In between posts about theology, critical thinking and my latest book review, I talk a lot about creating a family culture that is biblical, joyful, and fulfilling. If you’ve never heard the term “family culture”, you’re not alone – I pretty much made it up. Ha! But it’s not a new concept with me (Jefferson Bethke has been talking about similar things for a while!) and it’s one that will serve families well if they take it to heart.
What is Family Culture?
Every family has a culture. Culture – according to Craig Groeschel – is “what you intentionally create, or what you allow”. Most families have an “allowed” family culture. It’s hectic, crazy, overwhelming, media-centric, cluttered, and not that enjoyable. It’s why dads hide in their phones and video games and moms feel burdened with decision fatigue. It’s why we default to TV-babysitters or why we say things like, “I could never homeschool” or “I’m not patient” or “I can’t wait for my kids to go back to school.” Family culture can be beautiful or it can be ugly. But it’s only beautiful when we create with intention.
A biblical family culture will be the combination of two things: your individual family personality (interests, priorities, ethnic culture, location) and the biblical ethic. All Christian families will unite around the latter, but they will be delightfully diverse in the former! You’ll see Christian families who play soccer, have a weekly movie night, and volunteer at a food pantry at Thanksgiving. You’ll see Christian families who attend public school, are in theater, and love to hike. Their culture is a combination of intentional discipleship and their individual passions.
What is a Biblical Family Culture?
To further flesh out a biblical family culture, I’ll define it this way: A biblical family culture is when the customs, social engagements, and achievements of a family are centered in Christian ethical beliefs and priorities. How you do holidays, school, sports, books, and media will be filtered through Scriptural truth. The parents might bring their own interests and habits to the family, but they are willing to check their assumptions, beliefs, and habits against the Word. They’re teachable and willing to change.
This is, perhaps, the greatest signature quality of a biblical family culture – willingness to flex and change as we are convicted by the Word and the Spirit. If that means certain media is no longer accomplishing our priorities for the family, we remove it from rotation. If we sense that our family is stretched too thin with commitments, we cut back and prioritize Sabbath. If we can tell that we haven’t prioritized discipling our kids in the Word, we cut back on whatever is taking priority over Scripture to educate our kids in what matters. Biblical family culture isn’t legalistic or rigid; it flexes and changes with the seasons and ages of our kids. But it always keeps Christ first.
What If I Don’t Have Kids?
For single readers or those without kids, creating a biblical family culture applies to you too! The principles of the liturgical calendar, communal prayer, sharing life together, breaking bread, and studying Scripture can all be implemented with or without children present. If you’re married, creating these rhythms now will be a fantastic model for 1) when you have children of your own, biological, adoptive or foster; 2) when you practice hospitality and parents see you practicing these things; 3) when you open your home to the community and show them what life in Christ looks like!
Singles, same goes for you! If you have a Christian roommate you could plan out these things together. If your roommate isn’t a believer, you can still practice these things personally and invite others to join in! For you it may look like:
- Defining your spiritual and personal priorities. How do you want to make Christ the center of your home life?
- Creating rhythms of liturgical celebration. Look into the church calendar and consider how you can celebrate this!
- Create a consistent routine for YOURSELF. Make a bible study/spiritual disciplines corner!
How Do I Create a Loving & Biblical Family Culture?
Family culture can happen by accident, but like I said earlier, an “accidental” culture is rarely the kind we want. It takes work, focus, and intention to create the kind of home life we want for our kids. It takes even MORE work and intention to disciple our kids in the truth of Scripture! Following are some of the things I encourage for those just starting out:
- If you’re married, sit down and talk to your spouse about your family priorities. If you’re a single parent, this is largely up to you, but you could consider any other major figures in your kids’ lives, like grandparents! If you’re married, it is so important to be on the same page (as much as possible) with your spouse. This does NOT mean “he agrees with everything I want to do”. It should be a conversation. Give your spouse the opportunity to share his/her thoughts too. This can be super hard if you’ve been the one studying and figuring out what you think should change, but in order to create a FAMILY culture (not just a “wife/mom” culture!) it takes both of you. If you are struggling to get on the same page, marriage counseling may be in order to address underlying causes.
- Be clear on family priorities! What do you want your kids to say about your family when they’re 25? What do you hope for their faith in the time they are in your home? If you continued doing what you are doing now, how much would your kids know about YOUR faith when they graduate high school? How much would they know about Christ in general? Answer these honestly and deal with the results. Make a list of your family priorities, both spiritual and personal. (that might mean “discipleship at one meal a day” and also “play a game as a family weekly” – doesn’t have to be all serious!)
- Create space for the kids to contribute. They are part of your culture too. Once old enough they can contribute ideas for traditions, games, commitments, social engagements, and outreach that you would not have thought about! Give them a voice.
- Make it EASY to disciple. What I mean by this is: make it as convenient as possible for you to teach the Word. Have a playlist of songs queued up for the witching hour and in the car (we like Hide Em in Your Heart and Slugs and Bugs). Have the resources you’re using to teach Scripture memory, bible accounts and theology terms at the place you are most likely to use them – for us, that’s the dining room table (right in the middle of it!). You can keep a flip book of memory verses in the car and recite them together while you drive. Be creative and make it convenient – you’ll be more likely to practice this if you are reminded when you see it!
- Be okay with “I don’t know.” Inevitably your kids will ask questions you don’t know the answer to; when that happens, be okay with saying, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you!” Then take the time to do the research! As you use their questions as opportunity for personal growth, you’ll find your own faith growing alongside theirs.
- Create family traditions that honor your biblical center. We love integrating traditional church holidays into our calendar. Most people celebrate Holy Week and Easter, but what about All Saints Day? Or Advent? Learning the liturgical calendar adds so much richness to the home and helps you integrate celebration into your discipleship time!
- Make time for prayer. This is something we are always working on. We pray at our meals, especially dinner, and at bedtime – when we ask the kids for requests and people they want to pray for. But we also talk about prayer as a way to deal with our emotions (especially anger) and as a means of reconciliation with others. During our coffee time (a recent addition to our schedule – it’s an 8 AM gathering in the living room with coffee just to spend time together before the day) we try to integrate prayer before the day begins. Praying with and in front of your kids teaches them it’s okay to have continual conversations with the Lord! Set the example, be willing to do things uncomfortable for you, and you’ll see the fruit down the road. *I also recommend Laura Wifler’s Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer to teach on this!
There is more I could say, but I will do a follow up post with more specifics. For now – I hope this excites you to be intentional with the culture you create and what you say “yes” to in your home!
For more on this, get the free mealtime discipleship resource below!