Faith Matters: Clergy column by Elizabeth Deibert, May 25, 2015

My husband and I have four children transitioning to adulthood.

Medical school, marriage, speech pathology, college, and high school graduation -- that's our summer.

We are now officially finished with PTA meetings and school lunches, monitoring homework and social lives, going to ballgames and music lessons, noisy children and sleepover parties.


As I reflect on the last 25 years of busy-ness as a parent, I want to offer some advice to younger parents as they consider time constraints and extracurricular activities for summer and next year.

Your children can still grow up to be well-rounded and successful if you opt out of some organized sports, especially the expensive kind that demand all your free time and money.

I am speaking as one who played three sports and whose children enjoyed sports, too.

Athletics are great for the body and teamwork is good for the soul. Friendships are forged.

Organized athletics, however, have become so completely consuming of family life. There's no time to relax.

A laundry list of orchestrated activities does not make for a happy childhood or good parenting.

Some coaches are wonderful role models, and some are over the top with expectations.

College scholarships are reserved for the few who give years of time and money to prepare a talented athlete.

One of the challenges for faith communities is organized sports are not only consuming weeknights, but club sports take most of the weekends, too. Parents naturally want to give their children and youth a chance to compete, but the intensity of athletic programs increases every year pushing down to younger ages.

Faith communities often get the short end of the stick because families are so busy.

Children and youth need time to build relationships in faith communities as well as on ballfields.

They need other respected adults in their lives, especially when they begin to question their parents' values.

Being active weekly in a congregation small enough to really know your children can be tremendously helpful to you and them.

Go to a church where your absence or your children's occasional rowdy behavior will be noticed, challenged, and forgiven by others.

Large churches are great at offering engaging age-divided programs, but studies have shown there is no replacement for authentic intergenerational relationships -- where you know and are known.

Sunday is Pentecost for churches following the liturgical seasons of the year. We will celebrate the birth of the early church with the overwhelming experience of the Holy Spirit that came upon the followers of Jesus and transformed their lives.

We want to see that transformation in the lives of young people. Proverbs 22:6 says: "Direct your children to the right path, and when they are older, they will not depart from it."

Presbyterians (USA) have the chance on Pentecost to collect a special offering to support ministries with children, youth, and young adults. Through this offering, we help at-risk children, we send youth to faith conferences and we provide funding for young adult missions in this country and abroad.

I challenge all parents moving to the slower season of summer: Find a faith community for your children and youth.

Get involved.

Knowing how to play soccer or volleyball or a musical instrument will not give them the spiritual and moral strength they need for the trials and temptations of adult life.

Give them a chance to develop faith, hope, and love in an accepting, nurturing community that builds their spiritual muscles.

The Rev. Elizabeth Deibert, Peace Presbyterian Church, 12705 State Road 64, Lakewood Ranch. Email or call 941-753-777. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald, written by local clergy members.