DEVELOPING A MARRIAGE AND FAMILY CONSTITUTION
On a recent Focus on the Family broadcast, Gary Smalley outlined the concept of a family constitution and how it can bring unity under an agreed-upon set of rules. The following will help you and your family develop a constitution for your home.
Ten Major Benefits of Writing a Personal Family Constitution
1. It brings the family into unity. Romans 12:16 exhorts us to “be of the same mind toward one another,” knowing that a house divided against itself cannot stand. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it (1 Cor. 12:26). The Lord’s will is for all His children to walk in oneness (Phil. 2:2).
2. It follows the pattern of Christ and His church. Ephesians 5:23 explains that husbands and wives are to live by His example with the church. Headship and submission are well understood by the military, where the leaders lay out clear plans for training and battle.
3. It reduces prolonged or angry arguments. One article of a constitution can be to list all the negative and positive reasons to follow a certain course of action. Seeing the two sides of an issue can bring about quicker resolution to important decisions which brings about the desired unity.
4. It forces meaningful and honorable communications. When members of a family agree to live in oneness, they are more willing to engage in lengthy discussions in order to resolve important issues.
5. It gives greater security and stability for each family member. Both
parents and children find comfort in a firm foundation. Also, kids do not experience as many unsettling surprises in discipline.
6. It provides continual reminders of a family’s most important values and rules. The constitution is usually displayed in a prominent household location, just as Moses and the Israelites kept a jar of manna as a memorial of God’s provision.
7. It allows a family to prioritize its most important values. Many often settle for the mediocre and second-best, falling short of God’s high standards. Clear precedents will lead the way to unhindered obedience.
8. A written constitution can become the policing force at home. This actually allows each family member to show greater love and comfort whenever an article of the constitution is violated.
9. It can reduce stress and bring greater relaxation. Each member of a family finds comfort in knowing that everyone is aware of the other’s needs and concerns.
10. The Lord’s contract with His children is that he will never leave them or forsake them, and He promises to meet their needs through his riches in glory (Phil. 4:19)
Ten Possible Articles of a Family Constitution
1. We recognize that God loves us and will meet all our needs through His riches in glory. We also realize He will use our trials to bless us and develop more of His love within us.
2. We commit to honor God and His creation above ourselves.
3. We agree to resolve angry conflicts between ourselves each day before the sun sets.
4. We resolve to touch each other lovingly and sincerely as needed on a daily basis.
5. We understand the value of spending meaningful time together. Therefore, we agree to schedule regular monthly activities that each family member can enthusiastically support.
6. We recognize that all our money belongs to the Lord, and we purpose to seek His will and wisdom regarding the earning, giving, saving and other use of His funds.
7. We further recognize that God has created each person as a unique individual with differing strengths and personality characteristics. Therefore, we will endeavor to discover these differences and learn to accept and praise them.
8. We each recognize the great importance of daily meaningful communication between one another. Therefore, we purpose to spend the necessary time each day, as possible, to carefully listen to each other and to express our deepest thoughts and needs.
9. We resolve to care for one another in a tender and affectionate manner.
10. We agree to believe the best in each other and to trust the words and actions of one another as honest. If this trust is broken at any time, we all agree to restore the trust by confessing the untruths, by seeking forgiveness, and by making any necessary restitution.
With the help of the men of Scottsdale Bible Church in Scottsdale, Ariz., the following goals for family constitutions were developed as a model. These are summary challenges for each man to adopt as his own, to God’s glory and for the betterment of families.
We honor God above all by submitting to the authority of His Word in all things. This honor must extend to our families first, then to others. We must honor God’s creations and those He has put in positions of authority. Traits of this honor are obedience, understanding, respect, responsibility, praise and, above all, love. We will show honor by how we treat others, possessions and God’s creation, thinking more highly of others than ourselves.
Realizing that our differences were a major factor in our being drawn together as husbands and wives, we will seek always to keep that “first love” commitment alive by valuing our differences. Additionally, we will actively seek to understand more about the other person’s viewpoint, thought process and natural reactions as a way of increasing our understanding and appreciation. Taking seriously the admonition that we are not all an “eye, or and ear” but different yet important parts of God’s body, we will seek to value all members of our households and live with them in an understanding way.
In our families, we purpose to shut out unhealthy anger with each other. When we talk about issues, we will be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to anger (James 1:19). When anger occurs, we will recognize the individual differences among us, but we will not allow the sun to go down on our anger (Eph. 4:26). We will strive to identify the causes of anger and deal with those causes instead of ignoring them. And without exception, if we cross the line into unhealthy anger with our tone of voice, words or actions, we will seek the forgiveness of those we have hurt (Matt. 18:22).
We agree to provide every family member with abundant praise and encouragement, combined with affectionate touch. This may include hugs, holding hands or other loving expressions agreed on by the couple. We pledge to do this consistently, even when our feelings may be in conflict.
We pledge to take the time to speak regularly about those things that are important to us and our loved ones. We will take seriously their frustrations, fears, disappointments, burdens and dreams. We further pledge to seek actively to communicate our love verbally. We will do this daily. Additionally, we will carve out the communication time our spouses need so that we might find unity, intimacy and peace in our relationships that God might be honored.
FAMILY BONDING EXPERIENCES
Because we are called to “number our days,” we make a commitment to measure out meaningful time with our wives and children. We will seek to provide consistent family bonding activities that are not based on money spent, but on time spent together. To do so, we will sit down as a family and find out each person’s needs and likes, and then we will develop as many activities as we can that provide a warm, family experience.
We pledge to communicate the financial needs of our families. We will set goals to establish a budget in order to free ourselves from the bondage of poor money management. We promise to limit the use of credit cards and to never use money as a means of controlling our families. Our resources are to be shared in an honoring way and used to further the gospel of Christ.
Focus on the Family
Colorado Springs, CO 80995
P.O. Box 9800, Stn. Terminal
Vancouver, B.C., V6B 4G3
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