Every families definition of 'family time' is different. For some, it's a sacred event or tradition and violators are held accountable. For others, they only get to it when they get to it. It's unintentional. On one side of the camp, you have those who treat family time as strictly a spiritual event. No laughing, no smiling, no games, everyone must be properly aligned, Bible or hymnal in hand, and so on. On the other side are those who say family time needs to be all-encompassing and fun. It's all about games, outings, activities that awaken the mind and body, good food, the list goes on. Elsewhere, there are are those who try to find a healthy balance.
The Bible doesn't specifically address this concept of family time or movie night. But then again, the Bible doesn't specifically address a lot of things, like if Christians can drink wine/alcohol or if it's okay to smoke. In Psalm 119: 105, we see that God's Word is a lamp to our feet (the things that are close and within view) and a light to our path (the things that are in the future or not clearly seen). We live by faith and Godly principles. We don't walk around in life with a long checklist of things we can or can't do or things we should or shouldn't do.
So, is movie night okay for Christians?
When the Bible Doesn't Address a Specific Matter:
In Romans 14 we find some basic principles when it comes to areas in life that are unclear or disputable (I recommend you read the entire chapter). The two disputable matters in these verses are 1) whether or not Christians should eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols, and 2) whether or not Christians should worship God on certain required (Jewish) holy days.
Some people believed that there was nothing wrong with eating meat that had been offered to an idol; they considered idols to be man-made and worthless. Others carefully considered the source of their meat or gave up eating meat entirely. The problem was even more serious for Christians who had once worshiped idols. For them, being reminded of their past was a temptation. It weakened the new (and real) faith that they now had. Likewise, for some Christians who had once worshiped God on the required Jewish holy days, it made them feel like they were doing something wrong or being unfaithful to God.
We can sum up the guidelines Paul mentions in Romans 14 in at least three points:
1. Be sure to have a clear conscience on matters that are unclear in the Bible. Do you have freedom in Christ and a clear conscience before the Lord to do whatever is in question? Or, does the area weaken your faith, good character, and Christian walk?
If movie night weakens your faith and fervor for God, keep it off the schedule.
2. Don't judge your brother or sister if they feel they have certain freedoms in some areas of life that you do not have.
If your friends feel it's okay to have movie night as a family, don't judge them.
3. If you are strong in an area and have freedom in Christ in that area, don't let your freedoms cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble. For example, if a family comes to our house and I know they are offended by movies, watching a movie while they are visiting would not be on the schedule. (To be clear, I don't know of any of our close fiends who find watching movies to be offensive!)
[NOTE: Some things in life are clearly wrong and forbidden by God in Scripture. I'm not referring to issues such as adultery, sex outside of marriage, murder, theft, lying/false witness, idolatry, and so on. These are clearly a sin. But on matters that are not clear, this chapter (Romans 14) shows that we should not create personal rules and regulations and equate them to being God's Word!]
Valid for All Families:
Every family should have at least one day a week where they all spend time together. Some of you might read that and think one day is not enough. Others would say it's too difficult to find one day a week (If this is the case, my admonition is that you need to examine your schedule and cut out the non-essentials. If little Johnny has soccer, music practice and a night class, Sally has dance rehearsal, Daddy is gone fishing with the guys, and Mommy is left with cleaning and cooking, something has to give). Keep in mind, family time doesn't have to involve a sophisticated schedule or an adventurous activity.
Family time is just that - Time together as a family. Better said: Being a family, together.
Laugh, talk, cry, share stories. Share feelings. Plan something for a future date. Do an activity, bake something, play games, create something. And, yes, even watch a movie together.
BASIC GUIDELINES for FAMILY TIME:
PRECAUTIONS for MOVIE NIGHT as FAMILY TIME:
Family time can include watching a movie. But family time does not mean watching a movie.
So, to the question at hand - Does movie night count as family time? Yes and No...
TIPS for MOVIE NIGHT:
1) Pick a Movie That is Appropriate for the Entire Family
(Note: This is from our current perspective as parents of younger children, just about 6 years old and 4. You may be in a different stage of life but the concept still applies...)
Daniela and I enjoy war movies. Together with the boys, we watched MIDWAY a few weeks ago and liked it (don't be alarmed, we usually watch more kid-friendly genres, this is just one example). We picked it because it is rated PG-13 and figured that if any parts came up that were not appropriate for them, we could forward it or cover their eyes (they actually do it themselves most of the time!). However, the recently released 1917 movie is rated R and has more violence and crude language. We did not watch that one as a family (plus, we found that it took a bit too long to get interesting, but that's just us). The idea is to pick something that everyone can enjoy. Some days it might be a documentary on Charles Spurgeon, the 'prince of preachers' (thanks Prime Video). Other days you might have to budge and settle for Zoboomafoo (only parents of young children know what this is). It might take you 5 or 10 minutes to choose (sad but true: one study said it takes about 18 minutes for us to decide on what to watch), but settle on something for everyone.
2) Don't Set a Rigid Schedule
If you create a ritual out of movie night it can send the wrong message to your children. This is especially true if they see that you are very laid-back when it comes to prayer, devotional time, going to church, being on time to work, paying taxes, or any other area of life. You can still make it enjoyable for the whole family, regardless of age, while keeping it somewhat spontaneous. Sure, it's nice to unwind a bit at the end of a long week, and if you're like us, you might designate Friday as movie night. But we don't have movie night EVERY Friday. Sometimes it's Saturday. Other times it's not even at night. Some weeks we don't even have movie night. The real issue at hand is making sure you have your priorities in their proper place. If movie night takes precedence over the family altar, then it clearly has to be cut off for a season, or completely. The altar comes first.
Don't send the message to your children that having your face regularly peeled to a screen is normal.
We were not made for that. Protect the family altar. Protect things that matter in the long run. Movie night is not on that list.
3) Stay Engaged and Create Learning Moments
The other night we watched Little Women together. Some might scoff and think it's not a good movie or that it has some underlying message about feminism. We didn't go that deep. We simply enjoyed the setting (New England, filmed in Concord, MA), the time it was set in (during the American Civil War), and all the historical references, activities, artifacts, dress attire, and architecture. It had some really good life lessons as well, such as giving to those in need and not judging by what you see with your eyes. Levy actually stood awake for just about the entire movie. As we watched, Daniela and I brought up some of our own memories from when we were children and made references to some of the the equipment they used back in the day, such as book-binding and book sewing machines, which were shown in the movie. Another example is when watching The Smurfs 2. Levy made the comparison of Papa Smurf, the old one with the white beard, as being Moses, and the leader of the Israel people (the other Smurfs). This might seem silly, but I was glad to see his mind thinks like this even while watching a movie! The point is to stay engaged even while watching the movie. At the end, try to bring up a life lesson or something of value that was expressed in the movie (don't give it too much thought or feel like you have to hold a study session after every movie).
These are a few tips and Biblical advice from our family to yours when it comes to movie night and family time. We'd be glad to hear some of your own experiences and recommendations. Until next time...
Keep the Fire Burning,
with Danny & Daniela Kovacs
No family is an island. Join us as we share candid discussions, Biblical advice & resources to help keep God at the center of your faith, family and career.