The Well-Ordered Home

Our dear friend Dr. Terry Johnson (Pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah, Georgia) has penned a brief, yet brilliant explanation of the virtues of an orderly home life.
I could add to what he says and how disorderly people never get around to vital disciplines like reading & study, hospitality and much more, because their lives are so chaotic.
Read and enjoy. Better yet, read, be convicted, and change!
– Pastor Robbins

Dr. Terry Johnson
Senior Pastor
Independent Presbyterian Church
Savannah, Georgia

“An ardor for order” is how J. I. Packer characterized the piety of Puritanism.[1]If we properly are to utilize the means of grace, establishing both the family altar and the family pew; if we properly are to “discipline” and “instruct” our children (Eph 6:1ff); if we are to provide them with a “godly example,” leading to their salvation, then priorities will have to be established which allow all of life’s duties and activities to be fulfilled. We have the demands of our jobs, of our spouses, of our children, of our church, and of our community. We primarily are citizens of the city of God, yet we retain our responsibilities as citizens of the city of man. How may we faithfully fulfill all of our obligations, and do so in a way that the souls of our children receive our priority attention?

Order

We may begin by bringing order to our lives, by establishing “a planned, well-thought-out flow of activities,” says Packer, in which all “obligations are recognized and met, a time is found for everything that matters.”[2] What do we mean by order? We mean order as opposed to chaos; order as opposed to disorder, order as opposed to everyone doing whatever they want whenever they want; order as opposed to family members more or less eating, sleeping, playing, and working (or not working!) when they feel like it.

By order we mean that every worthwhile thing has a time and a place. By order we mean that the family acts in concert, coordinating its activities to the benefit of the family as a whole. By order we mean a well-ordered home, where children join in decluttering the house, where the Puritan motto of “cleanliness is next to godliness” is cherished, and where time is not lost searching, searching, searching three, four, five times a day for misplaced objects. By order we mean that family possessions are given proper care, extending thereby their usefulness, eliminating unnecessary trips to the store and wasteful expenditures of time and funds. In this fashion we “number our days” and “redeem the time,” making the most of our God-given opportunities, God-given resources, and fulfilling all our God-given duties (Ps 90:12; Eph 5:16).

Routine

A regular routine makes fulfilling family responsibilities more likely than it otherwise would be. We recommend consistency in the family schedule. Regular bedtimes, regular mealtimes, regular playtimes, and predictable routines are both comforting for children and freeing for parents. Regular routines define a child’s world, providing stability and security. James Dobson offers two illustrations of how a regular family routine, with standards of what is allowed and disallowed, provides a comforting environment for children. The first has to do with driving over a bridge that has no guardrails. What does nearly everyone tend to do? he asks. Answer: we all tend to drift to the middle. Why? When a bridge has guardrails, do we use them? Of course not. We don’t drive by Braille, bumping the rails to identify our position. Rather, the rails define the space. We gain security from their presence though we don’t use them. Borders are comforting for us.

The other illustration he uses comes from the schools-without-fences educational fad of the late 1960’s. The theory was that fences were bad. Fences limit. Fences restrict. Fences confine. Fences stifle creativity. Open schools were proposed as the answer, schools without fences. As the fences were removed, school administrators were shocked by what they found. When the fences were up, students would fill the campus open spaces right up to the fences themselves. When the fences came down, the students huddled in the middle. The lesson, he urges, is that children (and youth) need routines and rules that define their freedom and its limits. These “fences” provide secure borders within which they may safely live. The fences form part of their identity: we are a people who thrive within these parameters, enjoying life within, not traveling without.

Response? Plan to have regular mealtimes. Aim to gather the family for two mealtimes every day, probably breakfast and dinner. Plan for the family to have devotions every day at a set time, morning or evening. Plan to read to the children daily. Plan to be at church every Sunday AM and PM. Plan to observe a Sunday Sabbath. Plan to attend all of the children’s special events: ball games, recitals, awards banquets. Plan to discipline every infraction of household norms. Pick up, straighten up, clean up the house. Let everything have its place. Your “ardor for order” will go a long way toward providing a safe, secure, and happy environment for the rearing of children. More importantly, it will provide the time and circumstances to “set before them a godly example,” and to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

[1] See Johnson, The Family Worship Book, (Fearn, Ross-Shire, Gr. Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1998), 18.

[2] Ibid., (slightly modified).

Carl Robbins

Carl is a native of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, a graduate of Crichton College and Covenant Theological Seminary. Pastor Robbins has served churches in South Carolina, Oklahoma and Nevada. In addition Carl has served on the board of crisis pregnancy centers, Christian schools and seminaries. He has spoken to college groups, medical school forums, state legislative groups, seminary chapels and church conferences. His special passion is training pastors in developing countries. Carl and wife Sandy have been married for 37 years(!) and are the parents of three believing, adult children: John and his wife DeAnna and their children (Bray, Emmie Ruth, and Maggie Grace), James and his wife Megen and their children (Jack and Lainey Janice), and Sarah and her husband Andrew Holmes. Carl and Sandy love OU football, big dogs, good Mexican food, and the beach—any beach, any time.

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Carl Robbins

Carl is a native of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, a graduate of Crichton College and Covenant Theological Seminary. Pastor Robbins has served churches in South Carolina, Oklahoma and Nevada. In addition Carl has served on the board of crisis pregnancy centers, Christian schools and seminaries. He has spoken to college groups, medical school forums, state legislative groups, seminary chapels and church conferences. His special passion is training pastors in developing countries. Carl and wife Sandy have been married for 37 years(!) and are the parents of three believing, adult children: John and his wife DeAnna and their children (Bray, Emmie Ruth, and Maggie Grace), James and his wife Megen and their children (Jack and Lainey Janice), and Sarah and her husband Andrew Holmes. Carl and Sandy love OU football, big dogs, good Mexican food, and the beach—any beach, any time.