Ted Cunningham is one of the greatest guys I know. He is also one of the funniest communicators. His specialty is marriage and parenting and he pastors a great church, Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, MO. The Burns family drafted our family constitution when our kids were still in elementary school. It remained on the refrigerator until our last daughter left for her University. This is the best illustration of a family constitution I have ever seen.
Drafting a Family Constitution
At our church we ask prospective members to sign a membership covenant. It includes a statement of faith, doctrinal adherence, support of leadership, commitment to giving, and participation in ministry. The covenant is just one way of saying, “I want to be a part of the Woodland Hills Family.”
We encourage families in our church to draft their own family constitution. Our family wrote one a few years ago. It states what we believe and how we intend to live. It connects our beliefs with our behaviors. Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, challenged me years ago to make sure that my orthodoxy (belief) lines up with my orthopraxy (conduct). We must be careful not to prioritize orthodoxy without aligning it with orthopraxy. Matching faith with practice helps our family know what we believe and what we will do because of our beliefs.
This is our family constitution. Feel free to use it in whole or in part to form your own constitution. Allow your entire family to be a part of the process. If your family does not have a regular devotional time, this is a great place to start in the new year. When you are finished, print out a copy and hang it on your wall. Let it be a daily reminder of your family’s commitment to one another.
The Cunningham Family Constitution
- We will love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:37). This is number one. The Lord is the Boss, and He will be the Boss of this home. We will strive to love Him in everything we do.
- We will speak words of high honor over each other every day (Matthew 22:38-39; Proverbs 16:24). Our home is a judgment-free zone. It’s going to be a safe place for us to gather and care for one another.
- We will read and memorize scripture together (2 Timothy 2:15; Psalm 1). The Bible will be our primary source of truth. All of our traditions, emotions, and experiences will be filtered through the Word.
- We will pray together every day (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Matthew 6:9-13). Before bed each night, we will pray to close out the day. We will thank God for all that He provides, confess sins one to another, and pray for the hurting in our family, church, and community.
- We will offer grace for mistakes and avoid repeating the same mistakes (Proverbs 26:11; Ephesians 4:26, 32). We all make mistakes. We want to learn from them and move on. When someone makes a mistake, we will forgive that person. We will not hold it against him or her.
- We will work hard, give generously, save wisely, and spend sensibly (Proverbs 6:6; Proverbs 11:25; Proverbs 21:20). We will work and give as an antidote to attitudes of selfishness and entitlement. Jesus is our ultimate Boss. We will live on less to enjoy more. We want to be a family that refreshes others.
- We will love and support and serve our church (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:25). Faithful attendance and giving to the church is a highly regarded value in our family. We will love the church as the Bride of Christ.
- We will laugh together every day (Proverbs 17:22; Ecclesiastes 3:4). We will enjoy life together. We want to cultivate a great sense of humor as a family. We want to take God seriously – ourselves, not so much. We will avoid at all costs the vacuum of intimacy, fun, and laughter.
- We will take 100% personal responsibility for our emotions, words, and actions (Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 15:18). I am responsible for my heart, not yours. We will avoid blaming one another for our feelings, words, or actions.
- We will live in the moment, not on technology (2 Corinthians 10:5). We will not miss the important moments for the sake of social media. We will seek permission from other family members before posting private moments. Above all else, we will limit the amount of time we spend staring at a screen.
If you see something missing from this constitution, add it to yours. Look up the included passages of Scripture and meditate upon them. Write down a few discussion questions for dinner tonight or for the drive to school.
One final thought: Our family is allowed to add to, delete from, or change our family constitution at any time. Keeping these beliefs and practices before us is the goal. Our hope and prayer is that each line would be a message branded on our hearts. We want the overflow of our lives to reflect a deep love for Jesus and each other.