Exactly what are extracurriculars? Webster defines them as “extra activities (such as sports) that can be done by the students in a school but that are not part of the regular schedule of classes.” Those are what most of us think of when we hear the word—athletics, arts and other pursuits that take place inside the school, but outside the classroom.
They are considered extras for good reason. No matter where or when our children pursue them, they are just that. Additional. Optional. Want-to’s versus have-to’s. Unlike other parenting imperatives such as food, clothing, shelter and education, extracurricular activities are not mandatory. We can offer them—or not—however we see fit, accountable to no authority but our own.
After all, Child Protective Services will never investigate a case of parental neglect due to “failure to provide violin lessons.” The truancy officer won’t come knocking because Johnny missed one too many t-ball practices. And we’re not likely to get a call from the Children’s Minister because she hasn’t seen Susie around the gymnastics studio lately. Growing our children in “wisdom, stature and favor” doesn’t exactly require music theory, volleyball or summer camps!
In short, these activities are extra—add-ons to the basic necessities children require. Meanwhile, they come with an impressive roster of extras all their own, which only expand as involvement increases:
- Extra costs. Extracurricular activities stretch household resources of time and money. Even those activities provided courtesy of school hours and school funding will make a play for the family calendar and bank account.
- Extra identity. For children and parents alike, team membership affects the way others see us—and and how we see ourselves.
- Extra authority figures. Coaches, directors and other instructors have considerable influence over our children through these activities.
- Extra relationships. It’s not uncommon for close connections to develop among teammates—and team parents.
- Extra emotions. The “thrill of victory” and “the agony of defeat” make for a pretty intense roller coaster ride for everyone involved. Get ready to hang on tight!
- Extra decisions. Today’s extracurricular choices are incredibly varied. Parents hoping to pick the best activity for their child are likely to run out of time, funds and patience before they run out of options.
- Extra horizons. Extracurricular activities can be highly mobile, and active families may find their “territory enlarged” across town, across the state—or even around the world.
For those who hope to reclaim kids’ activities for God’s kingdom, we will need additional measures of Divine wisdom, guidance and grace, especially since there is one more extra in our lineup:
Extra witness. In the extracurricular arena, followers of Christ are much more than spectators. We can “walk the walk” while sitting in the stands or auditorium, and we can offer hope to a defeated world desperately looking for a win.
As members of God’s team, consider all the extras we can bring to the game! What it means to be recruited by Someone so wholly committed to victory. To have the world’s greatest Coach ready to train us as his Most Valuable Players. To trust in a Referee with the authority to blow the whistle whenever we step out of bounds. Just imagine how the game could change if everyone—children and parents—played by God’s rules:
We could trust all our precious resources to the One who is trustworthy to provide.
We could take our positions with the assurance that comes from our identity in Christ.
We could respect human authorities out of respect for a Sovereign God who calls us to live surrendered, obedient lives.
We could weather wins and losses with dignity and poise.
With mercy, humility and grace, we could restore beauty to a competitive world made ugly by antagonism, hostility and pride. As we love and serve our fellow teammates with generosity, forgiveness and compassion, we could depict lives fully reclaimed by Christ.