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A Family Covenant for God-Honoring Media Choices

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being "inspired" by the media. Television can influence people to quit smoking, get a physical or eat more responsibly. As Leesa proved, it can also make us want to shift from watching to doing—any number of things. But what would have happened if my family had spent an entire month watching Sex and the City instead? Unhealthy messages could’ve unraveled a lot of godly attitudes and habits. That’s why we’ve had an unwritten rule in our home about sticking with positive entertainment. Recently, however, we took the next step and put it in writing.

Bob Smithouser and I first explored the notion of a "family constitution" in our book Chart Watch, and felt strongly enough about it to revisit the idea in the media chapter of Focus on the Family’s Parents’ Guide to the Spiritual Mentoring of Teens. Why? First, I don’t take for granted that my children will automatically practice discernment as a life skill once they leave home. I sure hope they will. The foundation is there. But a family constitution can increase teens’ appetites for righteousness and personal accountability—especially if they help with the fine-tuning of it, which makes them even more invested in the process. Also, there’s something powerful about a written promise that helps us resist temptation.

Let me walk you through my family’s "signing time." Ours wasn’t an elaborate ceremony. No torch-lighting. No drum roll. Just a simple, relatively brief time together. As the clan gathered around the dinner table, I announced (with my wife’s blessing) that I wanted us to pledge to honor the Lord in our entertainment choices, and to seal this commitment by putting our names to a media covenant. I read the document aloud. Then we took turns praying about our commitment and signing it. Looking back on this family milestone, I’m convinced it will pay dividends for years to come. Not because we all got goose bumps and left on some emotional high. It was simply the right thing to do and everyone took it seriously.

If you decide to follow suit, your teens may wish to go a step further and scribble hand-written pledges or unique ratifications in the margins to make the covenant even more personal. But don’t wait for the kids to demonstrate wild enthusiasm before proceeding. And afterwards, don’t expect them to gush with wonder. Try to think of your signing time more as a prayer or devotional experience. Be creative. Do your best to help everyone in the family feel involved. The power of this pledge lies not in the ceremony or the fanciness of the frame it’s displayed in, but in the accountability it brings and reminder it provides.

To document your family’s commitment to godly discernment, download the
Family Covenant for God-Honoring Media Choices.