Christ-Centered Family Culture
Ephesians 6:4 calls parents to bring children up “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” This verse articulates the high calling for Christian parents to raise children not simply to help them be successful financially, socially, and physically, but to facilitate their spiritual growth.
To bring children up in the training and instruction of the Lord requires more than for parents to put one more item on their to-do list. It requires a rethinking of the kind of family culture that is bring created. The vision is to create a family culture that places Jesus Christ on center stage. Instead of making Jesus a semi-frequently used mascot for the family, Jesus should be at the center of family life.
In this post I will briefly examine three ways to cultivate a Christ-centered family culture.
Make Church a Priority
It is 100% true that God doesn’t live at the church. He is much bigger than any building or organization. But it is also 100% true that the New Testament knows nothing of Christians who are not committed to the local church. One of the key marks of a Christ-centered life is church involvement. So one of the key marks for a Christ-centered family culture is church commitment and involvement.
Kids are insightful. They pick up on the priorities and attitudes of their parents more than we might think they do. If the church is treated as an opt-in association that exists in order to bring helpful resources when we decide we want them, then our children will likely not see a deep need for the church. But if the church is treated as the family with whom we are walking with Jesus and living out his mission, then we set up our children to love and value the church.
Nobody has a perfect attendance record on Sunday mornings. And the goal is not to keep stats. But if Sunday church attendance is optional and occasional, this will communicate a low priority of the church to our children. It is worthwhile for those of us who are parents to pause and consider how many times we’ve attended Sunday services during the past three months. Our perception might be that we are committed to our church. But if we find that we are attending services only 1-2 times per month, this indicates that our commitment is low.
But attendance is just the starting point. Scripture teaches that each believer is given spiritual gifts for the good of the church family (1 Corinthians 12:7). Kids need to see their parents using their gifts (teaching Sunday school, serving as a greeter, helping with set-up, using musical gifts). And kids need to be encouraged to start serving and using their own gifts. While it may not be reasonable to think that a 4 year-old will be using their spiritual gifts to serve the church, a child of 12 or 13 is much more capable of this. Rather than expecting our children to suddenly have a vision for the serving the church family when they turn 18, we are wise to being encouraging our kids to use their gifts. It helps them to see that they matter to the church family and that they can see God work through them.
One last note. Consider how often you pray for your church family. Consider setting aside time to do this at least once per week. Consider spending time on Saturday night praying for the services that will take place the next day. Pray for God’s preparation for your own hearts and for God to work in the lives of those who will hear the Word of God.
Maximize Your Routine
Every family has routines. A morning routine might involve breakfast, getting dressed, and brushing teeth. And evening routine might involve dinner, story time, and (once again) brushing teeth. Not every family has dozens of rock-solid routines, but every family definitely has routines.
Since routines are a part of family life, we are wise if we use routines to place Jesus at the center of our family culture. In Deuteronomy 6:6-7 Moses writes to Jewish parents, “These commands that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Moses encourages the idea that parents would be teaching God’s commands to their children throughout the routines of the day.
Children are very responsive to routines. This presents challenges when we want to shake things up. But this also provides an advantage when we want to normalize a positive habit. Dinner time can become the time when you read from the Bible. Bedtime can be the time for prayer. The morning can be a time for Scripture memory or singing worship songs. Wisely consider how you can maximize routine as a way of impacting your family culture for Jesus.
One last note. Consider also your family mantras. What are they? Do you always say, “Work hard and it will pay off”? Good. But consider mantras that will overtly point them to Jesus. What if years from now your kids could say, “Mom and Dad would always tell me that I will never regret trusting Jesus,” or “Mom and Dad always used to say that God loves me not just when I behave well, but even when I fail him”? Don’t underestimate the impact of the phrases and sentences that you say over and over again.
Seek Out Community
It’s hard to eat healthy if everyone around you is scarfing down donuts and beer. But if you surround yourself with healthy people, eating well becomes much easier.
It’s hard to place Jesus at the center of family life when you feel like you’re the only one doing this. But if you surround yourself with people who have those same priorities, you lessen the burden.
As you look to place Jesus at the center of your family culture, look for families who are working to do the same thing. Look for them in your small group, in your Bible study, and in casual conversations. Look for families who will reinforce to your kids what you are trying to teach them in your home. And look for other couples who will encourage you along the way as you look to place Jesus on center stage in your family.
And when you find those families, be willing to sacrifice other time commitments in order to prioritize them. Be willing to do fewer kid sports, fewer movie nights, and fewer music lessons. Even be willing to sacrifice a formal church activity. If you are involved in 3-4 Bible studies, be willing to give some of them up so that you have time to experience fellowship and togetherness with other families who are walking with Jesus.
One more note. If you’re having trouble finding families like this, make it a point of daily prayer that God will bring these people into your life.