If you had come to my home during February of 2002, you would have seen the Waliszewski family uncharacteristically glued to the tube. The reason? One word: Olympics. We watched Derek Parra win gold in the men's 1,500-meter speed skate, and we witnessed Sarah Hughes' come-from-behind victory to clinch the gold medal in figure skating. But I also witnessed something even more amazing: the media's ability to influence my family's thinking.
On the night that ice-dancing champions Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat stood on the podium while the French national anthem sounded, my wife, Leesa, announced, "I want to go ice-skating this weekend." It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where that thought came from, especially considering it had been years since she'd laced up her skates.
There's nothing inherently wrong with being "inspired" by the media. Television can influence people to quit smoking, give to the Red Cross or, as Leesa proved, go ice-skating. 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 even habits. That's why we've always had an unwritten rule in our home about sticking with positive entertainment. But during the Olympic season of 2002, our family took the next step and put the unwritten in writing.
A powerful promise
Why would we need a written commitment, you might ask. First, I didn't assume that my children would automatically practice God-honoring discernment once they left home. I sure hoped they would. (As it turns out, they both did.) To increase the likelihood that they would practice the same discernment we followed at home, I was convinced we would all benefit from some form of written agreement — a family media "constitution," if you will. Knowing there's something powerful about a written promise, I viewed it as a means to increase their appetites for righteousness and personal accountability.
Our "signing time" wasn't an elaborate ceremony. No torch lighting or 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.
The lasting impact
Looking back on this family milestone, I'm convinced it played a role in imparting my values and Leesa's to our children. Not because we all got goose bumps and left on some emotional high. It was simply a wise thing to do, and everyone in the family took it seriously.
If you decide to put your family's media commitments in writing, do your best to help everyone in the family feel involved. As you sign the document, your children may wish to put handwritten pledges or unique ratifications in the margins to make the covenant even more personal. Whatever the format, think of your signing time as more of a prayer or devotional experience. 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 the reminder it provides.
Download a media pledge to use with your family.