If you visit our home you will likely notice a plaque that sits in our front hall. Nothing fancy, but possibly one of the most significant items in our home.
Years ago we decided it would be a good idea to come up with some basic principles that would guide our family. This became a family project that everyone participated in.
We scribbled down notes as we talked about our family; what was important to each of us…anything and everything was open for discussion. The goal of this exercise was to identify and clearly capture in a few brief sentences what we valued most.
By the end of the evening, we had listed what we called “Our Family Values”, five of them. For each value, we wrote a brief description of what it would look like for us and a Bible verse or two that explained it. We reviewed it, edited it and wrote a final draft…then we all signed it. Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking…we just took advantage of our children’s age, and their desire to please mom and dad. You may be right, but having young children sign a document is awesome! It may not be legally binding but it still carries a lot of weight in our house.
I can say without a doubt that taking a few hours out of our evening many years ago, to create our family values has been one of the most important things we have done as a family. Here are some reasons why…
1. Our family values reflect our faith. Our values are not our way of trying to gain God’s favor but a way of living as a result of it. By this point, both our children had surrendered their lives to Jesus so we were able to approach it from that perspective. These were not to be simply words on a page but guidelines for how we would make decisions, and interact with each other. Our other family values include honesty, kindness and having a strong work ethic. By the way Ephesians 4 is a gold mine for relationship guidelines.
2. Our family values create a sense of accountability. This was not a top-down thing…a tool for mom & dad to guide and discipline our children. This was for all of us…I am as accountable to my children as they are to me. And when we signed the page together, we were all in.
3. Our family values influence our decisions. For example, when Alex was eight, he played football and I was an assistant coach. That summer we practiced three times a week for 2-3 months before the season even started…then 2 weeks before the first game, the schedule came out…every game but two, were on Sunday morning at 10am. My heart sank and I didn’t know what to do. On the one hand, commitment and working hard were our values, and we had put so much into the season already. But loving God was a family value as well and one commitment we made as a family was that “we would attend church together regularly.” After the practice we sat together reviewing the schedule. As a pastor, I knew what I had to do but I asked Alex what he thought he should do. He paused and thought about it for a while, then said to me, “well dad, I guess I won’t play football this year because we go to church together.” With tears pouring down my face, I thanked him for making such a tough call. Perhaps not wanting the season to end, I suggested we pray about it and see what happens. A week later a revised schedule came out and only 2 games were on Sunday and thankfully they were late enough that we could attend church and still make the games. It was a great season!
4. Our family values serve as a reference point at crucial times. When wrestling with a decision they serve as guardrails. And if one of us violates a family value then the rest of us will call them on it. The phrase,” Hey, does that reflect who we are?” has been raised more times than I could count and contributed to an on-going conversation over the past 10 years.
5. Our family values contribute to our family identity. I’ve heard it said, that our calendar and our bank statements reflect our values. There’s a lot of truth in that I think. For us, we have sought to define who we want to be as a family by our family values. It’s a work in process and one I love being a part of.
Writing family values may or may not be your thing, but those few hours, years ago still impact who we are today.
What defines you and your family? What do you value and how have you been able to live them out?