In my post on practical ideas for helping you have enough of you to go around, I said the majority of the activities we participate in are things our entire family can enjoy. Karyn asked me to elaborate, so this post is that elaboration.
WARNING: This is either going to be one of those posts you love, or one of those posts you hate. Either way, I hope I offer some food for thought here.
Outside activities for members of our household are put under close scrutiny before we allow participation in them. We don’t just do things to do things.
So, what guidelines do we try to stick to when evaluating an activity? Here’s a generalized list…
1. Is the activity God-honoring?
There are lots of things to do out there; however, not everything is glorifying to the Lord. I won’t try to discern for you what is and is not glorifying, but I will suggest this verse as a starting point:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
2. Does the activity have “lasting merit.”
An example of this is Scouts. In our family, Scouting is a worthy activity. Our oldest son has learned an incredible amount of pertinent and beneficial information through Scouts, and even saved his younger brother from choking because of what he had learned as a Scout.
There are other activities we don’t feel have lasting merit; and therefore, do not want to spend our precious time participating in those things when there are so many better activities out there.
A good question to ask yourself is:
20 years from now will the fact that a family member participated in this activity prove to be beneficial to them or someone else in some way?
3. Does the activity correlate with the family member’s particular giftings?
God has blessed each and every one of us with gifts that can benefit the body of Christ. We should pursue excellence in those giftings. We strive to hone the gifts our children were born with in order to “train them up in the way they should go.” (Prov 22:6)
This goes for adults as well as children. If I had a knack for arranging flowers (which I don’t), our family might consider it wise for me to take a class on floral arranging, make up arrangements to beautify our church, and further that aspect of myself in order to give of myself in my particular gifting (and possibly pass that knowledge on to other family members in the process). However, much of this could be done without me being away from my family for very long at a time. Anything that would take a family member away quite often and for several hours/days on end would need to meet the next criteria…
4. Does the activity benefit the family?
An example of this is my husband’s hunting. I know we’ve had a good laugh over the buffalo on my wall (which still doesn’t have a name, but may, at some point, need buffalo-plasty because of how often I run into her nose!), but my husband doesn’t hunt in order to bring home trophies. That buffalo provided us with a freezer full of meat…low fat, high iron organic meat. Sometimes it is a deer, sometimes it is a pheasant, but his policy is don’t hunt it unless you plan on eating it. And that’s what we do. Therefore, that particular activity, now also enjoyed by our oldest son, benefits the family.
5. Does it encourage family-togetherness?
As you can see from my examples above, not everything we do is done as a family; however, family ALWAYS takes precedence over all else. As I said in my practical ideas post, if an activity shows signs of tearing away at the family, it needs to go. If we are spending more time apart as a family than together, we will begin to lose family unity–something I’m not willing to sacrifice. Always look for the unified family version of an activity before signing up for the separated family version.
Some things we do not base our decisions off of:
1. Is it fair?
If I spent my entire life trying to make everything fair, I would be a crazy lady and our household would run a muck. Fairness is not a good way to make decisions because I would likely end up with 2 or 3 places to be per child per week, which totally goes against #5 on our list.
2. Peer pressure.
Just because a friend is doing it doesn’t make it right for your family. That doesn’t necessarily mean the friend is making a poor decision, but you can’t choose activities based solely on what your friend or your child’s friend is doing. For example, if my friend has decided to invest thousands of dollars in scuba lessons and equipment for her son because he intends to be an underwater archaeologist, it would be ludicrous for me to invest that kind of money on my own child, who more than likely has no interest or gifting toward that line of work. Make decisions based on your own family, not someone else’s.
3. What the child wants.
OK, that sounds harsh, but hear me out. Most children have two types of desires…those that are in line with gifts they possess and those that are not. My daughter may really, really, really want to take gymnastics and really, really, really want to take photography classes; however, I shouldn’t feel compelled to give her both simply because she wants both. The Bible clearly states children are foolish. Guide them to good choices, avoiding willy-nilly choices based on the whim of the day.
Now, Karyn asked about two specifics activities:
There is no way I can straight-across-the-board condemn or raise up one over another. My husband paid his way through college on a football scholarship. I had a music scholarship. My husband hasn’t played football since. I sing all the time. His football benefited the family, my singing had lasting merit. It’s a wash.
So, rather than saying certain activities are ALWAYS bad and certain activities are ALWAYS good, we go back to our list. We work our way through it, prayerfully. At the end of the day, your family is your family, and the activities you choose to engage in do not have to meet MY standards. Go to the Lord in prayer about what HE would have your family participate in. Then do it wholeheartedly, as unto the Lord!