Football-Inspired Faith Lessons for Kids

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In our house, anticipation for the biggest football game of the year starts in January. 

Well, technically it starts in August when the pre-season begins and we dust off our team t-shirts and ready our grill for Saturdays and Sundays spent lounging around the television, cheering on our favorite football teams. We love the rhythm of football season: sweet Saturday mornings and lazy afternoons spent as a family, sipping coffee and playing puzzles while we watch games. For us, football is a reason to all be together, friends piled in the house, with the ever-present anchor of a game. 

But in January, there’s one goal if you are lucky enough to still see your team play after the holidays. As we find ourselves counting down the days to the biggest game of the year, here are three ways we can connect football (and really, any sport) to important conversations about life and faith. 

Three Football-Inspired Faith Lessons for Kids

Competition 

Football is, at its heart, about competition. Sometimes competition can conjure up negative ideas of jealousy, spite, and regarding others as people to be beaten rather than known. But seeing the success of others can also spur us on to training, focus, and our own success. 

You can’t win competitions without discipline and training. Understanding the benefits of discipline and practice can inspire your kids to commit to their own activities, but also in pursuit of the Lord. The apostle Paul uses training for sports as a metaphor for training for godliness in 1 Corinthians 9:24–25. He writes, 

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (NIV)

Watching sports championships can provide an awesome introduction to these concepts for your kids. When watching big games, ask your kids questions like:

  • Why do you think this team made it further than other teams? 
  • What do you think it is like to train for a championship? Would it be hard or easy? 
  • What is something you would like to train for? What would it require to be good enough to be on a championship team?
  • In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about training for godliness in the way runners train for racing. What are some ways we can train as followers of Jesus? 

Character

We love watching sports networks before big games and learning more about the people who are playing and coaching in them. Often, journalists will profile players, fans, and coaches who have overcome significant adversity to become stars. Sometimes, we see stories of players who have used their fame and influence to create charitable foundations or give back to the communities in which they grew up. These stories give us ample conversation-starters with our kids. You can ask questions like: 

  • What qualities about that person do you admire? 
  • Why do you think the news did a story about him or her? 
  • Who are some people you know who have some of the same good qualities as that person? 

In 2 Timothy 2:5, Paul uses another sports example to illustrate the importance of good character. He writes, 

Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. (NIV)

Read that verse out loud with your kids, and use it as a jumping-off point to talk about some of the examples of not-great character that you may see in sports. The lessons around character from championship sports can go both ways: here is a good example, but here is a not very good example. This is a way you can help your kids develop a filter for what they see celebrities (and others) do. Rather than shielding them from anything potentially negative, use both negative and positive examples to help shape their internal compass of right and wrong. 

Here are some championship-specific conversation ideas: 

  • Watch how each team celebrates their scores. Are they kind, or do they taunt the other team? 
  • How do players treat each other? How do they treat coaches and referees? 
  • What do you think would happen if one of the teams cheated? 

Community

This is perhaps my favorite part about sports: community! Almost every Saturday or Sunday during football season, the front door of our house swings open for any friends or family who want to join the watch party. 

Our local team made a deep playoff run this year, and our city came alive in a whole new way. Everywhere I looked, people were wearing t-shirts and hats, and nodding and shouting at each other in grocery store lines, restaurants, and even church! It instantly created community with total strangers. It was fun for me, and fun for our kids to see others dressed in matching gear and to feel a part of something really cool that was happening in our city. 

The BIG GAME is the most-watched and most communal event of the year in the United States. Whether your church, friends, or family gathers to watch the big game, the halftime show, or the commercials together, it is undoubtedly an incredibly unifying event. It provides an amazing opportunity to get to know people and celebrate with friends, which are spiritual practices. Here are a few ways to make an emphasis on building community during this year’s big game:

  • Host a neighborhood watch party! Make a pot of chili and invite your neighbors (ones you know and ones you don’t!) to come over with toppings. Everyone wants to watch the game, and why not make it a neighborhood event?! 
  • If you watch with a group of friends or family, ask your kids if they have friends from school they want to invite–and their parents! 
  • Make your own BIG GAME Bingo boards and print them out for the kids to play while they watch. First to get 5 in a row wins a prize! Use candy footballs as the bingo tokens. Need ideas for the bingo squares? Try: penalty flag, halftime show dancers, cola commercial, cheerleaders, touchdown, field goal, a famous person in the stands, etc! 

May the best team win this year’s football championship game, and may the joy of watching it together encourage your family in so many ways! 

Engage your kids in some friendly competition with our Family Football Fun game. Download the printable, cut and fold your “footballs”, set up your “field” and go!

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Download your Family Football Fun Printable and start playing!