It seems to be a fact of life these days that kids are busier than ever. I saw it as a high schooler (which feels like it’s been longer than seven years ago), and I see it now as a student pastor and parent. Between an overwhelming amount of school work and the heavy time demands of extracurricular activities, Parents might worry that their child’s schedule is so overloaded that it becomes harmful rather than enriching. The Bible has a term for this: idolatry. When anything in our lives becomes so consuming that we can hardly make time for anything else, we are practically making that thing to be a god.
So, if I make watching or playing sports a priority in my life to the point that it limits my time with the Lord, my time with my family, or my time with my church family, sports has become an idol in my life. The thing in itself is not bad. But it has drawn my attention away from things that are more important priorities. I use sports as an example because I am a big sports fan. But the truth is you can replace select sports with almost any school or extracurricular activity. The fact is, everyone is busy. Here are three questions that I think are helpful for parents to diagnose whether your family is too busy.
1. Do your children place their identity in their success?
Does failure or a lack of success cause your child to go beyond disappointment to depression? Does a fear of failure or even mediocrity cause your child to experience anxiety? This is a tough question to answer because the truth for many of us adults is that while we know our identity remains in Christ alone, we are drawn away from that fact by a success-driven world. But it may be an even tougher question to ask if your children place their identity in their successes or personal abilities. While our education system provides more college preparation, sports training, and academic help than ever, the fact remains that more teenagers and college-aged students struggle with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts than ever recorded. Could it be that they are breaking under the weight of unhindered expectations of success? While we may not realize it, we as parents are more responsible for this than we think. As a parent, do you use experiences of failure as an opportunity to remind your child or student of God’s love? The gospel tells us that our identity and worth is secure because of who Christ is. We are eternally loved because of God’s character and we have done nothing to earn his love and acceptance and we can’t do anything to lose his love and acceptance. It might be that as a parent you have created a culture at home that emphasizes success over rest in the gospel.
2. Do you spend consistent time as a family outside of extracurricular events?
Can you recall a time in the last week or two, when the whole family gathered for the sole purpose of spending time together. For many of us, this goal seems almost impossible. If you have three students and each one is involved in a different school club or team, finding consistent pockets of time where none of them are busy is a tall task. But it’s also necessary. Moses lays out the key for family discipleship in Deuteronomy 6:7 when he tells the Israelites to teach God’s commands “diligently to your children.” The idea is intentional time with just parents and children whether its time before bed or time at the breakfast or dinner table. But many of us struggle to carve this kind of time out with just us and our kids without any planned activities. If your kids are too busy “doing” that they family can’t spend consistent time “being” together, then maybe it’s time to reconsider the schedules that you allow your child or student to take on.
3. Do extracurriculars stop you from actively engaging with your church community?
Besides our relationship with Christ and our relationships with our immediate family, the most important relationships we can form are with our church family. Here is a question to ask: when something in your life goes desperately wrong, who are you most likely to call first, people inside your church community, or people in other communities that you are involved in through extracurricular activities? The fact is that church is not about us and what we can get out of it, even though church is indispensable for our personal spiritual growth. The author of Hebrews contrasts “encouraging one another” with “neglecting to meet together” (10:25 ESV). This verse suggests that we are either actively involved in encouraging and building up the believers in our local church or we are abandoning the local church. We are not a community all to ourselves. My fear is that many times we are far too lenient on what is an acceptable reason to miss an assembly of believers. Obviously, there is no biblical percentage for what is expected as church attendance is concerned, but there is a concern for forming deep, spiritual relationships in the faith family, and that only happens with consistent gathering over a good period of time. The church is meant to be our family in the most real sense and if we can’t honestly say that we depend on our church for support, then we probably aren’t plugged into that community enough. And, if extracurricular events are the reason why we don’t plug in deeper to our community, its time to rethink the way we do extracurricular activities.
Obviously, there is no guidebook for how busy is too busy for any student or family. But I hope you find these questions helpful and thought-provoking in your family life. We tell our students at HBC, “what you value is what you make time for.” The implication is that if a student wants to go to a party or movie on a Friday night, they are going to make sure their work is done so they can go. If we value a robust family discipleship and a robust community life at church, we will make time for it. And, it won’t bother us if some extracurriculars are sacrificed in the meantime.