Kay Kuzma, Ed.D., is founder and speaker of Family Matters and host of radio and television programs. She has written hundreds of articles and dozens of books for the family, including Creating Love, Easy Obedience, and Belonging.
She received an M.A. in child development from Michigan State University and an Ed.D. in early childhood education from UCLA and has developed child-development programs and taught in universities for over 25 years. She is currently writing from the mountains of Tennessee where she and her husband have “retired” to begin a new ministry building a home church, and starting a school in Baja, Mexico, teaching English and computer skills to help families break their cycle of poverty and find a better way of life.
Shabbat Shalom: How would you define family from a Christian point of view?
Kuzma: In the traditional sense family means a group of related individuals, either by marriage, birth or adoption, who celebrate a healthy intradependence and are bonded together by love and meaningful relationships. A Christian family would be all this, plus Christ. The uniqueness of a Christian family is their deep desire to pass on to the next generation biblically- based moral values and an experiential relationship with God through prayer, worship, and religious activities, rituals and services.
Shabbat Shalom: What are the duties of family members to achieve this ideal?
Kuzma: Simply put: To love God and each other. If family members were truly “Christian,” living by Jesus’s golden rule to treat each other as they would like to be treated and asking with each encounter, “What would Jesus do?” the ideal could be met. Unfortunately, many Christians are like the Apostle Paul, wondering, “Why do I do what I don’t want to do, and don’t do what I should do?” The reason is that Satan has “done a number” on us, causing hurt, heartache and rejection— and we end up treating others as we have been treated! If there is no healing, the pain gets passed down “unto the third and fourth generation,” the Bible says; but we only know three or four generations.
Actually, unhealed pain just keeps getting passed down—until today many “Christian” families are a mess! What is the duty of family members to achieve the ideal of a healthy family? Deal with the psychological pain of your past, forgive those who have caused it, and learn how to get the unconditional love message across to each other without the interference of criticism, anger, and looks of frustration and disappointment.
Shabbat Shalom: What is the role of the woman, of the mother in a Christian home?
Kuzma: Ah! Now you ask the tricky question! If I give the traditional answer: The mother is to be the nurturer and the father the breadwinner, I will have alienated 75% of the moms and dads in Christian families! The role of a woman is to be a helpmate to a husband who loves her as much as Christ does. Within those parameters each husband and wife must unselfishly determine what is best for each other and their children—and secondly, what is best for any other family member who may be dependent on them.
Shabbat Shalom: What is the role of the father, of the husband in a Christian family?
Kuzma: The father is the priest of the family—the spiritual leader, teacher and nurturer. First of all, this means he must live a holy life, so he can intercede before the Lord for his family, much
as the high priest did in the Israelite sanctuary. Secondly, throughout the day there should be religious instruction, the telling of Bible stories, and the sharing of miracles and object lessons (see Deuteronomy 6).
But being the spiritual leader means much more. Let me explain: Each person in the family has a spirit within. Sometimes it might be up— joyful, happy, contented— and sometimes down—angry, fearful, depressed, jealous, or sad. I believe the father is responsible for maintaining a healthy “spirit” within the family (with the help of the Holy Spirit). When someone is down, it is his responsibility to listen, to pray, and to restore a “right” spirit within, or find the professional help necessary for healing. When fathers take this on as their mission, something happens within the family; there is healing, and a love bond is created that is so powerful that nothing can destroy it.
However, the interesting fact is: alone, most fathers are incapable of performing this role! That’s where a man needs the helpmate God created for him. Women (in general) are more intuitive, more insightful about relationships, and more in tune with the emotional tenor of the home. That’s why most men need to rely on their wives to help them tune in to each person’s spirit, so they can perform their role more effectively in helping maintain a healthy spirit within the family. And the role of the woman? To be honest with her husband about her own feelings and what she perceives concerning the feelings of others.
Men need to say, “Sweetheart, when something’s wrong, let me know.” When they sense a down feeling in the family, but don’t know why, they need to ask, “Honey, help me understand what’s going on here so I can help heal any wounded or hurt spirit.” And then, like the Good Samaritan, they must take the time to meet the physical and emotional needs of each member of the family.
Shabbat Shalom: In Western society, families enjoy birthdays, Thanksgiving, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc. What are the most important events in the life of a Christian family?
Kuzma: As God instructed the Israelites to build altars where significant events happened so that in the future when people would ask what the altar was for, the cant spiritual event should be remembered.
Birthdays should be significant, not just for gifts, cake and candles, but for the annual blessing that is bestowed upon that special child. Write down the positive traits you have seen in your child that year, recalling special events where the child has acted in an honorable way, and read them at a special birthday celebration. Or have each family member share one incident that shows how special this child is and videotape it to show through the year. When a child doubts his or her significance, these “books” of remembrance can “set the record straight”!
The very first altar in a child’s life should be a baby dedication. Plan something special. (See the baby dedication materials I’ve written for the Review and Herald Publishing Association.) Then come baptisms and ordinations— as a worker in the church.
Every Christian home should be dedicated to the Lord. Plan a ceremony where the pastor performs this rite within the home—sometimes saying a prayer in each room that the Lord will bless the people who live there or the activities that happen there. Make a plaque to commemorate the event andframe it to hang in the family room.
Like the Israelites, families should celebrate often! Celebrate the achievements of family members— regardless of how small; celebrate special events like wedding anniversaries and graduations; and celebrate the miracles. Keep a Miracles Journal. If possible take a picture of the miracle and attach it to the story. