Family spiritual rules are a little like superhero codes of conduct: they outline our values and the activities we believe represent them. Children may not be Wonder Woman or Black Panther but they can aspire to live their version of a faithful life just as Diana and T’Challa try to be faithful practitioners of Amazon or Wakanda culture. Plus, putting together a spiritual rule encourages self-reflection and accountability, both valuable spiritual skills.
As you experiment with this process for creating a family spiritual rule, keep in mind that an effective rule is one that is manageable and fits into your daily lifestyle. It should contain some familiar, comfortable elements and some aspects that stretch and challenge family members. Try to be fairly specific in selecting practices and describing how your family will embody them. Deciding to be nice to one another is not as effective as agreeing to exchange two affirming statements with a sibling each morning on the way to school.
Step 1: Gather as a family and ask these questions:
- How do we want to relate as a family? Think about things like telling the truth, respecting one another, celebrating milestones
- What do we believe is really important for living a joyful life? Think about what makes life pleasant now and what could make it better in the future, like spending time with friends, learning new things, showing gratitude for what we have
- What makes the world a good place for everyone to live? Think about big issues that matter to you, like world peace, racial justice, environmental protections, ending homelessness
Step 2: List your responses on a whiteboard or large sheet of paper so everyone can see them. Leave some space beside or below each item so you can write responses from the next set of questions.
Step 3: Consider each item on your list and ask:
- What practices could we do to help us remember this value? Think about self-reflection and self-care practices that support value awareness
- What can we do to show others that we value this thing? Think about practices that make a difference in your neighborhood or even in the world
- When would we be able to do these practices? Identify specific times and places where you could practice your values in this way
Step 4: Review your list of values and related practices and highlight those that generate the most enthusiasm or that everyone agrees would be a good challenge for the family.
Step 5: Check to see that your highlighted list includes practices that will help family members connect to self, others, the natural world, and (if desired) the transcendent. If one category is lacking, review your original list to see if you want to add 1-2 things in the missing category. If one category is overrepresented, discuss whether you want to focus attention on just a few items in that category and set the others aside for a time.
Step 6: Organize your list by when (daily, weekly, or monthly) the family will engage in the selected practices. Do a final check to make sure that your spiritual practices plan is realistic in relation to the family’s busy schedule. Adding more than 2-3 simple items daily, 1-2 weekly, and 1-2 monthly is probably unrealistic.
Step 7: Post your family spiritual rule where everyone in the family can see it. Family members with smartphones may want to put the list in their notes app or add items to their calendars.
Step 8: Check-in with one another weekly or monthly to share how you are doing in keeping the rule and to encourage one another. In the first month of trying out a rule, weekly (or even daily) check-ins can be helpful for reminding children and parents of new routines. Monthly check-ins can also be a time for determining whether the family spiritual rule needs tweaking, either to better fit your lifestyle or to include new value-related practices.