesson to keep in mind these days when we tend to idolize sports and other acivities. My five children do a few activities but we try to limit them to things that we can participate in as a family. Otherwise we would never be together. Thanks Erika!! P.S Can you do a post on kids helping the kitchen with meals? I just ruined a whole recipe last night because everyone was trying to "help" and I forgot a main ingredient.

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  8. I would like to add that, for kids who do get involved in competitive sports at a young age, it can be very hard for them to quit if they decide they do not like it. They may feel as though they are disappointing their parents, friends, or coach if they don't want to play the next season.

    I have also seen many young men disillusioned by sports. I live in Husker Country, where practically every little boy dreams of being the star of the football team. Boys dedicate many years of their lives to sports, thinking the sport is important because adults puts so much emphasis on it. Then when the boys reach graduation, most of them are not good enough to go on the the next level(college ball, scholarships). They have spent years focusing on skills, most of which will not help them in real life, when they could have been focusing on choosing a career path or getting real life work experience.

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  9. This is a topic that I, too, have been giving thought too lately. We've limited sports to this point as well, not wanting to sacrifice family time in the evenings and weekends. I've also tended to hold the view that such activities hold no eternal purpose, so why dedicate time to them. It is this view that I am being challenged about, as well as the notion that we should automatically say no to the sports.

    I feel the comments above are a bit over-stated, and I don't think I agree with the premises behind all of them, but I certainly agree with you that outside activities must be considered with restraint and a heavy dose of thought and prayer.

    I love much of the Maxwell's work, though I feel they can at times be legalistic about some things (as is my perception of some of the other conservative family groups out there - though we also love much of what they espouse). I think we need to be careful about declaring some activities "sanctified" and others not. For example, I don't believe there is any inherent eternal purpose in sewing, just as there isn't in football, but sewing seems to be largely "acceptable" :)

    I've read recently an explanation of the word "magnify" in scripture, as in "magnifying the Lord". There is nothing anyone can do to add glory to the Lord, of course, so magnify can't mean that. Instead, it was explained that magnify means more of what a microscope or a telescope does - it brings the Glory of God into clearer focus and visibility for us and those around us. This thought has started to challenge me in my thinking of what activities are "acceptable". In all things, we are to magnify the Lord. So, following the dominion concept, are we then to take our unique circumstances, gifts, talents, workplaces, activities and magnify the Lord in all spheres of life? Can all spheres of life be "redeemed" as a venue for magnifying the Lord? (of course, first making sure those spheres are within Biblical mandates and precepts.)

    I've started reading Tim Tebow's book, and it tells of how his parents prayed about having another son who would become a preacher. Well, we all know him as the hugely popular football player that he is. Well, he had the opportunity to preach to a crowd of 15,000 people last Easter Sunday. Can God accomplish his purposes through the venue of sports? I believe He absolutely can. In a recent news article, Tim was interviewed and stated that football itself is insignificant - it is only a platform for him to share the message of Christ. Does football have eternal purpose for Tim Tebow? I believe it most certainly does.

    Another example that comes to mind is Eric Liddell, the famous missionary to China. His success in running gave him a tremendous audience to preach the gospel message. And who can forget the amazing stand he took against running in the Olympics on a Sunday?

    I know these are rare examples, but I'm just not ready to say God does not smile to use people of great athletic skill for his Kingdom purposes, via sports. But, I do certainly agree with you, that this must be a decision of extreme caution for families, and we must have our minds attuned to the dangers. I think many factors can also make the decision different for different families - such as family size, attitude of the child and parents, spiritual maturity level, etc. In the end, I believe all of these decisions must be covered with prayer and a searching of the scriptures, and God will direct each family in truth.

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    1. Very well said. I completely agree with you.

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  10. Hi Erika! Good post on an interesting topic.

    For our family, we're trying to teach our children that our "hobbies" should be something that honors the Lord, and provides an area of ministry later in life. We make a huge sacrifice in time and money to have our children play violin and piano, but music is a "hobby" that can be used to minister to others now AND in adulthood.

    While sports is certainly not a sin, it cannot be used for ministry. Therefore, in our home, we do not sacrifice our time or money for sports. :)

    One of my girls wants to learn cake decorating. This is a "hobby" that can be used for ministry and family, so she and I are planning to take a class together next year.

    Our boys (who are still a bit young!) want to go hunting. This is a "hobby" that benefits their family someday (providing meat) so Daddy plans to teach them to hunt.

    Hobbies in and of themselves are not bad. We just have to make wise choices as to where we spend our time.

