Intentionally Selecting Activities for Children

christian family stewardship Aug 06, 2023
Family Walking Through Winter Woodland

1 Samuel 16:23 - “David would take up his lyre and play.”


 

Introduction

The amount of extracurricular activities available for children today is astronomical. Gone are the days of a few sports and music lessons, you can virtually enroll your child in any kind of hobby you can imagine. Most parents desire well-rounded kids and begin looking out for fun and educational “extras” when their children are quite young. They may ask fellow parents what they’ve chosen for their families, enroll them in the same things they enjoyed in childhood, or simply choose something because it is available at a convenient time.

While these are not necessarily bad ways of going about making such decisions, they may also not result in the best options for your children or family. Parents should keep a few things in mind while they are making decisions about their children’s extra activities, and this can make a tangible difference in the life of the family.

 

Christ-Centered

One of the first things we look at when selecting activities is how something will affect our spiritual lives, both individually and as a family. What is the impact on our spiritual routines? Does it require many Sundays away? Are there lots of early mornings that would cause devotions to be abandoned? It is vital that we think eternally about our children’s time and the forming of affections.

Look at the character of the coaches, instructors, other participants, and other families involved. Will they be good role models for your kids? Is prayer actively discouraged, encouraged, or non-existent? What music is being played during practices? What language is being used around the kids and within the group of students? Ultimately, Christian parents must reflect on whether the activity - and all that comes with it - will reinforce the culture of the world or the culture of Christ.

 

Family Priorities

Before making any decision about extracurriculars, it is a great idea to refer to your family vision. Sometimes certain activities will automatically become a “no,” simply because they will not fit within your established time commitments and values (family dinners, church attendance, etc.). Activities that support and reinforce your family’s priorities can be easily identified as well.

Let’s flesh this out by way of example. We can pretend that a family loves being together in the evenings, and they also value physical health and exercise. They have three children and don’t want to be out several nights a week with activities. They see two ads online for sports teams starting up. One is for a kids’ swim team from 5:00-6:00 twice a week, and the other is for a family tennis club that meets twice a week from 6:30-7:30. Both activities require the same amount of time each week, but the swim team is smack in the middle of dinner and would require the family to miss their church small group. On the other hand, the tennis club occurs after dinner and the parents can join in the sport. Both sports fit the priority of health and exercise, but only one also upholds the values of togetherness and keeping prior church commitments.

One more word on choosing activities: You may need to limit the number of things your family commits to because you don’t want them encroaching upon your time together. Sports, lessons, and clubs can be a great way for children to learn skills, but it still isn’t an excuse for parents to plug their kids into so many activities that they have essentially given up their responsibilities to form and disciple their children.

 

Consider the Strengths and Interests of Each Child

As your children grow older, evaluate the physical, emotional, and intellectual strengths of each of them and consider activities that will help them cultivate and strengthen those aptitudes that come naturally to them. This may mean that eventually, you are doing some separate things on different nights of the week. It can be hard to strike a balance between a robust family life and getting your children to their individual commitments, so we encourage you to do this with great intentionality and prayer.

It is also important to realize that your children will change. A child who has played piano for six years may be interested in something else. Being open to trying new things and discovering potential talents is just as important as cultivating known gifts, so be flexible. And while it is sometimes wise to keep a child in an activity in which they are no longer interested (teaching perseverance, keeping their word, working through difficulty, etc.), many times it is wisest to not force your children to do something they no longer wish to pursue. These circumstances should be evaluated on a case by case basis.

 

Looking to the Future

Extracurriculars have a way of revealing a child’s passions and interests. With this in mind, it is good to consider how or if an activity or skill will benefit them in their future endeavors as they become parents, business leaders, and servants in their local church. Are their current hobbies simply that (without much of a future usage), or are they learning something that can be utilized in a wide variety of settings? This isn’t to say that hobbies are worthless, but the amount of time and investment spent on them should be viewed in light of their future usefulness.

Furthermore, it is important to understand the trajectory of some activities. If your child continues to pursue something in college, will this place them in a potentially faith-harming situation? A daughter who loves acting may desire to have a career in Hollywood, but is that truly the kind of life that her parents should want for her? If not, the answer is not to simply prevent her from acting, but to teach her to view this passion with a proper perspective.

 

Resources and Stewardship

Activities are expensive and quickly add up, especially if you have more than a child or two. If God has not provided the means for you to participate in certain activities, this does not mean that you are failing your children. The Bible commands fathers to provide for their families, but it never requires them to make sure they play football and learn guitar.

This may mean that you need to get creative and seek out new ways to teach your kids some of these skills, or find more affordable options. For example, online music lessons are much cheaper than private! They may not be exactly what you’d like, but they can certainly get your child started. If God has blessed you financially with resources, we encourage you to bless your children in the same way. Our Father in heaven isn’t stingy, and we shouldn’t be either.

 

Conclusion

When choosing activities for your children, Christian families should carefully select them in a way that upholds the priority of Christ in your home and your family vision. Look for lessons, sports, and clubs that fit each of your kids’ abilities and interests, training them to use their God-given gifts and talents. This can have the added benefit of teaching them how to let their faith be a light to their friends, sharing the good news of the Gospel, and bringing glory to God.

 

Key Points

  • The activities your children do should be selected intentionally and supported by your Christian family values.
  • Use the resources God has blessed you with to support and encourage your children’s strengths and interests.
  • Properly selected activities can help your children use their God-given talents and abilities to share Jesus with others throughout their lives.
 

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