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Functioning Community

June 15, 2011

No doubt about it: effectively training up children in this current society is the toughest job you’ll ever have.

Their growing up is inevitable, but growing into righteous, emotionally stable, productive human beings is a miracle that requires extraordinary sacrifice, commitment, and wisdom on the part of parents. There was a time when there were small, close-knit communities composed of extended family and friends, where the church and school reflected and enforced Christian values, where children just naturally grew up to be stable and well-trained. No more. Those times are gone forever. Every government agency, form of entertainment, electronic device, and educational entity is now designed to mold children into the image of hedonistic heathens with self-gratification as the chief end of life. Trying to shield your children from exposure to evil is like trying to sandbag your house against the rising flood waters of the Mississippi River. You have to teach your children to swim against the rising onslaught of pollution and not swallow any of the putrid water in the process, because the world will definitely seep in on your children.

I have now lived long enough to have observed the entire process and can document the results of various proffered solutions to the problem of raising up righteous, overcoming children. One panicky approach that has failed miserably is retreat and isolation. It illustrates a dilemma: children must be raised in a functioning community, but community is generally depraved. If we retreat and throw up barriers to the world, our community may become so small as to cause the children to feel trapped and deprived, resulting in their longingly looking beyond the artificial walls to the exciting world beyond. They must feel that all of their needs will be met within their community—spouse, home, work, entertainment, worship, entrepreneurship, individual expression, education, etc.

I have observed too many isolated families produce angry, resentful children that flee into the arms of the world at the first opportunity.

One of the outstanding marks of the family that isolates itself and criticizes those on the outside is that the children fail to get married. They will have eight children, half of them over 25, with several still living at home.

The girls, more than the boys, get bypassed for marriage. The guys are prone to take flight and satisfy their hormonal urges, but the girls just wait and wait and wait for that miracle to happen—but the prospective grooms are just not shopping at their little boutique. Even when the girls venture out into the light of day where guys will see them, they are often bypassed. I have asked the young men why they are not interested in such a lovely, disciplined, hardworking young lady, and they just shrug and try to put their thought into words, and then I realize again that they have no thoughts regarding the young lady, no opinion, no interest—she just isn’t there. She lacks personality, vivaciousness, charm, attractiveness. She reflects the small, dull world in which she was cloistered. She is a nun fresh from the convent.

I have observed that it is not altogether the isolation that causes rebellion in the boys and discontent in the girls as much as the attitude of the parents. When children are raised in remote areas, like on a horse ranch in Montana, or the outback of Alaska, they are not as likely to jump ship and reject their families. They do not take their family’s isolation to be self-imposed, as if their parents are deliberately depriving them of their due. They are more likely to be needed as working members of the unit, sharing the struggles and the joys of the family business.

When these isolated kids come out of the mountains or off the farm to the big city, they may be a little awkward and ill at ease at first, but they are never dull. They possess confidence and poise in their body language and interest and curiosity in their eyes. They are likely to excite the interest of the opposite sex because they have a depth to them that the deliberately isolated do not have. Even as they may leave the old life behind and seek broader opportunities in the larger world, they are more likely to cherish their upbringing and appreciate their parents.

The attitude difference between deliberately cloistered children and incidentally isolated children is the attitude conveyed by the parents. In a fenced-in home where the parents are paranoid about the world beyond and always criticizing those on the outside as a means of keeping them from accepting other influences, children grow up with small souls, and when they discover that outsiders are not so bad, their parents try to build the fences even higher, warning them against opening up to the evil without. The children, already suspicious of the world, grow bitter at their parents and find themselves alone and lonely in a world that has passed them by, or they plunge into a social circle with no skills to survive and are consumed by forces they do not understand.

Again, the dilemma: do I isolate my children from the evil without and face the possibility of them becoming dysfunctional in the world and unfulfilled in love, or do I allow them to freely socialize and risk their developing a hedonistic perspective? I appreciate the complexity of the problem you face. There is a way to victory, even in this present world.

Foremost, before you give attention to training and guiding your children, give them what they most need—parents who love each other and enjoy life together. Most parents who cloister their children are themselves unhappy and fearful. If you are not in harmony with your spouse, you will create insecurity. I know young people who say they do not want to be married because their parents’ marriage was so painful and contentious, but they do want sex. Lady, read Created to Be His Help Meet and believe it this time. Put it into practice. Mister, stop trying to rule your wife like she is your slave and start loving “her as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Delight in your spouse and your spouse will delight in you, and your children will delight in being a part of the family.

