De Muth


Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 1.50.18 PM


Reportando la Verdad.
Restauración de la Iglesia.

Travel Sports Create Issues and Opportunities for Families and Churches

By Aaron Earls
sports soccer athletics
(Photo: Jeffrey Lin / Unsplash)

Growing up, Aaron Bryant may have dreamed of playing in the NFL, but his family would’ve never dreamed of skipping church.

Bryant was part of the Tennessee Titans when they made the Super Bowl in 1999. Despite playing multiple sports in high school, he says he rarely missed church services because of it. “Primarily, my parents prioritized corporate worship for our family and established a precedent that our time with our church family on Sunday mornings was more important than anything else,” he said.

Today Bryant is the teaching pastor at the Church at Avenue South in Nashville, and like many pastors, sees some families missing because of sports.

A Lifeway Research study of both U.S. Protestant pastors and churchgoers found most in both groups believe it’s OK to miss church occasionally for a kid’s game or travel sporting event, but those in the pews are laxer on the issue than those behind the pulpit.

“Our culture no longer expects large numbers of people to be in church each week, so increasingly other events are also scheduled on Sundays,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Families whose kids play sports often have to choose between attending church or being with their team.”

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $50 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Ghosted: An American Story” by Nancy French. To donate, haga clic aquí.

lifeway sports

Pastoral perspective

More than 1 in 3 U.S. Protestant pastors (36%) say it’s never OK to skip a weekly worship service for kid’s games or travel sporting events, but almost 3 in 5 (58%) see at least some allowance for missing in those circumstances. Around 3 in 10 (29%) believe it’s acceptable once or twice a year. A quarter (26%) say a few times a year, while 3% say many times a year. Another 6% say they aren’t sure.

Pastors 65 and older (43%) are among the most likely to say it’s never acceptable. Evangelical pastors are more likely than mainline pastors to say never (40% v. 28%). Those at the smallest churches, less than 50 in attendance, are also more likely than pastors at the largest churches, 250 or more, to believe skipping for sports is never OK (38% v. 24%).

Regardless of how accepting their pastor may be, Bryant said families often feel overwhelmed by all their tasks and events and feel as if they need to make a choice. “Unfortunately, for the children, when they choose to eliminate something from their schedules, it’s often corporate worship involvement so they can continue to remain involved with team sports,” he said.

Nate Walter, pastor at Goshen Christian Church in Goshen, Indiana, says the impact of travel sports on his congregation grew after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. “There are many families with kids that we won’t see for the entire summer because they are constantly traveling to a different tournament,” he said.

Recent research agrees. A report published by the Aspen Institute found children ages 6-18 spent an average of 13.6 hours per week playing sports, including 4.6 hours of practice and 3.7 hours of competition, before COVID-19. While those all dropped during the pandemic, by September 2022, children were involved in sports for 16.6 hours per week, with 8.1 hours of practice and 3.7 hours of competition. According to Wintergreen Research, travel sports has grown into a $39 billion-a-year industry and is projected to reach $72 billion by 2029.

Walter also noted school sports and activities have crept into Sundays. “As many schools are limited to one gymnasium, they have to find time for all the athletic programs to practice, and Sunday evening is becoming a very common time,” he said. “This drastically affected our Sunday evening youth activities.”

Still, Bryant said he and his wife encourage their children to be involved in sports and extra-curricular activities, but they discuss together how it might affect their family. When advising other parents, Bryant said he encourages them to affirm their child’s desire to be involved in sports even if it involves some travel.

“Sports mirror the game of life, and our kids can learn perseverance, accountability, hard work, humility, teamwork and much more from sports,” he said. “However, I would caution all parents to count the cost and the impact sports will have on their child’s spiritual development, the impact it will have on their marriage, finances, etc.”

aaron bryant
Aaron Bryant preaches at Church at Avenue South in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo: Facebook)

View from the pews

Based on their perspective on missing services, many churchgoers see the potential impact differently than their pastors. Fewer than 1 in 5 U.S. Protestant churchgoers (18%) say it is never OK to skip church for kid’s sports. Around 3 in 4 (74%) believe it’s acceptable at least occasionally, including 22% who say once or twice a year, 39% a few times a year and 13% many times a year. Another 9% say they aren’t sure.

As with pastors, age is a factor for how likely a churchgoer is to see missing church for sports as OK. Those 50 and older are more likely than adults under 35 to say it’s never acceptable (20% v. 12%). Churchgoers 65 and older (7%) are the least likely to believe it’s OK to skip many times a year, while those under 35 (26%) are the most likely.

