Your kid’s an All Star? Wow! Someday he’ll be average like the rest of us.

NOTE: A lot of comments have focused on “church.” As one who believes the church is people and not a location or institution, I wish i could have communicated more clearly that this is about we parents living our faith. “Faith activities” and “community” was my intention. Those things come in numerous flavors. Following Jesus is not about sitting in a “church service” once a week. That said, my tongue-in-cheek approach is not intended to offend.

The church in America is puzzled. Young adults are leaving in droves. Magazines, books and blogs are wagging the finger of blame to point out who is responsible. Some say it is a failure of youth ministry, some point to church budgets and some nail the blame on outdated, unhip worship services. We parents are shocked that our kids just really aren’t all that into Jesus.

When I look for someone to blame I head into the restroom and look into a mirror. Yupp, there he is. I blame him. That parent looking back at me is where I have to start.

If you’re a parent, I’m might tick you off in this post. But, hear me out. I think that we, as parents are guilty of some things that make it easy for our kids to put faith low on their priority list.

Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith

1) Put academic pursuits above faith-building activities. Encourage your child to put everything else aside for academic gain. Afterall, when they are 24 and not interested in faith and following Christ, you’ll still be thrilled that they got an A in pre-calculus, right? Instead of teaching them balance, teach them that all else comes second to academics. Quick … who graduated in the top 5 of your high school class? Unless you were one of them, I bet you have no idea. I don’t.

2) Chase the gold ball first and foremost. Afterall, your child is a star. Drive 400 miles so your child can play hockey but refuse to take them to a home group bible study because it’s 20 minutes away.

2b) Buy into the “select,” “elite,” “premier” titles for leagues that play outside of the school season and take pride in your kid wearing the label. Hey now, he’s an All-Star! No one would pay $1000 for their kid to join, “Bunch-of-kids-paying-to-play Team.” But, “Elite?!?” Boy, howdy! That’s the big time!

2c) Believe the school coach who tells you that your kid won’t play if he doesn’t play in the offseason. The truth is, if your kid really is a star, he could go to Disney for the first week of the season and come back and start for his school team. The determined coach might make him sit a whole game to teach him a lesson. But, trust me, if Julie can shoot the rock for 20 points a game, she’s in the lineup. I remember a stellar soccer athlete who played with my son in high school. Chris missed the entire preseason because of winning a national baseball championship. With no workouts, no double sessions, his first day back with the soccer team, he started and scored two goals. Several hard-working “premier” players sat on the bench and watched him do it. (Chris never played soccer outside the school season but was a perpetual district all-star selection.) The hard reality is, if your kid is not a star, an average of 3 new stars a year will play varsity as freshmen. That means there’s always 12 kids who are the top prospects. Swallow hard and encourage your kid to improve but be careful what you sacrifice to make him a star at little Podunk High here in Maine.

2d) By the way, just because your kid got a letter inviting him to attend a baseball camp in West Virginia does not mean he is being recruited. You’ll know when recruiting happens. Coaches start calling as regularly as telemarketers, they send your kid handwritten notes and they often bypass you to talk to your kid. A letter with a printed label from an athletic department is not recruitment. When a coach shows up to watch your kid play and then talks to you and your kid, that’s recruiting.

3) Teach your kid that the dollar is almighty. I see it all the time. Faith activities fly out the window when students say, “I’d like to, but I have to work.” Parents think jobs teach responsibility when, in reality, most students are merely accumulating wealth to buy the things they want. Our kids learn that faith activities should be put aside for the “responsibility” of holding a job. They will never again get to spend 100% of their paychecks on the stuff they want.

3b) Make them pay outright for faith activities like youth retreats and faith community activities while you support their sports, music, drama and endeavors with checks for camps and “select” groups and expensive equipment. This sends a loud and clear message of what you really want to see them involved in and what you value most. Complain loudly about how expensive a three-day youth event is but then don’t bat an eye when you pay four times that for a three-day sports camp.

4) Refuse to acknowledge that the primary motivating force in kids’ lives is relationship. Connections with others is what drives kids to be involved. It’s the reason that peer pressure is such a big deal in adolescence. Sending kids to bible classes and lectures is almost entirely ineffective apart from relationship and friendships that help them process what they learn. As kids share faith experiences like retreats, mission trips and student ministry fun, they build common bonds with one another that work as a glue to Christian community. In fact, a strong argument can be made that faith is designed to be lived in community with other believers. By doing all you can to keep your kids from experiencing the bonds of love in a Christian community, you help insure that they can easily walk away without feeling like they are missing anything. Kids build friendships with the kids they spend time with.

