by Billy Phenix
For 21 years I’ve worked in some sort of ministry. Looking back, every year there was tension between raising a healthy family and juggling parts of culture. Each year in some corner of the Christian faith, someone was targeting something in culture, labeling it dangerous, and starting a boycott, a letter writing campaign, or seeking to lock it out of the house. Usually, it was something popular. It was “Beavis and Butthead,” “The Simpsons,” a violent video game, the purple Teletubby, Marilyn Manson, Disney movies, “Jersey Shore,” Madonna, Pokemon cards, or snap bracelets that were (evidently) a subversive signal among teenagers to have sex. The list goes on and on.
Our tendency as the church or family is to fight against all that seemingly threatens our children. Don’t get me wrong. I think there is a time and place for that. I’m certainly not defending the list above, but here’s my point.
If we dedicate the entirety of our kid’s lives fighting against their moral “enemies,” we’ll discover something scary in August of their eighteenth year of life. When we drop them off at college and drive away, we’ll realize that we just left our teenager in a world of collegiate temptation and threats that they are ill-equipped to handle. It would be like dropping a gladiator in the coliseum with a Nerf bat and water balloons. It wouldn’t be pretty.
Since our first tendencies are often to protect instead of prepare our kids for the life ahead, we must remember to cultivate a new discipline. We must remember to EQUIP our children for life in our culture along with our role of PROTECTING them.
This topic reminds me of when Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem around 445 BC to rebuild the city and, most importantly, the city wall. Scripture tells us he faced great resistance from the enemies surrounding the crumbled city, since they liked Jerusalem being weak and without a line of defense. Still, Nehemiah knew that without a defensible wall, Jerusalem would never be in a position to grow, protect itself or flourish.
Nehemiah and the people took an unusual approach:
“Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other . . . ” (Nehemiah 4:17).
This image resonates with me. Nehemiah’s workforce couldn’t afford to simply fight enemies all day or the much-needed wall would simply never be built. Additionally, they couldn’t just go build the wall and ignore their enemies, lest they be attacked and destroyed while they are slinging brick and mortar. It’s a great word picture of building while facing a culture that wants to tear down what is being built.
So it is with our efforts to raise a child. If we spend all of our days fighting the enemies that threaten our family in today’s culture our kids won’t have the learned ability to make wise choices, turn from temptation, or minister in the dark corners of our culture. On the other hand, if we ignore all that threatens the faith and integrity of our families, we’ll find our kids continually damaged by what emerges from culture.
So, when you ask “What should I do? Fight or build?” The answer is: “Yes.” Think about your innate tendencies and then make sure you do both.
Ask yourself the following questions and it may help you design your “fight and build” strategy:
- Do you tend to over-protect or under-protect your kids?
- Which do you naturally value more: safety or challenge/risk for your kids?
- Are your kids more likely to be sheltered (and ultimately ill-equipped to function in the “real world”) or damaged by repeated exposure to temptations that they can’t handle well?
- What are your unique opportunities to equip your kids to make wise choices and to help others that struggle (while not stumbling themselves)?
- What are your responsibilities to make decisions for your kids that will protect them from unnecessary damage or turmoil?
In what ways do you help build up the kids in your family, while making wise decisions to protect them from harm?
Orange is excited to have Billy Phenix, campus pastor of Buckhead Church, as a featured writer this month on the Orange Leaders’ blog. Billy was on the initial team that launched this first, off-site campus of North Point Ministries in 2001. In this role, Billy leads the staff of Buckhead Church and oversees all aspects of its operations. Previous to his role as campus pastor, he served in a variety of areas in NPM, including singles, students, and children’s ministries as well as Starting Point.
Prior to joining NPM in 2000, Billy worked in full-time student ministry and as a corporate architect for Chick-fil-A, Inc. Billy is an Atlanta native, Georgia Tech grad, and currently lives in East Cobb with his wife, Joy, and their children, Ellie and Josh.