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Extracurricular Paradise


Baseball, soccer, and  gymnastics  make up many afternoons and evenings in our house. It would seem that we enjoy the sports-scene, and that is very true. I love watching my kids run around a baseball field, learn to get better at soccer, and take on the challenge of a new gymnastics routine. However, I also know there are limits to every good thing. There is a place we can get into with extracurricular  activities  that begin to push us beyond a healthy pace.

Here are the Cliff family guardrails to help keep these outside interests in proper perspective:

The kids have to enjoy it. Yes, they are forced to finish what they commit to. Yes, they are forced to attend practices. No, I do not force them to sign-up each season. I want my kids to enjoy the experience, and if they are only doing it because I like them to do, then it won’t last. The fun has to be there for it to really work.

They have to do something extracurricular. While I don’t require them to do one thing over another, I do require them to do something outside of the normal. It could be sports, music, or art classes. We’ve had them involved in each of those at one time or another.

There is an end date in view. Baseball is a spring sport. It is not a fall sport for our family. Soccer is 10 weeks long, not 25 weeks long for our family. Granted, my kids aren’t yet teenagers, but we work hard to make sure the experience has a clear ending time.

All normal rules apply. They need to make wise choices, they should treat others the way they wanted to be treated, and they will use the experience to show Christs love in a practical way. Extracurricular isn’t an escape from reality, it’s a new arena to practice all that life expects from us.

Give our best. Giving your very best involves practicing, trying hard, and never giving up when things get tough. In fact, that’s probably why I lean so strongly towards competitive sports. There is something to working together as a team to accomplish a goal that I love my kids to be involved with.

Of course, there are always exceptions. These are just some healthy ways we keep all that we do in the right perspective. We are a family FIRST, we are not baseball players first. We are a family FIRST, we are not slaves to gymnastics practice. We are a family FIRST, we are not victims of the soccer schedule.

How do you keep things healthy for your kids in these busy seasons?




Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.


  1. Jamie Conley · May 16, 2013

    Curious where your boundaries lie with gymnastics. You mentioned definite end dates but in my experience gymnastics is a year round sport with a certain season for meets and competition. You have some good insights here and this is a topic I deal with nearly constantly. The step beyond is, what do you do to serve the kids of the families that don’t make these same choices and apply the same boundaries? Thanks for the discussion. Looking forward to more.

    • Jonathan Cliff · May 16, 2013

      Thanks for the comment Jamie. My gymanstics experience is limited, with just a 7 year old daughter doing it now; so take this with a grain of salt.

      We have agreed to one hour a week for 3 months at a time. No meets at this age, and no extra events added in. When she’s older, and it becomes more of a ‘thing’ then we will have to re-evaulate.

      As far as ministrying to families who don’t have boundaries, I don’t sweat it much. Guilt has never worked for getting families to church, so I just try and meet families where they are. If they come once a month, then good for everyone. Twice a month, then even better! :)