A Sanctified Super Bowl Party?


Super Bowl parties happen. They just do. And they even happen at church.

Should that make us pause a bit? Because it’s not. The event has become such an inculcated part of our society that few of us even think past the first kickoff (and rounding up some good grub) when it comes to what it actually means to host a Super Bowl party just a few feet away from the pulpit.

I was thinking about this a bit more over the past few days since my high school-age daughter’s Awana group at our church was planning just such a party. And it struck me that Plugged In might have a thing or two to say on the subject.

A quick note first: Most churches don’t know that there are certain copyright requirements that apply to hosting a Super Bowl party. And on this subject, since my face looks about as blank as yours does right now, I’ll just let you know about a nice little Q&A that CopyrightSolver had with an NFL rep.

With that legal stuff taken care of, we’re back to the game itself. Or maybe I should say the stuff that happens on the sidelines of the game: commercials and the halftime show. And because of the way those two things have morphed and changed and, let’s face it, degenerated over the years, they should be of particular interest to churches (and all of us in churches) when we’re participating in this annual sports holiday.

My advice? Skip the halftime show and the commercials altogether. Just blank out the screen every time the game pauses. You’ll likely find that having these “blank” interludes won’t deflate the proceedings even a little bit. They’ll actually make the party more vibrant, helping to spike the interaction level that’s happening between congregants. It may actually be noisier when the big screen is silent than while the gridiron action’s on. Then put together a quick sports-themed devo for halftime. Make it quick—then send everybody over the buffet table for refills and more chatter.

If it’s decided not to make it all about the game (and just the game) by killing off all the extras, may I suggest to you the same thing I just suggested to my daughter’s Awana leaders. And while this is great for us adults too, I’ll frame this for teens, since that’s the context I’ve been thinking the most about. Here’s a close facsimile of what I wrote earlier today:

It would be extremely beneficial to all of your teens as you watch the game on Sunday to make an effort to turn the TV off a couple of times for a minute or two when you see the beginning of a particularly salacious commercial (for Carl’s Jr. or Victoria’s Secret, for instance) or when Katy Perry may or may not start singing about the joys of teen sex or having liked it when she “kissed a girl.”

super-bowl-party-blogbottomThis simple act of keeping the remote control handy and choosing to use it in front of teens communicates volumes to them about what your values as leaders are and what their values as maturing young Christians should be. Some of them may have never had someone try to protect them in this way, and it may make a big impression on them about not only what godly media discernment looks like, but also what kinds of (for instance) clothes are appropriate to wear (for the girls) and what kinds of sensual things are inappropriate to see (for the guys). A simple comment as soon as the TV snaps off about “Well, I think we can all skip THAT” can do wonders—far more than you might realize—for their spiritual maturity process as it relates to how we interact with the world around us.

So maybe we can all turn our Super Bowl parties into super spiritual learning opportunities without even trying that hard. It’s the kind of thing that should always be in play when it comes to entertainment … but especially when it’s at church.

Who wrote this?

Steven Isaac served as editor for Plugged In’s NRB- and EPA-award-winning website for more than a decade, orchestrating, managing, scheduling, shaping and tweaking at least 750 reviews and articles annually. He’s a husband and a father of a teenager.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never had a Super Bowl party at church...The Super Bowl's not too big in the south. We do have a "Team Spirit" day at Awana, though, where everyone comes wearing their Auburn or Alabama shirts and we have a "football food" snack bar. It's a ton of fun for the kids and the LITs (leaders in training, which is what I am.)
AAML_believer More than 1 year ago
I think its crazy that a super bowl party could violate copyrights.

But the commercials are the best part of the event!  I wouldn't want to go to a super bowl party that turned off the feed every time the breaks came on.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Or, one can always choose to skip church Super Bowl Sunday and enjoy the game with friends and family at home. There are 51 other Sundays every year for evening service. 
Marissa Smith More than 1 year ago
My church has had Super Bowl parties in the past, and I see nothing wrong or "alarming" about it. In my experience, they mostly serve as an opportunity to enjoy food and fellowship. The game itself (and the commercials and halftime show) are practically an afterthought. It's okay for Christians to relax, have fun and enjoy each other's company, and if a popular sporting event is the catalyst for such fellowship, so what? 