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  11. Like everything else, sports need to be kept in check; however, by eliminating organized sports altogether,I think many kids would be missing a very enjoyable experience. My daughters love gymnastics and our sons love playing on a basketball team. There is a lot of good in learning to get along with others that are different from you, have different view points, and act differently. Thus is life.We look at it as an opportunity to let our light shine when we don't go to practices that are on Sundays or get angry and yell and scream at the ref. for a call we dont agree with. It is like everything else in life--too much of anything is not a good, but I don't think it is right to completely withhold fun opportunities that kids want to participate in because of fear of outside influence. That is where we step in at home and point out what behavior displayed at the ball field was inappropriate and unGodly. We, personally, do not think that kids should be allowed to play multiple sports at one time that have them pulled in all directions that leave them exhausted and mom running around town nonstop everynight. Some kids could care less about sports, and that is fine, but some truly enjoy them much like some girls like to sew or cook. It only becomes an idol or an addiction, like anything else, when you allow it to take over. Playing sports will not necessarily lead to an obsession. Furthermore, all hobbies do not have to have a purpose. Laughter and fun is a big part of being a kid. Sports is very enjoyable to many. For our family, this is our opinion; however, each family has to make the decision that best suits them. :)

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  12. I definitely agree with this post in a lot of ways, I hate sports and I hate how families become so addicted to them and they are always busy with some sports thing. My husband is not a big sports fan (I could not be married to a football fan! lol Those people are crazy!) But he did play in little league growing up and enjoyed it. However, my husband likes watching the Dodgers on TV occasionally, but he is not at all obsessed in any way. We watch it maybe once a week. We occasionally go to LA Dodger games as a family and it is such a special experience for us, and never takes away from God.
    I don't know that my children will do many extra curricular activities, but I know they will probably do some. But we will always limit it. I don't think sports will be on the menu, and I will never sign them up for anything that interferes with family dinner time or Sunday Church time.
    Jr. High and High School Band occupied most of my young life and was amazing. I happened to meet my husband there too, so there's no way it was not a blessing in my life. But my mother made sure I was focused. I always ate dinner with the family before band practice, even if I was late. And I never did anything that require Sunday time.

    I guess the biggest problem I have with this post is why do you have an issue with Youth Pastors? Are they not placed there at your Church to help lead your children? God has called us to be a part of the Church family! My brother in law is a youth pastor and he has changed many lives including my own. I cannot imagine life without Youth Group. It leads SO many young people to Christ is such a sinful time of their life. God tells us to fellowship with other Christians! The relationships I made and the things I learned in Youth Group have made me who I am today, and helped me become a Christian. I don't understand why anyone would think Youth Group or a Youth Pastor is a bad thing. I really wish you would explain this more.
    -Natalie

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  13. Hi Erika,
    I agree with your post to an extent. I, like your husband have a hobby. You actually mention it in this post. I fly camera's using remote control equipment. I am a stay at home, working dad who pays the majority of our bills. I even home schooled our daughter last year. Although it was only kindergarden. I used the My Fathers World curriculum, because I refuse to send my children to public school to have their heads and hearts filled with lies. My wife has cut her hours so that she can be home 5 days a week with us this year. She is going to tackle teaching 1st grade and I will have one more bill to pay. But you know what, Christ Jesus will provide. He has without fail since I put all my faith and trust into Him and Him alone. I don't just give Him sunday, I give Him everyday. I don't tithe 10% I give Him 100%. Because everything in this life is His. Ever since I was saved, I gave Him my life, all of it, not just parts of it. Everything, the children are not mine they are His. I'm only here to make sure they get back to Him. I pray Jesus fills your life with peace, and that He continues to bless and look over you and your family. I hope you enjoy my flying for Jesus. http://www.rccamerapilot.com. Here is my ministry also, http://www.coresist.com.

    Praise Jesus the true giver of life and advice,
    Jake Wells

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    1. Welcome, Jake. You have a great testimony about giving everything about us and all that we have to Him. Glory to God. Blessings on your family's efforts. =)

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  14. I read the Maxwell's views on this subject before and, while I wasn't convinced of the necessity to withdraw from all organized sports, I was really grateful that their viewpoint (similar to Erika's) caused me to really question to what extent we should participate in these things. I think it is a healthy, valid part of life for children to get exercise and gain skills in a sport and I realize that that is not an area that I naturally gravitate towards. My husband played soccer for years and it really helped him to be physically fit and that has had numerous benefits. I enjoy how organized sports really forced me to get the children out the door and out to play---it was a pain sometimes to get everyone ready, but once there we all enjoyed being at the park. There are benefits that our family enjoyed in the seasons we've participated in.

