Tradition: The delivery of opinions, doctrines, practices, rites and customs from father to son, or from ancestors to posterity; the transmission of any opinions or practice from forefathers to descendants by oral communication, without written memorials.
-Webster's 1828 English Dictionary
The word 'tradition' has fallen on hard times in our culture. The word is seen by most as inherently negative. While none of us wants to make the Word of God void by our own traditions (Matt 15:2-3,6; cf. Mark 7:3,5,8-9), we should not abandon traditions altogether. In fact, it is often unwise to forsake tradition (2Th 2:15; 3:6).
Our family has been blessed by numerous traditions that we hope to continue for generations to come. Some of these are daily traditions, others are weekly and still others are what we call "sometime-during-the-year" traditions. I'd like to recommend a few of them to you.
The most challenging, and perhaps most important traditions for us to establish are the ones that occur daily. They are difficult because we have to make room for them every day. Similarly, they are influential because they happen every day. Two very important daily traditions are family meals and family worship.
One of the easiest traditions to establish is the family meal. It is alarming to discover how few families sit down regularly for meals. Many of us have no reference point since we also grew up in families that 'ate on the fly' while the television blared in the background. However, numerous studies have pointed to the benefits families derive from eating at least one meal together daily.
One of the factors that brought great unity to the first church was that "day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts" (Acts 2:46 ESV). If breaking bread together daily had a positive impact on the New Testament church, it will certainly have an impact on our families. Make time to establish the habit of eating at least one meal together daily.
While family meals are the easiest family tradition we can establish, family worship is the most influential. Family worship impacts fathers as they experience the accountability of having to prepared to lead their family daily. It impacts wives as they experience the "washing of water with the word" (Ephesians 5:26). It influences children as they are reminded daily of the centrality of Jesus Christ in family life. It also has a tremendous impact on their familiarity with God's word and great songs of the faith.
Family worship does not have to be complicated. You and your family can simply read a portion of Scripture, pray and sing a song together. Something that simple can and will have a lasting impact on your family. Make time to establish the habit of daily family worship in your home, and remember, those that honor him, he will honor (1 Samuel 2:30)
Family worship and daily meals will go a long way toward transforming your family for generations to come. However, there are also weekly activities that will have lasting benefits.
In some ways church attendance is the easiest weekly family tradition to establish. W. Bradford Wilcox notes that starting a family has a natural tendency to draw people (particularly men) to church. Unfortunately, this pattern of attendance is often irregular and/or short-lived. Surprisingly, this is sometimes true of homeschool families as well. I am constantly amazed by the number of homeschool parents who tell me, "We just haven't found a church," or "We've been 'churching at home' for a while now."
While I have nothing against believers gathering in a house (that's how our church started), there is something wrong when we intentionally 'forsake the assembly' (Hebrews 10:25) because our family cannot 'play and get along well with others'. If there is not a 'Bible believing' New Testament church in your area, get together with some other starving saints and start one!
One of the most important things we have instituted recently is a weekly family meeting. This is a time when we gather together to pray, praise and dream together. We have a set of family goals, which we are striving to achieve. Our weekly meeting is a time to reflect on these goals, evaluate our progress and set new ones for the week ahead. I would encourage you to set aside an hour a week to step back and take a look at where your family is headed and what you need to do to get there.
"Sometime During the Year" Traditions
I have a very interesting life. I have the privilege of serving as a pastor, a writer, an itinerant preacher, a homeschool dad and a part-time professor. My schedule is never normal. Therefore, I can completely identify with those people who have a hard time doing things on an 'annual' basis. Nevertheless, there are some things that we simply must get done 'sometime during the year' no matter what. The most basic -and essential-of these are family vacation and a mom & dad getaway.
Family vacation is one of those areas where the old adage is very true: "Failing to plan is planning to fail." I know it is difficult for many homeschool families to take a vacation. We have larger families, and most of us have single income households. This can present a challenge. However, you don't have to spend a lot of money to pile everyone in the car and visit friends or family for a week. Get out your calendar at the beginning of the year and plan a family vacation. Start a special savings account and put money in it each month. Discuss your plans and progress at family meeting. Then, when the time comes, leave everything behind and enjoy some time together -without school!
Mom & Dad Getaway
One of Bible's first statements about marriage left no room for doubt about its primacy. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24 ESV). With these words the marriage relationship is given primacy over the parent/child relationship. This is true not only of a married couple leaving their respective homes, but also in respect to any children with which they are blessed. Mom and Dad come first!
One way to reinforce this truth is to establish a regular tradition of Mom & Dad getaways. This can be an overnight getaway at a local hotel, or a multi-day trip to an exotic location. Whatever it is; just do it. Say to your spouse, and to your children, "Mom & Dad need time for themselves." You'll be amazed how excited your children will be. Let them in on the planning; they'll love it. They need to realize how important your marriage is. After all, God has given them your marriage as a principle source of security.
Family traditions don't have to be elaborate, but they do have to be consistent. Decide what kind of legacy you want to leave for your children, then plan daily, weekly and 'sometime during the year' activities that will reinforce the truths and traditions. Then sit back and watch your children do the same with their children.
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