Practice. Hard work. Skills. Exercise. Competition. These are all important aspects of playing sports. And they are very important aspects of our daily lives. How do we practice our lives? Hard work can help us grow at school and at work. Skills are required to perform any task. Exercise not only keeps our bodies fit, but our minds fit as well. And competition helps us to remember that we are not alone in the world, that there are other people.

Sports have become a huge part of our lives. We watch and play them almost endlessly. We drive our kids to practices, sit and watch their swim meets for hours on end, and then it is time to crash. And because of this cycle, the church gets pushed to the back. But through sports, we can still learn about the sacredness of life and how to walk a journey of faith. Here are some ways to help form the faith of our children even when they are playing sports.

How Can This Be Sacred?

series by Rev. Jay Deskins

Every day we encounter sacred moments. And yet, we ignore, don’t notice or turn away. This blog, How Can This be Sacred? is created to help us notice the sacred in our every day lives, and how to take those sacred moments to reflect on our faith, give thanks, and to ask questions. As families become more and more busy, handing down our faith to the next generation is being pushed to the back burner. We have to be intentional about passing on the stories of our faith. 

My hope is that you and your family take moments every day in your busy lives to notice the sacred.

1.)  Being Thankful
Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” It is important for us to be thankful for what we have in life. We can teach our children how to be deeply thankful during games and practice. Be thankful for your body that allows you to play the game. Be thankful for your teammates, who help you learn, grow, and succeed. And when they aren’t helpful, you can be thankful for how you learn patience. Be thankful for coaches and other adults involved. They are passing on knowledge, creating a space for learning, and passing on a game that they love. Be thankful for other teams, they are trying hard and want to win as well. Without the other team, there is no one to play. Be thankful for their time, be thankful for sharing a love of the game. Be thankful by helping them up when they fall.

2.)   Being Good and Forgiveness
Being good and asking for or offering forgiveness is not always as easy as we say it is. Especially in the heat of the moment of a highly competitive game. Our emotions run high and sometimes we say or do things that we only could think of in the spur of the moment. Maybe we foul a little harder than we mean to do. Maybe we say hurtful things to the referees or other players. Maybe we complain about a call. Maybe we throw a tantrum when our team loses. Growing up playing a lot of church league basketball, I was no stranger to my own missteps in this way. Playing sports can teach us a lot about ourselves. How do we respond under pressure? Do we snap? Or do we keep a calm demeanor? And when we don’t respond the way we should, do we ask for forgiveness? What about when an opponent does something wrong, or a teammate? Do we extend to them forgiveness?

When the world doesn’t go the way we think it will, do we respond with love or anger? Do we shake hands with our opponents? Do we thank the referees at the end of the game? When we are good, even when our emotions tell us to do other things, we allow God to shine through us. Being a good sport, shaking hands after winning and losing, helping up an opponent, forgiving others, thanking the refs, are all ways for us to show God’s love in the heat of competition.

3.)   Being a Leader
Leadership is something the bible talks about a lot. God calls us to be leaders, but what kind of leaders? A leader who makes the game about themselves? A leader who takes all the glory for themselves? A leader who shares glory? A leader who knows when to listen? A leader who convinces the team to always pass the ball to themselves? Or a leader who shows how to pass the ball? I think God calls us to lead as best as we can, which means we know when to step up, when to sit down, when to speak, and when to listen. Moses was the leader of the Hebrew people for 40 years in the wilderness, and as he and Joshua looked over into the Promise Land, Moses knew that his leadership skills were not needed in the Promise Land, or that if he doesn’t step away and allow others to step up in this transition, they may never accept new leadership. Teaching this to children will teach them to be humble, and to not put themselves first.

4.)   Being a Follower
Sometimes it is best to be a follower. To know when other’s gifts shine over ours. To know our weaknesses and strengths. Jesus called together the Disciples, and before his death, they weren’t all leaders. In fact, their job was to just follow. Teaching a kid to follow other people in sports, is a good way of teaching kids what it means to follow Jesus. If we are always the star or that the game is always about the individual, the team won’t shine, and probably won’t win.

5.)   Being a Supporter (This is for you, adults — both parent and non-parent)
Our children have to choose many times over church programs and sports or after school programs. If they choose sports, that doesn’t mean they have chosen to not be a part of the church. These kids still need to know about God’s love and God’s community. Show up to their soccer games. Show up to their band competitions. Let them know you are with them. Let them know you love them. Let them know you are proud of the hard work they put in. This will help create trusting and loving relationships for life. And it helps keep kids connected to your community of faith.

Too often we think that sports are the enemy of the church. But they aren’t. Sure, they conflict with our worship time, and sure sometimes sports don’t always teach the values the church wants to instill in its young people. But we can give thanks to God, provide faith formation, and share God’s love with others. And I don’t know what is more sacred than that.

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