After making the family a fun love factory, adopt the world without as your project. When you live in fear and are in retreat, you have stopped trying to convert the world to Christ and have forfeited the opportunity to make a difference. In short, you are fearful and selfish—not good ground to raise children. Instead of retreating, start meeting the needs of others. Give your children meaning by doing things outside the home that are meaningful. Touch the lives of those in need. Share the gospel with the lost.

Then you need to join yourself and your family to a fellowship of believers that share your goals and perspective. Build community. This takes on different forms to different families, and I cannot tell you exactly how this should occur in your unique circumstances. But you must have a circle of daily acquaintances with whom you can share your life.

Know for a certainty, when Christians form an intimate circle, there will always be a family that pushes their way into your life that will bring the world and all its ugliness into the inner sanctum. You must be vigilant as a parent and be prepared to hurt someone’s feelings, if necessary. It is one thing to take your children without the camp to minister to the needy, but is quite another to allow sin into the camp where your guard is down. So many parents have ruled over the damnation of their children through their forgiving hearts with the excuse, “Well, shouldn’t we minister to them, as well?” Ministry takes place when you put on the whole armour to stand against the wiles of the devil. Never allow your children to play with kids that were not raised in the Spirit as are yours. Think of the darkness in other children as ten times as powerful as the light in yours, and you will stand a better chance of them not being exposed to pornographic images or talk.

You must create community that is protected and sanctified while ministering to the world without. Two or three families does not make a community. Arrange your job, the location of your residence, your church life, the schooling of your children, and your social engagements so as to maximize righteous community for your children. If you send your children to public or Christian school, you have relinquished all control and allowed them to form community without you. Their schoolmates are their community and will be the determining factor in their development. You have placed their souls in the hands of other children.

In our church, every family homeschools. If someone came into the church whose children go to or have gone to public schools or church schools, their younger children would never be allowed into the inner social circle with our kids. There would be zero fraternization, even on the church grounds after meetings. We have built community and will not allow it to be corrupted. The stakes are too high. But we readily reach out to others and receive every stripe of sinner who repents toward God and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Most parents don’t have the guts to form community and protect it. Before they will take a painful stand, they will sacrifice their children on the altar of social politeness.

There is enough evil arising in the hearts of our own children; we do not need to accelerate the process by unguarded association with children that have been prematurely immersed in the Devil’s culture.

Older kids—sixteen to seventeen years old—who have been to public school and have demonstrated true conversion and commitment to Christ may enjoy full acceptance by the other kids, for, by the time our young people get into their middle teens, most of them are quite capable of standing firm against temptation.

More than ever, I encourage you to create community. Sacrifice everything, including your comfortable way of making a living, to create a wholesome context in which to raise your children. The greatest day of your life is the day you come home from a wedding with one fewer kid, knowing that you completed your task; you planted another godly family in this sin-cursed world. The greatest achievement in life is to “train up a child in the way he should go” so that “when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Reread Jumping Ship. Give a copy to a friend in need. ☺

Leave a Reply

21 comments on “Functioning Community”

  1. I guess I need to print this article out and study it. I am confused by the end of it. Some of my confusion may be due in part to how I have seen the concepts applied in real life. The groups that claim they are following the second part of the article end up looking like the first examples which we are warned against. I do get the key component however. mom and Dad need to have a healthy marriage in order to grow healthy children. most people I know have mediocre marriages. Only a few of us have stellar unions. I feel blessed when I know that out of all the mistakes I have made that my marriage is not one of them. I didn’t marry someone I married THE one that God made for me.

  2. Though I do totally agree that we should create a safe community for our children, I don’t totally agree with cutting all other children out of the group that don’t homeschool, etc. You see, my family knows of a widow in our church who has two wonderful children, yes, they don’t have all the moral standards that we have and the mother is forced to put her children in public school because of her circumstances, it would be a huge mistake not to continue to fellowship with this family, the mother NEEDS fellowship with other believers and the children NEED fellowship with other believing children. What would happen to all those children if we as believers shun them because their parents decide to put them in public school? Just because the parents are making a decision you do not agree with doesn’t mean that you should punish the children. But, I do believe that there is a line, there is definitely a line and the children should be watched and there are some that should be kept away from the “safe” group (ie those who are in all out rebellion etc.) Though, I think it would be safer to say that those children need Christ’s love all the more. For Christ came to heal the sick, not the well.

  3. I totally am for building a quality community for our precious daughter. I grew up feeling lonely because my family didn’t have many like-minded friends and didn’t really mingle with those didn’t think like us. That is something that has been baffling me my whole life, HOW DO YOU FIND LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE to build a community with!!!? I have really been seeking wisdom and praying my heart out to know how to build a community for our family that I always wanted/missed. This confirms the fact that I need to, I just don’t know how… Any suggestions?

