I have been a pastor for over 33 years and for a short period of that time I was also the overseer for a large Christian school (K4-12). There is no better environment to evaluate the state of the Christian family than to be in the middle of hundreds of students who are growing up in supposedly Christian homes. The requirements for the school included the usual student testimony with regards to their Christian experience as well as verification that the family of the student was attending a Bible-believing church. The school was committed to a biblical worldview and in as much as it is possible to discern, the students and family participating needed to be committed to that philosophy. Some of the expectations included on-campus behavior as well as off-campus behavior. Of course, everyone who enrolled read these clearly articulated expectations and then signed the document affirming their agreement.
Many people who look at such things from the outside can understand behavioral expectations from the student while on-campus but wonder why a biblical worldview school would encroach upon the activities or behavior of the student when they are off-campus. Many reasons can be offered, but I will suggest these three:
1. To uphold a biblical worldview directly implies that one affirms a comprehensive Christianity. Jesus is Lord 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, no matter where your location may be through the day. Enrolled students and families have affirmed their agreement with that concept which should in turn create no problem to the general milieu of the campus.
2. Everyone recognizes that students forge friendships with other students at their school. This is a natural consequence of spending long hours with one another. Serious Christian parents would like some sense of assurance (not necessarily guarantee) that their children will be “yoking” in friendship with those families who hold similar worldviews. The Scripture clearly teaches that one’s company affects one’s morals (see I Corinthians 15:33), therefore a legitimate spiritual concern of all Christian parents would be that their children have friends who are being raised in similar ways. (By the way, I never allowed my kids to be “missionaries” in their relationships without careful supervision. My children are in formation and at times incapable of making quality spiritual decisions or exercising courage. Therefore, I assist them until they are age-appropriate for ministry.) This is why the school attempted to create an affirming Christian environment for their students to excel inside and outside the school.
3. Every child needs boundaries to be established in their life for their well-being and protection. In fact, I believe children thrive when they clearly know where the lines are drawn.
One of the clearest recollections from my early childhood was an incident involving a neighbor who was digging a gigantic hole (perhaps a pool) in their backyard next to ours. My parents clearly told me to not go near the hole, but alas, how can a boy not be enticed to enter a construction site with both mud and giant holes? As I peered over the edge the inevitable happened. I fell into the hole. Fortunately, there was little water and I was able to scramble and climb up the muddy side to escape. Unfortunately, I had to present my muddy self to my mom and received the repercussion of my transgression. It makes for a funny memory 50 years after the fact, but truthfully I could have found myself in far greater trouble than what ultimately took place. The hole could have been filled with water and I could have drowned. I violated a parental boundary and by the sheer grace of God I live today to blog about it.
They can be life or death issues.
To rebuild the Christian family in America, it is incumbent upon us to set and maintain the boundaries of our faith, our convictions, and the Word. Boundaries are not only for the sole purpose of controlling what the children (and family) may fall into should they escape them, but they are also for the purpose of controlling what crosses into the household. Imagine your family to be like a mini-nation and certain boundaries are like your borders. A nation’s border defines more than a geographical area, but also it defines the culture, worldview, and ideology of that nation. A border defines a people and who they are and what distinguishes them from all the other nations of the world. Borders provide security and safety which are essential for the long term survival and thriving of that nation. Any nation that loses or obscures it’s borders will eventually dilute the significance of it’s purpose and destiny. This doesn’t mean that people cannot immigrate into your nation or come across the border, but it does mean that the ideology of that nation isn’t changing for the visitors.
The Christian family establishes boundaries for similar reasons. Our boundaries define who we are in Christ and how His Lordship invades every aspect of who we are. The Bible says that as Christians we are a “peculiar people” (I Peter 2:9). As Christians we have been set apart for special purposes (John 17:15-19). We are not isolationists. We certainly reach out to people as well as invite them in, for the purposes of their conversion to the Kingdom of God and not acclimation to this age. So, as a parent I maintain appropriate spiritual/natural boundaries to maintain and support the worldview of our household.
Here are some (simple) boundaries we have set through the years in our household for your consideration (not exhaustive):
– Movies, television, video games and music which attacks or undermines the Christian Faith is strictly prohibited. I use a number of online review sites that can help me navigate the media so as to not get “snagged” by story lines and language.
– Books and reading assignments from school were carefully reviewed and if necessary, synthesized by me so my children would have a clear picture of a Christian worldview as their assignments were analyzed.
– Bedtimes, curfews, and spiritual routines are enforced.
– Parental knowledge of whereabouts at all times is expected.
– Monitoring of technology and cell usage.
– Approval (especially dad’s) of all clothing choices and apparel.
– Sleep-overs are highly vetted and age-appropriate with only those of like Christian belief. (Honestly and unfortunately, this activity was really rare in our household. Most overnight events happened at our house.).
I am sure the list could be extended by numerous things which have appeared on the scene since my children were under my watch-care, but these are certainly a good place to start. To rebuild our families, I would think these suggestions are at least a minimum place to start.
Several years ago, as my oldest son was ministering as a youth pastor in a mega-church situation, he called home and sought some counsel from his mother with regards to a young person he was counseling. At the end of the conversation he simply said, “Mom, I just want to thank you and dad for putting boundaries on my life. I know I didn’t always appreciate what you were doing then, but as I look at the lives and homes of the young people I pastor, I just shake my head at their lack of wisdom in parenting.” That’s the kind of phone call every parent hopes to hear eventually. I encourage any parent reading this series…secure your borders. There are untold numbers of “barbarians” who want to invade your household and destroy your Christian stability and peace. Set the boundaries…you’ll be glad you did.