Panel: Parents must take intentional lead on sports, media and technology

NASHVILLE Parents and pastors on a panel at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s national conference advised parents to exercise their God-given authority to guide their families to honor the Lord with their involvement with extracurricular activities and technology usage. The panel explored the joys and benefits of family schedules, sports and electronic devices during an afternoon breakout session, Aug. 25, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville. 

Noting that busy schedules and life’s demands can often overwhelm families, Nicole Lino, a pastor’s wife from Humble, Texas, said husbands and wives must be deliberate in order to protect their marriages.

“To make protecting your marriage a priority, you really have to plan and be intentional,” said Lino, whose husband, Nathan, pastors Northeast Houston Baptist Church. “Communication is essential. … We’re going to talk about our schedules and build in some margins in our time when we’re expecting stressful seasons in our marriage, when we know things are crazy busy at the church.” 

Lino also said parents must assume the role as the leaders of the home rather than let their children rule. 

“In our house, we don’t let anyone hijack the family, as we call it,” Lino said. “You can hijack the family with your schedule, your emotions and your demands on finances.” 

Rather than let one child’s schedule, activities or actions dominate the life of the family, the Lino’s simply tell their kids, “God gave you a mom and a dad to know what’s best for you, and he’s going to give us insight and wisdom to how to best grow in godliness, to help you navigate the world you’re living in.” 

Parents must also take the lead in their children’s spiritual discipleship, she said.

“You cannot, outside the home, find a substitute for what a parent sincerely in their faith with Jesus Christ can do in the spiritual formation of that child,” Lino said. “They are looking through the microscope at the slide of your life and your walk with Jesus Christ, and they can see all the nitty-gritty details. They can see your joys and successes and how the Lord is working in your life and where he provides. They can also see you struggle in your faith. You want them to see that. … They need to see it working outside your home as well. They need to see your faith being applied in your community, in your church, and in your home the same way.”

Parents should beware of allowing passivity to affect their family’s technology usage, said Tony Reinke, a father and senior writer at Desiring God Ministries.

“[My kids] pick up patterns that I’ve given them over the years,” said Reinke, author of the book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. This recognition caused him to re-evaluate his own use of technology. 

Applying the gospel to technology usage, Reinke said, “The advantage that Christian parents have is that we realize that the struggle against the smartphone and all of these impulses that get us to grab our smartphone every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives is this idea that we want to be loved, we want to approved, we want to be validated, and we people to matter. 

“We want to take the carefully selected images of our lives and put it in front of other people to be told that we’re doing things right, that we’re succeeding. All of these things are deep, deep, deep heart issues. This is not superficial stuff. … What we’re engaged in is a fight over the affections. … My job is to raise the spiritual affections of my children as high as possible because if I don’t do that, porn will. If I don’t do that, self-validation will. If I don’t do that, the hyper-Google culture that they cannot escape will do that. As Christians, what we see is that we are in a worship war; our kids are in a worship war [between pleasure in God and the allures of the world].”

Referencing C.S. Lewis’ classic The Screwtape Letters, a fictional story about a senior demon giving advice to a rookie demon on how to trip up Christians, Reinke said the book introduces Satan’s “nothing strategy” 

“The nothing strategy of Satan is this idea that if he can get us hooked into doing things which we are not called to do and things that do not satisfy our souls, that is the “dreary flickering” … if he can keep us there, we’ll waste our lives.” 

Reinke noted the irony of Lewis’ phrase “dreary flickering” and the glow of smartphones. He advised parents to thoughtfully manage their children’s electronic devices, including smartphones, computers and tablets. He and his wife created a timeline from ages 0 to 18  for how their children will use media and technology, which they adjust as needed and based on each child’s natural tendencies.

David Prince, pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., and a preaching professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also addressed the issue of sports.

“We have to acknowledge that sports can become an idol,” Prince said. “It can become something in your life that you’d be better off pushing to the side. But, like everything else, the issue is not sports, the issue is you. The issue is that you’re corrupting what God has given as potentially a good gift and using it in an unhealthy way. … Sports is not where you get your identity. Sports is something that you enjoy.” 

Prince, an avid sports fan, said sports give children opportunities to fail and learn from their mistakes. While many parents want their kids to avoid failure, Prince noted, “All of us are managing failure. …. Most of us are role players in life, we’re not stars. … But do role players matter? Yes. 

“Failing in these small areas like sports is an incredible opportunity for personal growth. It’s not a disastrous thing. … It’s a great opportunity to talk about life and work ethic and this is not the end-all, be-all when your kid misses the game-winning shot.”

Texan Correspondent
Keith Collier
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