The Bible says we're to be "in not of" the world, and like it or not, the Super Bowl is a big deal in our world. The sorts of suggestions made in this post sound more like you want Christians to not even be *in* the world at all. Particularly the ones relating to teens. If you know anything at all about teenage thought processes, snapping the TV off and refusing to let them see the commercials is more likely to breed resentment (and likely compel them to just look up the commercials on YouTube later) than it is to make a positive impression. (The "fathers, do not exasperate your children" Bible verse comes to mind.) Using questionable content to provoke a discussion is one thing, but barring access to it altogether seems to do a disservice to young adults by telling them loud and clear that you don't trust them or believe they have the ability to formulate or exercise good judgment. 

Finally, detouring a bit from the main point of the post, but I'm saddened and disturbed by the gender-based distinctions mentioned--"what kinds of (for instance) clothes are appropriate to wear (for the girls) and what kinds of sensual things are inappropriate to see (for the guys)." Just wondering, is there actually any Biblical basis for the church's obsession with female modesty? I know there's a verse about how a woman's worth isn't based on her looks, but that's not the same as modern Christian culture's incessant shaming, suppressing, and outright denial of female sexuality and women's sexual desires. I wish I could get across to Christian parents just how much harm "modesty culture" does to their daughters. God intended physical sexual pleasure within marriage to be for both men *and* women. (Don't believe me? Just read Song of Solomon, or ask yourself why God created the clitoris.) By constantly telling young girls and women that they have to cover up and hide their bodies for the benefit of men who refuse to control their roving eyes, Christian parents send the message to their daughters that their bodies and sexual desires are shameful and harmful. And that all but guarantees those girls will have dysfunctional, unsatisfying sex lives later on after they're married. Unfortunately, when you've been told all your life that sex and your body are dirty and wrong, you can't just instantly turn around and un-learn that once you're married and sex is suddenly permissible. It breaks my heart to think of how many Christian women are denied the full sexual fulfillment within marriage that God intended, thanks to the church's warped view of female sexuality in putting all the burden on women to be "modest" instead of teaching men to take accountability and responsibility for their thoughts and actions.
Andrew Gilbertson More than 1 year ago
The problem is, the male sex drive is wired directly to the visual centers of the brain. It's not a matter of men choosing to dwell on the wrong things- it's a direct neurological reaction beyond the bounds of their control or influence.

Does that absolve them of responsibility for their actions, or their choice of focus after they've seen something titillating or arousing? By no means. But it also means that something visually 'stimulating' is going to immediately be unhelpful to them no matter their mindset; as a fact of their neurology and brain-design.

That is part of why, I think, God commands us to modesty, and why that command is particularly commended to women in a society that otherwise suggests they flaunt or show off their bodies in every way possible. Modesty is a prime help in not triggering those sexual stimuli when they are not meant to be- outside of marriage.

The 'burden' is on men and women equally to be modest- and it does not come from a warped view of female sexuality- or even from a correct understanding of male sexuality. It comes from God's standards; from His command not to place undue temptation in front of another, and to be modest, preserving what is to be enjoyed solely between man and wife for their marriage.

This is not a message to young women that their bodies are shameful or harmful; but rather that they are sacred. That they are special, and meant for something far better and less demeaning that random public consumption. It- like their sexuality, and the sexuality of the men as well- is meant to find its full expression within the marriage covenant... and not to be bandied about outside of it.

Teaching modesty (and abstinence for that matter) should never be a matter  of teaching that the body or sex are wrong, but the opposite- that they are created specially and wonderfully for a specific purpose by God; to be enjoyed within that covenant relationship and abstained from elsewhere. If that's getting translated to 'sex is bad, cover up your body because it's wrong,' that's a major failing of the teacher, not a flaw in the message that was SUPPOSED to be communicated.
E. Sigerson More than 1 year ago
I think you have some excellent points on how to go about holding a super bowl party. However, I find it rather alarming that churches are holding such events.  It is one thing for several members of a church to gather at someone's home and watch the game, but to have a church organized event dedicated to sports in a place of worship is somewhat frightening.