What do you want your kids to be like next May? The new school year will culminate nine months from now—what do you envision your kids to be like when we arrive there?
Chances are, you’re expecting them to pass and move on to the next grade. Maybe make the honor roll while they’re at it. Or maybe you’ll feel satisfied, elated even, if they just squeak by. Maybe you’re rooting for your kid to make varsity or get a lead in the school play. A new friend on the playground. A kind study buddy. A decent date to homecoming.
My two teens and one pre-teen who remain at home are heading off in every direction. We once had the luxury of living overseas together—very much unified as we navigated foreign life as one solid organism. But now we’re hunkered down in the United States, living like we Americans do: dining at the buffet of school choice and all-you-can-eat afterschool activities.
While we’re relishing many firsts and thanking God for the chance to enjoy good gifts of education, sports, and more, I’m also facing this new year with some fear. When I think about what I want my kids to be like next May—after nine months of chaos—it’s the same as I want them to look five Mays from now and ten Mays from now. I want them to be “rooted and built up in [Christ] and established in the faith, just as [they] were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:7).
But how are we going to see to that in the midst of team practices, homework, youth group, and three different social lives, not to mention our own? When I look at the upcoming calendar, my palms sweat as I wonder where there’s room for the most important things. How will we carve out time for our family and, even more importantly, time for our family to seek the Lord together?
How can my husband and I ensure that we pursue Colossians 2:7 for our kids in the midst of this new school year?
SEVEN RHYTHMS FOR THE COMING SCHOOL YEAR
We brainstormed seven rhythms to answer that question. Our prayer is that as we imperfectly pursue these rhythms, we will keep our family unified and feed our relationships with the Lord.
Before moving ahead though, you need to know something about us. We fail frequently at keeping routines. We aim high but never hit the mark. The point is to just keep going. Perfection is not the goal; progress is. That’s why I’m calling these rhythms, not rules.
While our best efforts are far from perfect, our Father in heaven is indeed perfect, and we can rest in his perfection. We can be sure that as we continuously hand ourselves and our kids over to him, he will meet us, and he will have his way. These rhythms are the ways we plan to root, build up, and establish our family in the faith this year.
1. DAILY BIBLE READING PLANS FOR EVERYONE
We each have a different plan for reading some or all of the Bible or New Testament over the next year. We don’t do it together, but we have individual plans that we talk about every so often. We hum along at our own pace, get behind and then catch up, and chat about it over dinner once in awhile. The point is, everyone endeavors to be in the Word and it naturally makes its way into our family conversation.
2. CAR TIME IS PRAYER TIME
When the girls were younger and everyone was home, we tried to pray for specific things each morning of the week. For example, on Mondays we prayed for missionaries. But with everyone going hither and yon now (and, ahem, we are not morning people) morning prayer time is just not realistic for us. So we have started praying together in the car. I’ll be using morning car trips to ask them, “How can I pray for you today?” And then I’ll pray for them, as well as other praises and burdens, before we arrive at school. This won’t be the only time we pray as a family, but it will be one important rhythm in our family prayer life.
3. EXTRA READING WITH DAD AND MOM
My husband has been reading to the girls at bedtime most nights since they were very young. They’ve covered everything from fiction to fantasy to apologetics. Even now, in their teens, they love it. I, on the other hand, eek out small chunks of time here and there to read other things to them: a girls’ devotional book while dinner cooks, a short chapter each morning of Lent, or a Christmas story on the couch during Advent. We inevitably get behind and read greater lengths on or after the intended holiday, but again, progress is better than perfection.
4. CHURCH RHYTHMS
One of the best gifts of being a pastor’s family is that church is never optional. Twenty years in, I see this as a huge blessing. We’re there every Sunday, every youth group, and every small group. While we aren’t always in the mood, and we do often have to seek forgiveness on the way to Sunday morning, this rhythm has shaped us for our good. Making church gatherings a non-negotiable for our kids has (so far, by God’s grace) molded them over time, forming their character through God’s means.
5. FAMILY TIME
In spite of sports practices, rehearsals, and robotics competitions vying for our girls’ time, we plan to be at the dinner table together on most nights. Some nights we will have the luxury of lingering. Other nights it will be a ten-minute dash in between two commitments. Regardless of how healthy or hasty the meal may be, we plan to gather at the table more often then not. This year we’re going to add one family night (or family Saturday morning) to each week. We hope to include board games or movies, homemade popcorn or pancakes—basically a few hours of fun that all of us can enjoy.
6. WORSHIP MUSIC
This is so easy that it seems silly to mention. But I will be making a more concerted effort this year to have worship music playing in the house. It doesn’t have to be super spiritual or somber—just some uplifting lyrics and gentle sounds in the background that will shape the spirit of our home. I’ve noticed in the past what a big difference this can make.
7. FRIENDS ON FRIDAYS
This will be a new one for us. We bought a fairly indestructible couch for the basement, and we’re mounting an old television on the wall. We told the girls they can invite friends over every Friday night. I’m working on a scratch pizza dough recipe (so we can feed all those teens without going broke!) and we’ve promised unlimited chips and soda. Their dad and I are not the youth ministry type (like, at all), but this is our season. It’s now or never for being the fun house with the fun food and parents who, with God’s help, will try to say yes more often than no.
PROGRESS OVER PERFECTION
As my children and yours dive into all that the school year has to offer them, let’s approach the next nine months with joy and a plan, not fear and anxiety. Let’s be intentional stewards of their lives now, or we can be sure they’ll get stewarded for us as the year goes on. With these rhythms (or unique ones that you craft for your own family), we can plot our course and, with God’s grace as our fuel, pursue progress over perfection.
Jen Oshman is a wife and mom to four daughters and has served as a missionary for nearly two decades on three continents. She currently resides in Colorado where she and her husband serve with Pioneers International, and she encourages her church-planting husband at Redemption Parker. Her passion is leading women to a deeper faith and fostering a biblical worldview. She writes at www.jenoshman.com.