5) Model apathy in your own life. If following Jesus is only about sitting in a church service once a week and going to meetings, young adults opt out. Teenagers and young adults are looking for things that are worth their time. Authentic, genuine, relevant relationships where people are growing in relationship with Jesus is appealing. Meaningless duty and ritual holds no attraction.

There are no guarantees that your children will follow Christ even if you have a vibrant, purposeful relationship with Him. But, on the other hand, if we, as parents do not do all we can to help our children develop meaningful relationships in Jesus, we miss a major opportunity to lead them and show them the path worth walking.

I want my kids to see that their dad follows Jesus with everything. I want them to know that my greatest hope for them is that they follow Him too.

Mt. 6:33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (The Message)

On a personal note: I know the struggle. My wife and I have lived the struggle firsthand. My son was recruited by a few D1 NCAA schools for baseball and opted instead to attend a small D3 school. My daughter was recruited to play field hockey by a couple D2 programs and ended up playing D3 when the scholarship offer was not enough to make her top school affordable. Both played in “premier” leagues. Both got A’s in high school though we often told them not to stress out too much over it. Both are in honor societies in college and my son now has offers from UNC, Univ. of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins and Weil Cornell for a Phd in Pharmacology. Neither ever missed a youth group retreat, conference or mission trip because of their sports or academic commitments. Both missed a game or two to attend faith-based activities. Both missed school for family vacations. Both held down part-time jobs in high school and learned to give employers advance notice for upcoming retreats. My son often changed into his baseball uniform at church to arrive in the third inning of Sunday games. Robin and I did all we could to make sure they connected in student ministry even when it meant driving straight from a tournament to a music festival at midnight so that they would not miss out. It was that important to us. My youngest, a culinary student, lost a restaurant job because he went on a mission trip. That’s fine. Thankfully, all 3 have strong faith walks today. That is due only to God’s grace. But, I do believe that our efforts and example helped them long for a community-based faith.

Use this post however you find helpful. Reprint, repost, link to it or whatever. A link back to http://scottlinscott.wordpress.com would be awesome.

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About Scott Linscott

Living life to the fullest, walking in the dust of my Rabbi, creating art through photography and written word, speaking words of hope and encouragement at conferences, workshops, church and civic gatherings.
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159 Responses to Your kid’s an All Star? Wow! Someday he’ll be average like the rest of us.

  1. Paul Covert says:

    Thank you Scott for sharing your time and experiences in this blog. We might not share the same opinion on all aspects of your blog but I certainly respect them. Isn’t that what being a Christian is about. I have never wrote in the comments on a blog before but when I started reading all the negative comments and name calling ” worst kind of Christian” it struck me as indifferent. As a follower of Christ with two small children whom my life hope for is to follow Him as well find by the shear fact of criticizing and name calling is no where near the teachings of the Christ I follow. From my understanding we as Christians live and act a certain way and that is in the image of Christ. When we start judging people then we are no longer following God but we are playing God. I hope you continue you service and telling your story’s and experiences that you have found in your relationship with Christ. I will certainly pray for you and your family along with the people who deem it necessary to use harsh words because of differences of opinion.

    • Thanks Paul. I wrote this a few years ago and it sure did hit a nerve! I’ve never read through all the comments but have seen them when they’ve come through for moderation. I’ve been struck by the fact that some people are clearly wounded and angry. That saddens me.

