For many youth ministries, every fall offers the same challenge: clashing schedules of the sports students play and the youth ministry calendar.
You organize events, only to end up with a handful of students because all the others have some sort of practice, scrimmage, or game. And that’s not even taking into account the students who want to watch certain sports, like football.
How can you solve this scheduling conflict? There are four options.
Do Your Thing
The first option is to simply schedule your events and either hope for the best, or accept you may only have small attendance numbers.
Plan Around the Majority
A second option is to take inventory of all the students’ sports schedules and see which days would work best for an event. Technically, this means you optimize the number of students who could show up.
There’s two things to remember though. The first is that schedules change all the time. My son plays travel soccer and his schedule can change with a few days advance notice. His coach constantly adds practices or scrimmages, or cancels them for whatever reason.
The second thing is that even though students may be available, that still doesn’t mean they will show up. The disappointment can be great when you plan around their schedules and students still don’t show because they were tired, or simply didn’t feel like it.
Plan Events Around Games
A third option is to use games as an event. We had quite a number of students on the same baseball team, so we attended a few of their games with all the students (this was a small youth group, obviously) and hung out there. The students on the team thought it was awesome we all came to watch and cheer, and the others had fun watching the game and socializing with each other and with us as leaders.
Even if this is not an option, you can still try to attend games as a leader, or with a small group. Students often love it when others make the effort to come and watch them play, so it’s a great tool to strengthen your relationship with one or more students. Just make sure you try and watch everyone’s game at least once!
When it comes to televised games (Superbowl, anyone? World Series?), these are of course another great opportunity for an event—depending on which teams are playing and how much your students are into those sports in the first place.
Find a Compromise
A last option is to find a compromise between all of the options above. Schedule fewer events for the youth ministry, watch one or two games as a (small) group, plan the rest around the most common schedules. It often helps to talk to the students about this, ask them what they’re willing to commit to, how you could help them attend the events they like best.
Whatever you do, don’t make students choose between sports and youth ministry. Too often we make this mistake as youth leaders, painting it as a black-and-white choice, or even as a for-or-against-God choice. First of all, that’s often not just their choice—their parents have a big say in this as well, as they usually pay for the sports and/or want their teen to take it seriously.
Secondly, students can have a huge positive impact on their sports team, especially as a Christian. Equipping them to fill that role may be more effective than any youth ministry event you could organize. They can honor Christ by playing on their team just as much, if not more, than by attending youth group.