  4. That’s a good article right there. I like the idea of homeschool, but it so happens that in my country it’s a foreign concept. Actually, its a punishable crime. Every child here must go to school, otherwise a parent will be imprisoned. Is it possible for the Pearls to expound on how to raise godly children who have no other option except to attend public school? I look forward to your response.

  5. Dear Mr. Pearl, I really enjoyed this article. It is a hard message, but a good one. Recently I heard a Pastor of a Family Integrated Church say that sending your children to a public school is a sin. I thought about what he said. I probably wouldn’t call it a sin, but I totally understand where he is coming from. After reading this article I thought about what he said. Two of my children attend public school. I do not like this, but my husband went to public school, did well, and thinks that public school is good. I have to submit to him, so in the meantime I continue to pray! I have told my children that the folks they meet at school are not their friends, but more like an aquaintance. A friend is someone you can pray with (to the same God), hold you accountable, and will point you to Christ. Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Only the friends he makes at church. Unfortunately, we are not going to a good church. It is a mega church and they mix the world with the Word. I am praying about this too! In the past, I too have had to cut off ties with families whose child did not have a care about the things of God. It is hard, but I figure I only have 18 years with my children to train them in the things of God and do not need any other ungodly influences in their lives.
    Once again, thank you Mr. Pearl for sharing this message. It was hard, but needed!!!

  6. I, too, once thought I had it all figured out ☺! Then I met some public-schooled children who were more virtuous than some of the homeschooled children I knew, including a couple of my own

  7. While I appreciate the main idea in your article, that of raising children in a safe and nurturing environment so that they feel no need to rebel or appear as “outsiders” when coming into society, it seems you fail to address the source of sin.

    Sin that corrupts does not come from the outside, from media or bad friends. No, sin comes from within. Even a two-year old who knows nothing outside of the home can look you in the eye when given a direct command and say “no.” We sin when we are drawn away by *our own* lusts, and are enticed. If we can teach children to love the Lord enough that they hate sin, the battle is almost won. Having an elite playgroup so that your kids won’t be polluted by sin is not only misguided, but also entirely ineffective.

  8. I appreciate that you identified two problems that have perplexed me since we began this homeschooling and intentionally living for the Lord adventure. How do we shelter our children without debilitating them or creating resentful teenagers intent on flying the coop as soon as possible? Meeting all of their needs is a great way to think about building a healthy family and community. With four boys ages 7 and under I have little men ready to take on all kinds of work and adventure. I am very thankful for a wonderful marriage. My wife is a loving, hard working, God fearing, homeschooling Mom. She meets many of their needs and I meet many of their needs and we are training them to know that the good Lord ultimately meets all of our needs. Thanks for the encouragement.

  9. Mr. Pearl,

    thanks for shedding some light on this subject. You have somehow helped me to see why others have separated themselves from our family, and to be quite honest why we separate ourselves from others. So now we are stuck in this place where we are raising children who are indeed cloistered. You are going to have to write up a part two for those of us, who use to “be in the world” but no longer want anything to do with it, but have joined a “separate from the world” kind of church. According to your article, if you are indeed correct, with all due respect-our kids are going to grow up being dysfunctionally cloistered or worse never leave the house! I can see that other likeminded families in our church, lovingly distance themselves from us, and how we lovingly distance ourselves from our Christian, yet still in the world neighbors.

    So what should our family do? start a club for those of us who aren’t good enough for the segregated crowd, but still want to follow the Lord whole heartedly? Remember, when they keep their kids away from yours they are also keeping themselves from you.
    Lonely mommy

  10. Dear Mike & Debbi,
    We’ve been burdened all this year to pray about building community. Our children are 12 and under, so we’ve been busy with lots of activities, but nothing that has produced lasting relationships. 🙁 Our church is so small there are no friends for my kids; by the time we invite church families to our home for fellowship, there is no time (or energy since I’m pregnant again) to pursue relationships with the likeminded families we know outside of church.

    There are churches made of homeschool families around us. We’d like to “put all our eggs in 1 basket” so that the families we fellowship with would “fit the bill” for our kids as well. It would hurt us and our church family to see us go after 14 years of giving and receiving so much! The church absolutely would not have the rent $ to stay going without us!
    How important is it that we keep considering a change in churches? We’d do anything for our children if we could just see the end from the beginning! You have the hind-sight we need; any extra advice would be VERY much appreciated!

