Actually, sports have been around for a long time. There are many elements of sports that are similar to religion. In some sense, I guess there are some who could claim that a sporting event is a religious experience.
There are people who make pilgrimages to their favorite teams home stadium. There’s something about gathering a large group of people together – most cheering for the same team. In many respects, sports can be a positive thing to bring people together.
The same is true for kids sports too. This isn’t a post bashing sports. Two of our kids participate in youth sports and I coach on of their teams. Kids learn some valuable lessons that can only found in sports – teamwork, loyalty, hard work, sportsmanship, how to win, how to lose, how to improve.
But there’s also a negative side too – when sports takes the primary position in life. I see this with families who become absent from church because of sports tournaments, games, and practices during different seasons. Again, my point here isn’t to sit around and whine about this, but rather just to point it out.
Jesus doesn’t offer scholarships. And lately, some coaches seem to have more pull than pastors.
The reality is that if churches are going to attract young families, then we need to rethink the relationship they have with church. We need to rethink time, what worship might look like, how to engage youth and more.
Having said this, I’m also not a big fan of completely changing everything to accommodate everyone else’s schedule. If something is important, then people will rearrange their schedule and provide the resources necessary to support it. This is true for religion as well as sports.
The point is that there is an opportunity for church with these families. The opportunities might not look like more activities – they already have a jam-packed schedule. Instead, maybe there is an opportunity to do something else – tap into what people are already doing. An example of this might be dinner church. Everyone has to eat – why not do a dinner church with a team before a practice, or after practice. Maybe work with a team on offering a special blessing for the team. There are opportunities. We just need to open our minds to the possibilities.