Before I had children I read a book by my pastor, Andy Stanley. In one chapter he challenged me to think about the goals I had for myself and my family. So I reflected on them momentarily before continuing about the usual enterprise of life. Then we had our first daughter.
Fathering children has a way of changing a man. I quickly realized that lofty musings and wishful thinking were no way to lead my family. So I went back and re-read the chapter in that book. I took it to heart when Andy challenged me write out my goals for my family. They say if you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time. I didn't want to hit this target. So I opened Google Docs and I began drafting, in the words of http://dictionary.com, a system of fundamental principles according to which a nation, state, corporation, or the like, is governed. Substitute "or the like" with "my family."
I began drafting a Family Constitution.
It became clear, in short order, that one document would not suffice. Maybe it's the patriot in me, that my parents raised, but our Family Constitution felt remiss without an accompanying Bill of Rights. So I drafted one of those also, for the children.
After I had worked on it for a while I knew I needed external review. Actually, my new Family Constitution required it! I have a group of close friends and family that I consider my personal advisory board. I mean that literally. I have a group in my address book titled "Personal Advisory Board." When my drafts were complete, I sent my board the following email.
Now that our family is growing, the time felt right to go ahead and write down some of our goals. Please feel free to question any of them. The wording, the importance, etc. Maybe they overlap, or maybe some need to be divided. Chew on it. Take your time. I guess the main thing I would like your advice on, is if I am missing any huge areas, principles, categories, or topics.
These two documents represent values that [Dewdette] and [Dewde] intend to prioritize as we raise our children and live our lives here on this earth. I'm sure it will be a growing and changing document. It will grow while we grow, as God teaches us lessons throughout our lives. I hope it stays very simple and concise as opposed to wordy or redundant.
That was 2 and a half years ago. Now it's time to dust this puppy off. Reevaluate. Revise. and Refine.
The Family Constitution
- To hold honesty as the foundation of our ethics.
- To always choose the harder right, as God defines right, over the easier wrong.
- To be sincere and genuine in our endeavors.
- To enrich the lives of others with our time and assets.
- To always rebuke with hesitancy and gentleness.
- To keep a sense of humor.
- To obtain counsel of reputable peers.
- To listen twice as much as you speak.
- To fellowship with God through prayer and study.
The Children's Bill of Rights
- To be safe and nourished.
- To be given love, rooted in patience and tenderness, not contingent on decisions or actions.
- To be taught by example hand-in-hand with instruction.
- To be given unconditional respect, not contingent on decisions or actions.
- To be guided in the skills necessary to navigate life with peace and contentment.
- To be forgiven of all trespasses.
- To be disciplined with predictability and consistency.
I post them here for two reasons. First, I seek constructive feedback. Especially if you are of an alternate world view. Christians have a history of being terribly myopic. Actually, I have a history of being terribly myopic. And not just in the 5 years since my conversion, but my 10 Atheist years before that.
Second, I hope to inspire you in the same manner that I was inspired. Please consider, if you haven't already, articulating your goals in written form, as you lead your family. I can name dozens and dozens of changes Dewdette and I made to our lifestyle as a direct consequence of the conversations we had while I drafted these documents.
This is time well spent.