Where Does God Figure In to Youth Sports Teams?

Little League players standing in line before a game.
Image: iStock

Little Johnny has a travel baseball game on Sunday morning, sister Becky has a soccer game in the early afternoon and older brother Ben has an AAU basketball game at the same time.

And, by the way, church starts at 9 and is over at noon. What’s a family to do?

For Derek Westmoreland, pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Savannah, Tenn., the answer is simple. Go to church.

“Your kids have to know that God is most important and that He comes first,” said Westmoreland, who has coached his sons’ baseball teams over the years but no longer does so.

While he was coaching, the teams played in a local league that did not have games on Sunday or Wednesday nights.

Now, however, Westmoreland’s sons are on a travel team and sometimes have to play on Sundays. “My kids understand that God and going to worship Him on the Lord’s Day comes first,” he said, adding that because Hopewell does not have Sunday evening services, he allows his sons to play games later in the day that do not conflict with church.

Westmoreland talked with the coaches in advance and made sure they understood that church came first. “They know that,” he stated.

Mark Moore, executive pastor at Third Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., cited a tension particularly during the months of May through July when children and teenagers are bombarded with the pressures of travel baseball and soccer and AAU basketball.

Travel teams are a microcosm of everything else in society, Moore said, noting that parents too often “gradually give into it instead of taking a stand.”

“We have to fortify our kids’ faith,” he said. “Parents who are Christians must be realistic when confronted with the choices in front of them. The tension that exists can be resolved if matters are kept in perspective.

“The years that you have with your child are important. As a parent, you are tasked with the responsibility of childrearing,” Moore continued. “As a Christian parent, your first Great Commission task is to share the Gospel with your children and to live it.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Lonnie Wilkey/Tennessee Baptist and Reflector