My intent is not to offend; it’s for you to join me to reflect on one of my personal struggles. Over the last several years, our kids’ involvement in after-school and weekend activities has dramatically increased. Volleyball, band, 4-H, drum lessons, a part-time job, and a variety of other activities, many of which overlap, have increased in volume and intensity. If it was just one activity at a time it would be better, but seasons often overlap. This places an enormous amount of stress on kids and parents alike. We continue to say “Yes” in the spirit of trying to do the absolute best for our kids, giving them a chance to experience life to the fullest in order to prepare them for a lifetime of success. The intent is laudable.

Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights used to be “sacred” times where no events were scheduled in order to give our kids a chance to grow in their knowledge and love of God and each other. Many organizations now completely ignore those times. It’s not that missing a Sunday here and there will irreversibly destroy our kids, but if we say “Yes” to all these tempting possibilities to “develop” our kids, rather than prioritizing important spiritual opportunities, what will be the outcome?

Are we really developing our kids, or are we setting an example of an unbalanced life that they will pass on to the next generation?

Parents and kids feel pressure to participate to ensure they reach their full potential, belong to the “right” groups of friends, or get enough playing time (see linked article Sports vs. Church). But what effect is running all week long, having no real family time, and missing church or youth group having on our kids?

We all have seen parents who are “over the top” when it comes to wanting their kids’ teams to win. It’s nice when it happens, and I’m certainly not in favor of “ribbons for everyone” for just showing up, but shouldn’t we be using extracurricular activities as a means for character development? Winning at any cost probably doesn’t build character to the fullest and can put an age-inappropriate stress level on our kids.

So what’s the take away? I think this is something worthy of uncomfortable discussion. I’m a big fan of using extracurricular activities for the development of character in our kids, but caution that balance is critical. Too many activities at once with too high of expectations likely have a detrimental effect on their personal and spiritual development and the health of our families. Our kids won’t become outcasts of society if we as parents say “No” to activities that cause our lives to be unbalanced or if they aren’t state champions in a given activity. A balanced life just might give them the opportunity to become all that God has designed them to be.

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