“Sorry Preacher, but we won’t be in church services the next few weeks. Our son is on a traveling team and has games scheduled on Sundays. We hate to miss church so much, but we really can’t help it. I wish they didn’t schedule games on Sunday but that’s the way it is.”
Preachers from all across the country are hearing that rationale from formerly dedicated parents who are missing church because their children are on athletic teams that are competing on Sunday morning. These teams are generally reserved for the more gifted athletes and the parents rationalize that since their son or daughter is such a good player they have to participate in the Sunday games if they are going to reach their potential. Who knows? A college scholarship or even a professional career may be in their future.
There’s been a radical shift in our culture’s attitude toward Sunday in recent years. In the early 20th Century there were ‘blue laws” that made it illegal for professional sports to be played on Sunday. Restaurants, service stations, shopping centers were closed out of respect for a day of rest and worship. But as our society became increasingly secular we gradually transitioned from “The Lord’s Day” to “Super Bowl Sunday.” Now we have little children’s soccer, football, basketball, baseball, lacrosse games scheduled, even on Sunday mornings.
It’s doubtful we’ll be able to reverse the trend but followers of Christ should be willing to be distinctive from the world. Romans 12:2 challenges us, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will ishis good, pleasing and perfect will.”
With the advent of traveling teams, Christian parents have a golden opportunity to teach their children about priorities. Mom and Dad, what’s really most important to you? Do you crave the ego-boost of bragging about what a terrific athlete your child is, or do you want them to know God’s will for their lives? When you allow your child to skip church to play ball you are clearly teaching them that becoming a good athlete is really important, while worshipping God and becoming a devoted follower of Jesus Christ is secondary.
At the very least you should find a church in the area where the team is competing and get your kids up and attend an early service nearby. If they are playing at home on Sunday you would do well to attend an alternative service, Saturday evening or early Sunday morning. The extra effort would communicate to your children that worship is important to you and would also provide some positive family memories in spite of the inevitable complaints.
Better still; tell the coach that your child will not be participating in any Sunday games that require missing church services. That may mean your child will be cut from the team. But what a positive testimony that would be! If every parent who claims to be a Christian would take that position, Sunday games would soon be rescheduled for another day.