    However, I chose not to sign up for AYSO this fall for a bunch of reasons...3 different teams, no control over the practice schedules (since hubby's not coaching this time), hubby's grad work making him unavailable to help with taking children to practices, mewanting to snooze some on Saturdays since it's our day of rest, etc. I'm confident that it was a good decision for our family, but I still struggled with knowing that I did want exercise and improvement in athletics to be part of the children's day and that I
    wasn't likely to fit it in well.

    I came up with an idea that, if we pull it off, will bring in some physical activity, sports skill improvement and family togetherness to our lives and I just thought I'd share it. I designated two nights a week to "family sports night". We plan to go over to a nearby field at the high school, set up cones and bring lots of balls (the current sport is soccer) and my husband will lead the children in a fun game/skills practice while I play when I can and watch the baby. The play lasts an hour and we did our first night this week...it was so fun! Everybody got exercise, including mom and dad. The children enjoyed were giddy to play children vs. parents. We were feeling too sick on the second night (virus going around), but I'm hoping we'll pick up again next week. If we are consistent about doing this twice a week, then we're going to invite some friends to join us and hopefully have a really good, "organized" sports night that doesn't crowd our schedule or drain too much money or take away from family togetherness and discipleship. Altogether, it is 2 hours a week, with a little walk to and from the field--nothing to get stressed or frazzled about. I'd even get to still take a nap on Saturdays to boot. :)

    Thanks for the post, Erika. While I don't hold the same conclusions on this topic, I am really grateful that this area of our family life is being held up to examination. I think examining where our time, money and energy goes is really an important thing to do as Christians.

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  15. I agree completely.

    We also take into account the unspoken 'values' that could be communicated to our children by their peers. Things like immodest dress and contentious spirits.

    We've also heard it stated that organized sports push competitiveness to the point that you lose the Christian value of putting others before yourself.

    Our time here and together is SO SHORT, we just personally choose to do other things with it.

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  16. Out of curiosity- what is your view about athletes like Eric Liddle, whose refusal to run on Sunday became one of the greates testiomonys to the glory of our God millions of people ever saw. His quote "When I run, I feel God's pleasure" is one of my favorites. He was created to be fast, and he still served the Lord. He later becam a missionary and eventually died in his beloved China for the people he served.
    In a way I agree with you, and in a way I don't.
    I swim, and it has taught me so many things about our God and His grace.
    Just curious:)

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  18. Out children are still young, but we are planning to pursue recreational activities as a family. Some of our ideas include rock wall climbing, camping/hiking, canoeing, archery, etc. Not participating in group sports doesn't mean that you must give up all recreational activities - as you said Erika in your camping/badminton example.
    I did play volleyball in high school, with Christian coaches, and learned some valuable character lessons, but I do not believe it was vital to my growth as a person or that my children must be involved in sports to learn lessons of perseverance and teamwork. Those lessons are easily learned in a family setting when the family works and plays together.
    Our family has been spending a lot of time reading about the fear of the Lord. Erika, I admire your family for your fear of the Lord in this area, and not the fear of man.
    www.oneradianthome.com

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  19. Erika:
    I have been thinking about this post for several day. That must be a good sign....so thought provoking. While I agree with most of what you said. I think it is important to remember that just about anything can become an addiction. Reading can become an addiction is (for example) a mom reads christian romance novels to "escape", food can be addictive, computers can be addictive, relationships can be addictive etc. I hope you understand my point. I think it is more imprortant to teach our children to avoid extremes in all things rather than limit certain activity for fear of addiction. Remember the woman who sit home alone because her husband is a work-aholic is not much better off the than the woman whose husband is a sports-aholic. Moderation in all things. LOVE your blog....blessings! Jennifer

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    1. I agree, Jennifer!

      I do have a set of questions for Erika: Above, in your paragraph about Sports commitments on Sundays, you state that, "There are no justifiable excuses. This is one of the ten commandments - and God means what He says. It is point blank. It is not a grey area. It is one of His top 10 commandments for us."

      Is the above statement limited to sports or should it be applied to any activity that can become addictive?
      What would you say about Christian men whose employment schedules require them to work on Sundays (i.e. public servants, soldiers, etc.)?
      On which side would activities like AWANA fall in the black and white areas?
      If you'd like to email me privately, that's fine. Or, you could save the answers for a future post. :) Thanks!

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    2. Well, here are my best thoughts on your questions, Tracy. =)

      * Absolutely the potential for addiction and then imbalance of priorities can apply to any activity. Sewing. Novel reading. Exercise. We always need to be guarding our appetites for things of the world that can consume us. It doesn't mean those things are bad in and of themselves! It's all about perspective, balance, willingness to lay that thing down when more important things in life arise, such as children's and wives needs/time/spiritual investment, better balance finances, completing our responsibilities at home and at work well, being our healthiest (not disabling our ability to run with our children at the park because we shot out our knees being obsessed about running for exercise to keep our weight perfect - which was actually then idolizing having the perfect body).