Additionally, churchgoers who attend more frequently are less accepting of skipping because of sporting events. Those who attend one to three times a month (45%) are more likely than those who attend four or more times (35%) to say missing a few times a year is OK. Meanwhile, those less frequent attenders (12%) are less likely than those who attend more often (22%) to say it’s never acceptable to miss because of a child’s game.

For churchgoers who do decide to miss because of sports, Bryant encourages the whole family to capitalize on the opportunity. “Perhaps you will be able to share the gospel with someone on the team, or another parent, who would otherwise never attend a worship service,” he said. “But those gospel engagements won’t happen accidentally, so you’ll have to be proactive and intentional.”

When he’s coaching sports, Frankie Creel says this is his mindset. Creel, an elder at CrossLife Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, coaches high school sports and used to coach a travel softball team. His daughter is still part of a travel team. “If I am coaching, I use it as an opportunity to talk to the ladies about their identity in Christ and use it as a time of study and discipleship,” he said.

sports athletics
(Photo: Pexels / Creative commons)

They try to avoid Sunday games but there are occasional major tournaments that lead to them missing four to five Sundays during the summer. “As long as it is not an absurd amount of time, I am OK,” he said.

Creel encouraged parents to ask themselves why they want to be involved in sports before committing. He said for younger players, he would avoid travel as much as possible. Camps and one-day tournaments can help those athletes continue to develop. Once the child reaches 10th grade and wants to play beyond high school, he said those larger tournaments become more necessary.

For Creel, churches can serve parents of travel sports athletes by creating “resources that encourage parents to have Christ-centered conversations with their kids, whether its online sermons, books or just tools to help disciple the child.”

Bryant says they are working to equip and encourage parents at the Church at Avenue South, and they’ve seen some results. “Some parents are now embracing more than ever that all 168 hours in a week are important for reinforcing biblical truths, not just taking their children to church for one hour of corporate worship on Sundays,” he said. “Some are repurposing the time they have with their children, whether in the car during the trip or around the team hotel to invest the gospel in their children.”

Este artículo apareció originalmente en Investigación de Lifeway

Aaron Earls is the senior writer at Lifeway Research.



¡Manténgase en contacto con Julie y reciba actualizaciones en su bandeja de entrada!

No te preocupes, no te enviaremos spam.

Más para explorar

4 Respuestas

  1. This article reminds me of a time my grandmother scolded my father for having the family miss church to attend to my brother’s Sunday morning baseball game. She said, “When are you taking your family to church? And since when do we play children’s baseball games on the Lord’s day? And at 9am? Even the Cowboys don’t kick off til noon…tell me, is children’s baseball more important than the Cowboys?” You can tell where I grew up LOL)
    She ended it with, “I don’t want to hear about children’s baseball over church anymore. If the coach tells you the game is on a Sunday morning, you tell him, ‘As for me and MY house, we worship the Lord, and we will see you AFTERWARDS.’”

    It was my first time seeing my dad get in trouble with his mom. And my first time seeing my dad speechless.

    How we need more women like my grandma today. But there is an angle this article misses: much of this “sports over service” behavior is rooted in parents trying to get kids the opportunity to get an athletic scholarship.

  2. The pressure to be on travel teams is huge. You keep being told it is needed for a scholarship. The truth of the matter is most do not get athletic scholarships. Our children got academic scholarships that paid more than any sports scholarship. We were adamant our son would not play on a travel ball team. He was asked several times and that was a big No for us. Sunday is the day to be worshipping with fellow Christians in church. Also, children are starting to have adult orthopedic injuries due to overuse. Children’s bodies are still growing and there body needs rest during the offseason, if there is one.

    1. “Children’s bodies are still growing and their body needs rest during the offseason, if there is one.”
      THIS part. I continue to be amazed at how children are expected to play their sport of choice year round – for school, club teams, all star teams, and travel teams – not to mention practice for these teams; yet when one gets injured, literally NO ONE ponders if its due to overuse.

  3. The arguments for not assembling with other believers – often – may sound convincing if parents are truly discipling their children as they should be; BUT are those children also being taught that sports should be their #1 priority? This seems like a conflict between interests that could sideline what should be more important.

Deja una respuesta

El Informe Roys busca fomentar el diálogo reflexivo y respetuoso. Con ese fin, el sitio requiere que las personas se registren antes de comenzar a comentar. Esto significa que no se permitirán comentarios anónimos. Además, se eliminarán todos los comentarios con blasfemias, insultos y/o un tono desagradable.
Artículos MÁS populares


Hola. Vemos que este es el tercer artículo de este mes que ha encontrado que vale la pena leer. ¡Estupendo! ¿Consideraría hacer una donación deducible de impuestos para ayudar a nuestros periodistas a continuar informando la verdad y restaurar la iglesia?

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $50 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Ghosted: An American Story” by Nancy French.