Does Football Fandom Affect Your Preaching?
I’m writing this entry at the height of the college football season. I live in a city with an NFL team, but frankly there’s nothing quite like the fan frenzy created by college football in North America. I guess it’s closest kin elsewhere in the world would be soccer. It’s humorous to observe those in the United States who see global soccer fanatics on television and laugh, unaware they themselves are likely even more publicly passionate and about their favorite game.
Does your own fandom affect your preaching? I’ve served with pastors who were rabid sports fans and others who cared less. It did make we wonder, though, if football fandom ever ate into sermon preparation time on the weekends. The average football game on television is going to eat up an afternoon—a half-day of time. Nothing wrong with hobbies or pastimes, but with any, moderation is the key. With that idea in mind, I would look at four key areas of sermon preparation in relation to your fall schedule:
Prayer. Is football eating into your prayer time? Late night Saturday games can be the most challenging. I’ve seldom seen a pastor fresh and prepared for Sunday morning who did not devote some time to intimacy with God on Saturday. Football fandom requires some forethought into how to manage your family and devotional time on the weekends.
Study. If you are a pastor who spends some time on Saturdays reviewing your Sunday message, football can eat into your available time. If you spend Saturdays writing your message, then football can truly be a killer. Congregations easily spot a “Saturday Night Special”, the result of cramming in study after the game. Today we have a great tool to allow the Pastor to study properly then enjoy his pastime—it’s called a DVR. If Saturday is an important study day for you, considering recording the game if it intersects your prime preparation time.
Schedule. There’s always a danger in adjusting the church’s ministry schedule to the football schedule. I’ve not seen this so much on the college level. However, at one church where I served for a number of years, a popular local high school team drove many of the fall scheduling decisions. When the team made the state playoffs, we moved or cancelled key Christmas plans. It may have been the best option for our ministry and resources at the time, but it certainly bordered on unhealthy. A pastor must look at his and the church’s fall schedule, in light of the football season, and ask pointed questions about adjustments and compromises for the game—are they worth it or not, and do the send the right message if so?
Passion. This is where I believe I’ve seen the most blatant effects of fandom on pastors. I see this in two ways. First, I’ve observed pastors who are vocal and passionate about football in the pulpit. Football illustrations, football analogies, football jokes, football conversations. If a man constantly speaks of football, his congregation is going to eventually realize that his greatest passion is—well, football. I’d be careful how much football creeps into the sermon content.
Second, so goes the team, so goes the fan. The team wins, the pastor is upbeat, excited and energized. The team loses, the pastoral fan is a little down, dejected, depressed. You’ve observed this in the pulpit haven’t you? You can just tell a pastor’s team lost yesterday by his tone at times. A good pastor must separate his passion for the game with his passion for Christ and the church. This is not always easy to do—passion is passion. Ask yourself, “Does my passion for a game ever seem more engaging personally to my congregation than my passion for Christ?” Ask some key leaders or your spouse for an unbiased opinion. Hopefully, the answer will not surprise you.
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.