      * It's tough for men's work schedules. I guess it's a heart issue, and about the choices we do have the ability to effect. It would be ideal for Christian men to be self-employed and not have to depend upon a boss to provide the pay check and therefore have to do as that boss says. But most Christian men don't have that privilege. They have to work when the boss says so. But they don't have to join sports teams - that's just a big "want". They don't have to go off kayaking all day with friends, leaving the family behind - requiring then that the wife has no rest day either because she's still "working" with the children and home by herself as usual. Husbands don't have to join photography clubs that absorb the husband's time on Sundays. Children don't have to be part of activities that yank the family all around following after a schedule that causes the whole family to have to do that same thing. Even if the parents think that the whole family likes it - there are children who would like to be home with their parents, and resting with them, too. And a wife who may think she loves the action of sports teams - but then she's stressed, short, or angry because she's expected to keep up responsibilities at home when she "doesn't have time". Often times she feels like she deserves a break, in addition to running around to sporting events. No - she had her break and she chose to run around to sporting events; there may not be additional breaks for "down time". She does have time for responsibilities - she's just not prioritizing it.

      * AWANA is an activity just like any other one. I've had many moms say how much they wish they could be home for family dinners - but they just don't have time; but they're choosing to fill their schedules up with too many things like AWANA.

      We can't have our cake and eat it, too. =/ And we're not victims of our schedules. We choose how it will be. My husband so lovingly taught me that - and it was so freeing to me. =)

      Hope that's helpful.

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    3. What about essential services? Should I not work as a nurse on Sundays when I am scheduled to do so? Shall I let my patients die because there are no doctors and nurses on duty as it's Sunday?
      Should fireman not put out fires on Sunday?
      Should midwives not deliver babies on Sunday?
      Should policeman not police on Sundays?
      I agree we should keep the Sabbath holy but that does not mean we are unable to work that day if we have too.
      You are basically saying I am not as 'holy' as you because I work on a Sunday. In fact you even seem to say I am going against the commandment. I keep Sunday holy. But I also work every other Sunday. I have no problem with that. Nor do the ICU patients & their families who I nurse.
      If you are ever as unlucky as to have one of your children in ICU I wonder if you will ask the doctors and nurses too not work on Sunday, 'Oh no don't come in. My child can die. Just keep Sunday holy'. I doubt it.

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    4. I_love_sydney,
      Well my first question is, why are you working at all? Is it absolutely necessary - for most moms it is not, it's a desire to "get out of the house" and have some additional income? Sorry, but that's the strait truth. If you're a single parent then of course you need an income, and like I mentioned above already as a reply to this original question, we don't all have the privilege of not working on Sundays for employment. That's part of being in a "fallen" sinful world. I encourage you to read my reply above, it addresses your questions here.

      Of course we take care of necessities - but most people don't like to draw the line appropriately between actual necessities and "likes" or "wants". In scripture Jesus takes care of healing the sick on the sabbath even when the religious leaders of the time question him. He pretty much says, "c'mon, use common sense." And he says, If your oxen was trapped in a hole, wouldn't you fee it? Of course.

      I am not comparing anyone to myself along the lines of holiness or "rightness"; the comparison is to scripture alone. I am simply stating what we do and why. You seem to have a problem with what scripture says. I'm just the messenger. It doesn't matter if you have a problem with working on Sundays or not, it only matters what God's Word says.

      And I think you could have asked your questions here without sarcasm. We can have a grown up discussion if that's what you're seeking. Unless you're just striving to make accusations, which is what you seem to be doing here; but I could be mistaken, this type of impersonal communication can be misleading. I hope you have a nice day.

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  20. Several years ago, when we were still a family of five, we got caught up in the rush of sports and activities for everyone. It took us exactly one season to realize that this was NOT how we wanted to live our lives-- and my husband was the coach and set the schedule for two of the sports! Knowing then that we were neglecting the "best" for the "good," and also having the knowledge that God was calling us to grow our family, we made the decision to pull back and refocus. This wasn't a popular decision with those outside of our immediate family ("Your kids are going to miss out on so much!") but believe it or not, our children were *relieved.* Turns out, they hated rushing out the door after gulping down dinner, or sitting in the car for hours driving to a game, or standing in a Washington downpour on the sidelines *as much as we did*! We prayed as a family, and decided to keep AWANA as a family activity (we all participate) and let the Lord lead from there. Now, as a family of nine (going on ten) we are so, so thankful that we stepped off the roller coaster when we did! We do have children who participate in certain, prayed over activities. And everyone does have interests and passions that we encourage-- in a healthy way that doesn't eat up all their time or require a commitment that we will feel pressed to keep.