    May God continue to bless and keep you! All my love and gratitude!

  11. I’m a little late getting into the discussion here, but thought I would add to it anyway…

    God’s primary plan for evangelism and discipleship is through the home / family. The modern church has separated the family and tries to disciple, in ineffective if not unbliblical ways, via systematic age-segregated programming. The fruit of those efforts: 80% of the churches in America are stagnant or declining! The church “machine” is broken and needs replaced – not just repaired, but replaced.

    I just was given my 1 month notice from my job as a Children’s Pastor at a church of 1400 because I believe what I just wrote. While I trust God has a larger plan for my family, in many places the church has not become the thing that helps us live our faith, but something that negatively influences it.

    Community – among other things – is essential. And community, as a group of family units, that shares and “does” the gospel to those that God leads is something we can all agree on. It will look different in different contexts, but our chief end is to bring glory to God by “making disciples who make disciples.” The best incubator for that is the family – almost as if God designed it that way…Hmmmm???

  12. What a wonderful article, as usual. We are missionaries in Arica, but have slowly been able to form a community with a handful of the born again locals. I am willing to watch their children {only after getting permission to use the rod}, homeschool their little ones, etc. We are also in the midst of building an actual community centered around a farm. The children all work alongside mama, daddy and the other families caring for the goats and chickens, weeding the peanuts and papayas and mudding the sand bag huts. Community is such an important part o raising our children! Thanks for the reminder to keep at it 🙂

  13. I am in agreement with the ideas in the article, but I too feel perplexed in how this can actually happen. I have felt myself pulling away from non-believing acquantainces because I am seeing the influence of their children on ours. However, I am also feeling very isolated. We are going to homeschool, but long for community as well, but it is so hard to find Christian families going hard after God, and homeschooling and training their children in the way we are (To Train up a child). So, it’s encouraging and discouraging at the same time to read your article.

  14. Thank you for your article. It helped me to understand so much more about my growing up years.

    I was raised in isolation along with my sister and brother, my dad had a farm, and we were many miles from town, we didn’t go to any church, and we were home schooled. My brother left in total rebellion to what we were taught about God and obeying the Bible as our compass for life. He got involved in many sinful things. I left home as well when I was in my early 20s, however, I lacked all social skills, and was passed by when young men came looking for a helpmeet for life. My mom and dad didn’t get along, and often my mom would walk out of the house screaming I’m leaving. We grew up very insecure.

    I am now married, and it was only by the grace of God that I married a man that loves the Lord and is committed to serving Him. I am so very proud to be his wife.

    We are expecting our first baby and we both want better for our coming children than what either of us had growing up. Training our children in the way they should go is something of a mystery to me. My husband and I have been looking for advise from parents who have been successful. I have started your book lended to me by a friend called “To train up a child”. Any advise you have to offer would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you again for writing this article, I can understand the pitfalls of the way my parents did it.

    Please, keep us in your prayers that we will have wisdom in how to raise our children in the admonition of the Lord.

  15. “In our church, every family homeschools. If someone came into the church whose children go to or have gone to public schools or church schools, their younger children would never be allowed into the inner social circle with our kids. There would be zero fraternization, even on the church grounds after meetings. We have built community and will not allow it to be corrupted. The stakes are too high. But we readily reach out to others and receive every stripe of sinner who repents toward God and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

    I am sorry but there is an inconsistency here! It places the church as a haven for ONLY home school families and ignores the great commission. I must therefore, respectfully, disagree with this philosophy.

  16. I can’t recall where Christ asked his followers to “go ye and form a separate community” he said “preach the gospel to all nations in my name.” One must be aware that Michael Pearl is saying “go ye and form a separate community” NOT Christ. Don’t make that error in thought.

    On the other hand Christ said “as a Hen gathers her Chicks” so we as parents MUST gather our children WHEN we notice bad influences from others in their life but not to WALL them off so that they do not know what evil “looks” like. Sheltering or putting your wings over them in times of danger and carefully explaining WHY something is bad is a far better approach than total isolation. In some cases isolation or completely forming a separate community is next to impossible as the influence of social control via. money and finance have taken over the ability to protect from evil influence (ie. have to live with TV watching, foul mouth in-laws to over come a few hurdles). Not sure ALL Christian people would be willing to loose their home for an isolated farm in the country built from scratch. In some areas of the US a one-acre farm isn’t financially suitable or possible, esp. if the parents have a disability or more skills in working in a tight knit town rather than digging up a plot of land and using internal creative energy.