  2. kristen myers-chatman says:

    I have refrained from posting until this point – but as this blog continues to be circulated virally within my network, it’s time for me to speak up. While I appreciate the context of this article, there are so many things wrong with it. #1 – the author didn’t practice what he speaks – as I believe the content speaks in extremes (an all or nothing approach – at least that is my interpretation). His kids all participated in sports and went on to play in college. #2 – every kid is different. Every family is different. One guy’s opinion shouldn’t be taken as gospel. #3 – our kids’ spiritual lives shouldn’t be ‘the church’ – but rather the church is a vehicle for growth – not the be all and end all for their Christianity. #4 – on the flip side, there are plenty of psycho sports parents out that (case in point, the reality show Dance Moms is a perfect example of insanity.) #5 – there are more issues than sports as to why kids aren’t staying in church. I know plenty of kids raised in the church in great homes that participated in all things church – and those kids have walked away. We have a much bigger issue than sports. It’s a cultural norm. It’s a sociological issue. In order to understand the problem, you need to understand the generation and the culture in which they live. We as a culture have created this, not sports, or school.
    I speak from experience. I know the inner battle of having a truly gifted child (not one that I pushed into a sport, or one that I tried to live vicariously through – a truly God-gifted athlete). How do you strike that balance. She was in the gym on average 20 hours per week and was on a college track. She was very active in church, youth group, activities and events. She rarely missed due to her athletics. It was through the process of we as parents listening to HER (what a concept, I know. Open, honest 2-way communication with our kids. I don’t mean to be cynical, I just see so many parents disrespecting their kids. There’s no communication – just barking a bunch of ‘you need to do this and you need to do that. But I digress. My daughter felt the sport sucking the life out of her. So she ‘retired’. It was a tough transition for all of us. She had been in the gym more of her lifetime than not. We lost a circle of friends. We lost the structure we had built – the normal that we lived. But as a family, we had to come to the conclusion that we weren’t going to ‘force’ her to do anything that wasn’t right in her spirit. The decision took months and there were many tears. But it was the right thing for HER. So where are the college scholarship opportunities now? Largely non-existent. Unless she is on the club track, recruiters almost NEVER look at athletes in her sport. But the good news is she competed on a high school team, was first in the state and broke the state record. All for the love of the sport – not the pressure of the competition. So I share all this to say – Parents, it’s up to you to strike that balance for your child. Ensure their spiritual growth is #! for sure. But they can have their sports and their school activities too. (There are plenty of outspoken Christian collegiate and pro athletes to prove it.) Have meaningful dialog with your children – really listen to their hearts. But at the end of the day – you’re still the parent. Pray about it. And take blogs like this with a grain of salt – not as gospel truth. This blogger doesn’t have to stand in front of God someday and be accountable for how YOU raised YOUR children.

    • Exactly! This is what I discuss with the plea to make faith development top priority. I am not advocating legalistic church attendance in this post but am encouraging perspective. To many slide faith community activity right out the window when scheduling conflict arises. Our children learn what is most important to us.

  3. James Maxson says:

    Scott, thank you for this post. My own parents pretty much did the opposite of what your points said, which was, don’t prioritize sports/band (band geek here, didn’t play sports), church is priority, church is fun, grades matter, but health/communication matters more. I hate the glorification sports receive, because kids turn it into their life. How many people do you know, _period_, from your high school life that entered into a pro league? Not just a college league, but the making millions bit? On average, probably 0. And it’s not you.

    Sports DO NOT MATTER for most people except for recreation and fitness. Full stop. It’s not important for college. Most of the students that go to school do not participate in the college teams. STEM majors are usually wanted everywhere, and often don’t even require 3.8+ GPAs to land acceptance, even at higher teir schools. Yeah, you might not get into a D1 school, but there’s plenty of good lower division/private schools that will gladly take your dollar and give you an accredited degree after you’ve earned it. All without being in a sports program.

    Church does matter, but so many people make it a secondary priority. You know who needs spare hands to hand out food to the needy? Not your sports team. What about cleaning up the trash in your neighborhood? Your sports team is too busy practicing and feeding their own egos. Building a community with the elderly, poor, lost, the youth, other families your own age, people who might land you your dream job? Nope, got a game tonight, too busy. Bible study before work? Too tired from last nights game, don’t want to get up early.

    So I’m a little irate to be sure. Church is important. It’s important to the community, you help support those in need, you support your peers, you learn more about Christ.