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  21. I strongly disagree with some of the statements here. My husband is a former professional athlete and current coach at a Christian school. Sports are an activity that we enjoy as a family. We never allow sports to interfere with church. My children attend a Christian school where my husband is also a teacher, I personally know anyone that will be coaching them, and if I didn’t feel that the coach would be a good influence I would not allow it. I feel that extracurricular activities can build self-esteem, but beyond that sports are huge opportunity to witness. Many children & families have been drawn away from public schools to give their children sports opportunities at our Christian school, only to have their lives changes way beyond sports. Because I do dress modestly, as well as the rest of my family, we can witness with our outward appearance to others, who we would not have come in contact with otherwise. My husband has had numerous opportunities to witness, based on people recognizing him from sports. He has had multiple occasions to share his testimony all over the country. Kids are drawn to him because of his sports past, and that gives him a great chance to help win them to the Lord, not just to win in sports. Sports just like anything else can be a sin if put in the wrong perspective, but it doesn’t have to be. My advice would be to prayerfully consider any outside actives, but as far as I know, nowhere in the Bible does it say that participating in the occasional activity that you enjoy is a sin. If only becomes a sin if you allow it to come between you and your relationship with your family and Jesus.

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    1. I agree with you!! There HAS to be a line somewhere. I homeschool my children, well, we just started in February of 2013 so it's only been a little over a year and I've already noticed a huge LACK of opportunity to share Christ with others.
      Before homeschooling I had one child in public school, one in a private pre-school, they did soccer and t-ball at in a church organized league and they loved it very much. Their coaches had 15 minute Bible devotions as part of practice which was only once a week and games were held on Saturday mornings. Not too bad.
      But since we decided to homeschool, we basically "took a year off" from everything and I see my children actually struggling in this area. Boys, in my opinion, were made to be athletic. Sure, we have "PE" here at home where they run around outside and play for a while (most of the day actually after school) but there isn't anything organized about it, no goal, etc.
      One of my favorite things about Paul was how he compared the Christian race with an actual earthly race that you train for, focus on, run as if you are going to win!! And the Holy Spirit was definitely with him.
      I'm afraid sometimes us Christian homeschoolers think that ALL outside influences are bad and that our children are these poor, frail, and fragile flowers that will be crushed by "the enemy" as soon as we let them out of our sight or under someone else's supervision.
      I'm a firm believer in the parents being the guidance, the ones children look up to, the wise people in their lives. I don't ever want my kids running to a youth group leader or a coach for guidance when I'm right there in my home and as a homeschooler, I really don't see that happening. But, at some point they do have to learn that they can trust other adults and that other adults may well have some good guidance tips as well. I, of course, would really want to know these adults but our children will get to the "reasoning" age where they can weigh what a leader is saying and see if it is truth or not. They will have to do this in every day life as an adult anyway! We should be encouraging them to listen to a message and then pick it apart to see if there is truth or not.
      I'm getting carried away... anyway... my initial reaction to this post is that fundamentalist Christians seem to be doing a LOT in my opinion to "stay elite". We can't hope to win hearts for Christ by only mingling with the elect in our family and our church home. We need to secure our footing, teach our children to do the same, then get out there and win souls! How will our children learn to do this in any reasonable manner if we never give them chances to practice? I tell you what, before we pulled my now 7 year old out of P.S. he had children asking him about Jesus on a daily basis... hew as SIX YEARS OLD!!! But everyone knew that "Christian was a Christian" because he talked about Jesus when he could, he told people Jesus forgives sins, that everybody sins, he practiced forgiveness of them, he was kind to those who were bullying him (although this was one reason we pulled him out because it is our job to allow them to spiritually grow in the right direction and I didn't like this at all). My point is... children are a lot less "fragile" than we think they are. There have been times where MY faith has been strengthened by something one of my little ones did. And if they can teach me things, I know that they can teach others sometimes too. All of those secular circles NEED some Christians in the midst, they need to hear the Gospel message. I feel like fundamentalists are just keeping it for themselves. No school, no organized sports, no picking your own spouse, etc, etc, We parents want to be in control of SO MUCH that we forget that GOD is the one that is actually in control of everything.
      Like Paul said, he planted seeds, others may water them, but ultimately it's GOD that makes those seeds grow and flourish!

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