Youth Group vs. Sports? A false dichotomy.


I’m still somewhat new to this youth ministry thing, but I see a recurring antagonism in youth ministry workers toward parents in certain areas. In the eyes of the students, the two parties are set at odds, pitted against each other and announced like a UFC title fight. And the topic to ring the bell is the matter of sports: the commitment to an athletic club that forces absence in youth ministry programs and events. And this includes more than the sporting events themselves; the practices, fundraising dinners, award banquets, etc. It’s often a twelve-week commitment of what youth workers sometimes interpret as godless activity – not inherently of course, but by way of exchanging the “things of God” for the “pleasure of man”. “Where are your priorities?!”, they challenge.

The students are dealt a life-lesson lecture, a duffle bag of guilt, and a dose of disappointment as they head into their tryouts. The mid-season run-in with the youth worker ensures expectations haven’t changed. And readmission to youth ministry when the season concludes is delivered with a tolerant grace, but sure displeasure.

Can I just say this makes me sad?

The students are being crushed. The parents are being treated unfairly. And the Kingdom is certainly not benefiting. Youth workers, we must get this right. In the contexts of discipleship and interests of the Kingdom, let’s adjust our perspective.

Imagine: a student announces their desire and decision to play baseball this semester as well as their successfully making the team. The parents agree to the cost and time demands. And the youth worker praises their gifts and talents for success at tryouts.

Then this happens: The student is encouraged and challenged by both youth workers and parents in their coming 12-week mission trip. Each and every practice, exhibition, fundraiser, and banquet becomes opportunity. Prayer is had before, throughout, and after the season. Communication is maintained and found crucial to the success of the mission. Teammates and coaches are discipled by the life-example the student brings to the team. Imagine.

So, youth workers… to be short and to the point: let’s relax, refocus, and prioritize. Let’s come alongside parents as they seek to disciple their teenagers. It is for the betterment of us all and the benefit of the Kingdom.