    It is sad to see so much impurity in relationships (divorce-remarriage, sex outside marriage, non-commitment, perversions), I wish I had a permanent solution, but the flesh remains in even an isolated community.

    From a psychological perspective parents MUST allow their children to decide for themselves whether they want to follow Christ. To shove religion down a child’s throught is a case for disaster and further increase of impurity. Have your child invest time in mathematics (most likely virgins in college) if purity is your aim. Otherwise just encourage them to SUCCEED in EVERYTHING that they try. Encourage them to visit and talk with widow’s and orphans to encourage positive social skills.

  17. Wow! I am often alarmed but such negative responses. People often get offended in this “politically correct” world and tune everything out. Read other articles….know the fruit of the Pearls offspring and listen to their heart. Like reading the bible, try to be quiet and hear the heart of our Lord. Do you just read your bible without asking for wisdom, true interpretation from God himself and seek throughout ALL scripture to gain the best understanding? I am a young mama and wife. I have noticed that “bad company corrupts good character” like the Proverbs states, in my precious young 2 year old when we let her be in the children’s room at church. Understand I love all the children, very precious, however I cannot agree with the character in them or the way I see the parents handling their attitudes and behaviors. I want my children to be the best they can be and the best to others. I believe it is so vital to heavily influence and teach and train the youngsters while they are young sponges soaking up the learning world around them. I am very exhausted and wearied at the idea of ” letting them be kids, that’s what they do, that’s just how it is and there is nothing you can do” attitude. While I was unmarked and working I was witnessed to, as a believer already, by a mother of beautiful children. We connected greatly in Christ. The family invited my now husband and I over so supper. That evening left the BIGGEST and most INFLUENTIAL impact on our lives. It was surreal. When you have absolute love for your children, joyful ness in the home and DIRECT training, I believe the children choose a better path in the way they should go. Teaching is just telling over and over and over. Boring repetition and soon to be tuned out. Training is and art of strict discipline, diligence and perseverance. Take two people who want to run a marathon. The one who puts their heart into it strictly trains the,selves in diet and excersize. Their lifestyle literally changes around that. The other has a mindset to just accomplish the marathon but does not strictly discipline their body or diet but is full of hope and” faith” they will make it. Guess what…they never will finish. A marathon is a long trail that is not easy…but when well disciplined, worth every beating fiber. A good marathon trainer has a vision PUT into practice…not just good faith and high hopes. ” where no Vision is, my people perish.” And ” my people perish for lack of knowledge.”

  18. Dear Mr. Pearl,
    I believe you have extremely wise words, and I believe you write from the examples in life you and your family have lived out, that have proved to be true for your family and with wonderful results. But my question to you is…. HOW? You give the WHY’S we must provide a righteous community for our children, and I agree with what you say. But for those of us who cannot raise up our children on a 100 acre farm in a tight knit Amish community, how do we provide “community” according to the standards you suggest? Please give the remainder of us who don’t live the lifestyle you raised your children in, practical ways of how we can effectively raise our children in a protective, yet not too sheltering manner. Some of us could use some laid out examples written for “dummies.” Or please guide us to other articles you’ve written that give suggestions on providing community, for us city dwellers. Because we can’t all up and move to a farm in a small town with 1800’s values. Some of us are stuck in the suburbs. Please help!

    1. Mike does not mention anything in this article about it being necessary to be in the country, or moving to a small town, in order to create a functioning community. You can do this anywhere, city, suburbs, rural. How? Start by reaching out to other likeminded believers. They can be in your church or homeschool group. Make it a point of getting together on a regular basis for worship, teaching, ministry, fellowship, fun, etc. The worship and fellowship would be more “closed”, with teaching and fun being more “open” and ministry and serving being done by the community for others. Such a group may have a church as the hub of its community. The purposes of community are many: safety, relationships, preparing for life, ministry, and serving others, both within and without the community.

  19. Thank you Mr. Pearl for your post on Functioning Community! As I read it from my tree stand I greatly appreciated as always the truth from which you all speak and write from. It can be quite a chore to find the middle ground of guarding or children while not smothering them. I knew if we keep God’s Word as our standard and also look out around us for what’s going on, we can equip our children for the time when they venture out on their own. Thanks for always speaking God’s truth and your experiences y’all have learned from! I might have missed a deer walking by, but in this case it was worth it.

  20. To whom this may concern:
    Michael Pearl is saying that you shouldn’t let your children play with public schooled children alone or unguarded. Yes you do need to guard your children from within, but not with the attitude that you are in a ‘safe zone’. You need to do it with the attitude of ministry.

    The Pearls are awesome, if I was wrong please please please correct me.