  4. Bethany says:

    I came across this article because one of our pastor’s wives posted it on facebook. I feel a need to share my story as much as possible, so here goes:
    A little background on me: I am a former collegiate athlete, conference player of the year, and all-american. I was twice named the NAIA D-1 National Player of the Week. I was a two-time academic all-american. I hold the record at my college for points in a single game and season field goal %. I scored over 1,000 points in my career and am in the top ten in a couple other statistical categories.
    Growing up, my parents allowed us to miss Sunday or Wednesday night activities for sports but we never, ever, ever missed Sunday mornings. In fact, my brother (an incredible athlete) was cut from an AAU team because he wasn’t allowed to play Sunday mornings. We were highly, highly involved in church. I attended a Christian high school and took/take my relationship with God seriously. My parents were and continue to be incredible role models of what it means to be a Christian adult.
    When I finished my collegiate basketball career, I experienced the worst depression I can possibly imagine. I won’t go into too much detail, but I honestly don’t think losing a child would be more emotionally gut wrenching than what I went through. If there is such a thing as hell on earth, I walked through it.
    I know that sounds ridiculous, but despite all my parent’s efforts to keep God first, and my own walk with the Lord, I didn’t realize that sports had become my god until it was too late. When that “god” was taken away, I experienced loneliness, loss of purpose, and deep depression.
    This is the long-story-short version, but in summation: even if your kid legitimately IS a star, and even if you try to keep God first, getting priorities out of whack is very, very easy and not very noticeable unless you pay close attention. Take inventory of your life, daily, to make sure your priorities are right. I wouldn’t wish what I went through after my career was over on my worst enemy.

  5. Paul says:

    Encouraging and needed article. Thanks for writing. It’s the replies that shock me. I’m amazed at the number of negative replies to your article. In essence, these parents are saying, “let’s worship academics and athletics over God.” Sounds a lot like the children of Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai contributing their jewelery to make the golden calf. That didn’t end real well, and neither will “Christian” families who pursue the American Dream instead of pursuing God.

    • Yes, Paul, this post did hit a nerve. I feel like some missed a major point entirely and read harsh legalism into it at the expense of my encouragement to parents to model and pursue a vibrant, growing relationship with Jesus first and foremost in their own lives.

  6. good post to cause some serious thought by myself and hopefully other parents

  7. Anonymous says:

    You are the worst example of a Christian father. Church is important yes, you should ingrain that in your children. But you should also teach them the importance of academics, those top 5 people in their high school class went to great colleges. Maybe they succeeded, maybe they didn’t, but they had a great opportunity. My parents were apathetic in my school, and never pushed me to be in sports, actually discouraging sports. I barely made it into college because I was never motivated. I got to college and figured out I have a genius level IQ and have natural talent in basketball and football. Just late enough for it to do me no good. I thank God I was in church, and that is important to me, and today I’m in ministry. But I should have tried to be the best in my school, academically and athletically. So before you spout out garbage about forcing kids into the church and not giving them a future, realize that their entire life rests in your hands. Push them to be the best in everything, not one thing.

    • Wow. The worst? Dang. Thankfully my kids powered through somehow and today have real and vibrant faith walks with one being an MD/Phd, another an MA behaviorist and the third a graduate of the top culinary school in America and a teaching assistant and restaurant manager at 22 years old. Thankfully their best mom balanced out their worst dad. Christian community is important and must be a priority.

    • “I thank God I was in church, and that is important to me, and today I’m in ministry.”
      and you posted anonymously? You should know better

  8. Joey Williford says:

    I’ve seen this shared many times, and so I want to
    respectfully offer comment…. Some good points but I think a bit
    flawed in some too. Ex. Not ok to miss but ok to rush out
    afterwards? Unfortunately, I’m sure you were likely judged by some
    for even that…. Was it your emphasis on attendance your actual
    testimony that influenced your kids or was it your living? While
    you displayed attendance is important was that what strengthened
    their faith walks?…. Something to consider: Why would someone
    WANT to go to church week-after-week if they are not being the
    church day-by-day and if they don’t see it as an assembly of others
    who are actually being the church neither?…. We both know that
    many leave the faith even if they and their family have had perfect
    attendance…. Emphasize living it out daily, not measuring it by
    man’s standards…. The title is sarcastic; sarcasm is seldom
    received as humble and gentle correction…. Love & God
    bless.

  9. I’m 51 years old, 4 kids out the door and one left at home. I already know so much of this info above…from making many of these mistakes. Next time you’re going to put together a good post like this, please do it in about 1987. Thanks!

  10. Pingback: Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith « Worshiping…In Spirit and In Truth

  11. Pingback: Back to School « This is our story… this is our song.

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