My kids (ages 5-12) don't play organized sports. And that's weird in our culture. Just about everybody I know has their kids in sports except for us. Let me explain why we opt out, because I have a hunch that if more Christians thought the way we do, they would join us.
We don't think organized sports are a good use of our time.
I didn't say that we don't have the time. We all have time for what's important. I didn't say that organized sports are not a good use of your time. That's a decision for you. I didn't say that organized sports are sinful. This is more of a wisdom issue than a moral issue. I didn't say that our kids will never participate in organized sports. That's up to God, and we will continue to be sensitive to His guidance. We simply don't think organized sports are a good use of our time.
The Bible says that we must not be conformed to this world, blindly adopting the practices, customs, and values of our culture (Romans 12:2). Instead, we must carefully determine the will of the Lord (Eph. 5:17). Therefore we're not going to participate in organized sports simply because "everybody's" doing it. Our goal is to follow Jesus, not the crowd.
The Bible says we must not merely be holy, but wise (Eph. 5:15). Yes, the Bible is silent about organized sports. There is no command in Scripture forbidding participation in sports. But just because something is not morally wrong doesn't mean that we should do it. Just because something is permissible doesn't mean that it is beneficial. Just because it's not bad doesn't mean that it is wise. Our question is not merely whether sports are allowed, but wise.
And the Bible tells us that we must make the most of our time (Eph. 5:16). When you run out of time, you run out of life. Organized sports demand a big time-investment from families. After comparing the cost to the benefits, we've decided that organized sports are not a good use of our time.
The way Lydia and I make decisions about our kids is to start with our mission. Our mission as parents is to raise our kids to be fully devoted followers of Jesus, and to prepare them to be successful adults (in the eyes of the Lord). With that in mind, there are several questions we ask about sports to determine whether or not we will participate.
First, does God command us to put our kids in sports? No. Just as the Bible does not forbid participation, it does not command it.
Second, are organized sports necessary to help us accomplish our mission? No. The argument can be made that sports can help you to teach your kids character and wisdom. And I'll grant you that, because God can use any life experience to grow us. But I refuse to concede that sports are necessary to raise your kids right. First of all, if sports were necessary, then the Bible would explicitly command it. Second, there are no character qualities or life lessons that can only be learned through sports. While God can use sports to grow us, He does not need sports to grow us. Otherwise adults should be participating in organized sports, too, because all of us are still in process and will be until we die. There is nothing important that your kids will learn in organized sports that my kids need organized sports to learn.
Third, are organized sports antithetical to our mission? That is, will sports interfere with our mission and make our mission more difficult? This doesn't have to be the case for the wise parent. However, several questions need to be considered. Do sports make it harder to find adequate time for home discipleship? Will sports interfere with church involvement? Are there children on the team who will negatively influence your child? Does the coaching staff represent a Biblical worldview, and will they be modeling and teaching Biblical ideas and principles?
It may surprise you that I love sports. And my children love sports. While writing this post I had to pause in order to put air in a basketball for my youngest son. He then went outside to shoot hoops in our driveway. But as parents Lydia and I have come to see that the American culture has deified sports. Parents have come to view sports as an indispensable ingredient to effective child-rearing (along with a trip to Disney). Sadly we have seen many families elevate sports above all -- God, family-time, church, and academics. And we have seen sports rob too many families of precious amounts of time, energy, and money.
And so our kids don't play organized sports. And that does make us weird. But normal isn't working. Our willingness to be weird has has given us much more time than the average family -- more time for things that we think are really important. More family time. More time for home discipleship. More time for rest. More time to play. More time for church. More time for reading. More time for academics. And the longer we've traveled this way, and the more distance that we've put between us and the American idol of sports, the more assurance we have about our decision, and the more surprised we are about the strangeness of our choice.