Last week at our Life is Vapor study we talked about the priority of enjoying God as a family. Our own family was already thinking along the lines of starting fresh this fall to break bad habits and establish a new family vision. After picking up our eldest son from camp, we wanted to take some time to talk through a family covenant — what are we aiming for? What boundaries do we need to enforce (especially regarding technology)? Here’s the deal: we have a pretty darn good family, but as we’ve transitioned into the teenage years, the crabbiness and snapping is ramping up. The ever-present internet is encroaching on our family culture. And the stakes are higher than ever.
The minutes tick down until the day our kiddos leave home. This is it, our one shot to love, our one long road trip to make memories, to laugh, to raise up world-changers. How can we guard this treasure of time?
We decided to walk the kids through some of the classic “one another” passages of the Bible to set the stage, then read through and commit to a family-wide promise to love each other well and enjoy God together. We do realize a shortcoming of our core values list is the lack of outward-flowing service and mission. That probably deserves a whole page to itself! Since this is something we already do a lot of, being in ministry, we didn’t include it (but maybe we should have.) Our need at the moment is more along the lines of love within the four walls. (Why is it often harder to love on your own family??)
For those of you who have a similar desire to unleash the love at a new level in your home, here’s what we came up with. Since you no doubt know the Bible verses we chose really well, you might fly past that part to get to the new info, but talking through them on the front end with our kids “primed the pump,” so to speak, for being able to hear the heart behind the rest of it.
Setting the Stage
I Corinthians 13: 4-8 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Matthew 5:1-16 “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
‘You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’”
II Peter 1:5-10 “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”
I John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
I John 4:7-8, 20 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love….If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
Because it is our family’s highest priority to glorify God by enjoying Him together, we commit to strive towards the following ideals out of love for Jesus and each other:
- We recognize that we are forgiven, so we will extend forgiveness.
- We will try hard to keep no record of wrongs.
- We will make every effort to be kind.
- We know that we have been given much more than we deserve, and we will not demand our “rights.”
- We will actively count our blessings.
- We will verbally express thankfulness.
- We won’t whine, complain, or grumble. Instead we will encourage, rejoice, pitch in, and be cheerful.
- We will consider others better than ourselves, and seek to outdo one another in love.
- We will look for ways to serve one another.
- In our house we will not worry about the opinion of others, but only seek to please God.
- Our gratitude will overflow in generosity as we put others first. We will share, take turns, and refuse to be greedy with our time and money.
- We will work hard not to make more work for others. If we get it out, we’ll put it away. If we get it dirty, we’ll clean it up. If we borrow it, we’ll return it.
- We do not welcome the pollution of the world in our home. Like Job, we covenant to set no vile thing before our eyes.
- If we see something inappropriate, we will turn away, and take steps to prevent seeing it again.
- We will not keep secrets out of shame, but confess our struggles to one another, welcome accountability, and bring everything into the light.
- We agree to function as a team, each with our own strengths, roles and responsibilities.
- We recognize that we must finish what we start, work diligently and with excellence at our tasks, and not shirk our duties in laziness.
- We will approach our work with a sense of honor, not half-heartedly; with optimism, not dread; and with a merry heart, not a grumpy spirit.
- We will always tell the truth.
- We will be true to our word and do what we promise.
- We will accept consequences without seeking to justify our sin.
- We will obey.
- We will do our best to have fun, lighten one another’s loads, affirm one another, and laugh often.
- We will happily join in games, family outings, social events, outdoor recreation, trips, and holiday activities, making our own traditions as we go and creating our own zany family culture.
- We will happily participate in family prayer time or devotions and point each other to Jesus however we can.
Screen Time Rules
Because computers and other forms of entertainment technology can become so addictive and so isolating, we agree to the following rules in order to keep screen time in check:
- Family time takes priority over screen time (including phones, tablets, computers, TV, etc.).
- Outside of school or work, I agree not to spend more than two hours per day alone in front of a screen. This includes surfing the internet, watching a show, playing a game, Garage Band, Skype, email, etc.
- I will not use the internet alone behind closed doors (for instance, alone in my room at bedtime or in the bathroom).
- I will not bring devices to the dinner table or family outings.
- I will not wear headphones in the car (except sometimes on road trips).
- I will not post photos or videos without permission.
- I will never post personal information (address, birthday, contact information) on a public forum.
- I will not develop online friendships with strangers. If a stranger reaches out and I would like to chat, I will ask first. I promise to alert my parents if I receive inappropriate or alarming communication from anyone.
- I agree that screen time is a privilege that may be revoked, reduced, or suspended as a consequence or simply to prioritize other things.
- Schoolwork and chores will come before screen time. If a parent needs my help or involvement in any way, I will pause whatever I was doing without complaint.
- I agree not to hog family devices or borrow equipment without asking.
- I will take care of my own devices — being careful where I put them, how I carry them, how I operate them, and being careful not to waste energy or resources.
- I will use good etiquette (for example, turning off noisy notifications in public or turning off my device to engage in conversation). I will follow rules external to our house (no texting while driving, no internet during class).
- Parents reserve the right to read incoming emails, but will try to respect everyone’s privacy.
- I understand that disregarding these rules will result in my devices being taken away or my privileges being suspended.