Peter, James, John, Abraham, and Moses didn’t have to worry about what movies their sons might watch, what songs the DJ at the high school dance would be spinning, or what TV shows their daughters might be watching on their cell phones. Nor did they face the challenges of texting, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Second Life, Hulu or Pandora.
But as I’ve already mentioned, even though the Bible never says, “Thou shalt not listen to gangsta rap,” it’s full of passages to help us navigate the culture. It’s the place to go when you’re looking for authoritative answers — a much better place than “Because I said so” or “You’re embarrassing me in front of all the other parents at church.”
Your kids may not be used to consulting Scripture about their media choices. According to the Barna Group, 91 percent of teens who say they’re “born again” make moral decisions by means other than God’s absolute truth; most say they use their “feelings.” But it’s a habit you can encourage, and one that might even help prevent media battles that arise when parents and kids rely solely on personal preferences and opinions.
How can you help your children form that habit of thinking biblically about topics like entertainment? If your kids are preteens or teens, here’s one way, taken from Craig and Janet Parshall’s book, Traveling a Pilgrim’s Path:
Appoint an ethics chair. Some universities create a “chair,” or office of a designated expert, on issues like ethics. You can do the same at home, naming one of the chairs at your dinner table the “ethics chair.” Let a different person sit in the chair each night for a week; he or she is to weigh in on the right and wrong of subjects discussed at the table. Other family members are free to talk about ethics, too, but the “chairperson” makes sure that at least one moral issue is raised at each meal. If your “expert” takes a questionable stand, resist the urge to overrule him; simply ask him to explain how his position fits with what the Bible says.
Model Media Discernment
Nothing spoils the effectiveness of a media discernment message like a parent who doesn’t practice what he or she preaches. If your child knows you’re not applying those principles to your own entertainment choices, you’re asking for a fight. Most kids — especially teenagers — know hypocrisy when they see it, and they don’t respect it.
But no earthly parent is perfectly consistent. So how can you be a walking advertisement for making good entertainment choices? In his book, Effective Parenting in a Defective World, author and pastor Chip Ingram knows the importance of modeling, but encourages us not to expect the impossible from ourselves:
Can you imagine lining your children up on the couch, looking them in the eye, and saying: “I want you to be like me. I want you to talk the way I talk, drive the way I drive, eat and drink the way I eat and drink, watch the kinds of shows I watch, handle your money like I handle my money, balance work and rest like I balance work and rest, and handle your anger like I handle mine”? Would you be comfortable giving them that kind of charge? If not, the most profound parenting decision you will ever make may be how you respond to what you just read.
Can you fathom the lifelong difference you could make in your children’s lives if you stopped right now to identify the attributes that you’re uncomfortable passing down to them and then systematically began to allow those attributes to be conformed to Christ? You must become who you want your children to become.
If a responsibility that heavy causes you to feel an enormous amount of pressure, let me encourage you. You don’t have to be perfect. In fact, you couldn’t pass perfection down to your kids if you wanted to; they’re fallen human beings, just like you and me. What you can do, however, is demonstrate how godly people handle themselves when they blow it. Authenticity is the goal, not perfection. Let them see how you deal with failure as well as how you deal with success. You can demonstrate what it means to repent, to confess, to humbly accept responsibility for your mistakes, and to ask forgiveness. In fact, asking your child to forgive you for a mistake is one of the most powerful teaching tools you have. It’s not about having it all together; it’s about living out what you believe day by day and responding appropriately when you miss the mark. It’s impossible for you to be perfect for your kids, but anyone can be authentic.
Let your kids see you making media decisions. If you can’t explain why it’s OK for you to rent that DVD or download that song or frequent that website, you may need to make a better choice. Being as consistent as you can gives your kids one less thing to argue about.
Get Your Pastors on Board
When your kids hear other people — pastors, parents, teachers — echoing your advice on media, they may be more willing to listen.
Encourage your youth pastor to schedule a parent/teen night to discuss the subject of honoring Christ with entertainment decisions. Ask the head of your children’s ministry whether making good media choices could be part of the curriculum in Sunday school or children’s church. Talk to your senior pastor about including this subject in his plans; a sermon or two each year goes a long way.