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About the Author

Jim Burns is President of HomeWord and has written books for parents, youth workers, and students. Jim and his wife, Cathy, and their daughters Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi, live in Southern California. Visit HomeWord.


God is a Family Guy

By Jim Burns
HomeWord“It is a good idea for Christians to date non-Christians.”

That was how I started out our family’s devotional time one evening. Then I added, “Do you agree, disagree, or are you undecided?”

My wife, Cathy, and I were sitting in our hot tub with two of our three daughters. Both were in high school at the time. “Of course it’s OK to date a non-Christian.” Rebecca said. “I wouldn’t want to marry a person who didn’t have my faith, but it’s just dating. And besides, look at Tom and Trish. Trish married Tom when Tom wasn’t a Christian, and now he is a pastor!”

Heidi totally disagreed with her sister. “If you are supposed to marry a Christian then I think you should only date Christians. Besides that, doesn’t the Bible say someplace that we aren’t supposed to be ‘unequally yoked’?”

After a short sidebar by Dad on the meaning of unequally yoked, the discussion continued. In fact, even though it was supposed to be a family devotional time, the conversation between the girls got a little hot (and it wasn’t the Jacuzzi). Finally, exasperated, Heidi turned to us. “Help me out here, Mom and Dad!” Rebecca countered, “Are you both so closed-minded to the work of God that you honestly believe what Heidi is saying?”

We hadn’t even told the girls our thoughts yet or looked at the Bible. But we did have smiles on our faces. I remember that conversation being a good family time and a defining moment for the topic.

One of the most effective ways to help families grow spiritually is to come alongside them and provide family devotionals and family discussion starters. Despite the Bible’s charge for parents to teach their children the truth, most families don’t have any spiritual growth moments within the week, except for maybe a prayer before a rushed dinner.

Our family began to have a somewhat-regular family time to talk about spiritual life. Cathy and I started listing what topics and key ideas we wanted to pass on to our girls. We came up with key theological points: stewardship, relationship issues, and a host of other things. Then we began to create teachable moments and conversations that wee practical, and we hoped, helpful.

We knew we needed to keep it short and to the point. Dad couldn’t give any lectures, and Mom’s sermons had to be postponed. At first, we took over too much of the conversation. Then we realized that our kids learned best when they talked, not when we talked.

Our kids probably wouldn’t say that each family devotional/discussion starter was a life-changing experience, and we didn’t always soak in the hot tub. But I think they would agree that much of their Christian education from home was enhanced by those times.


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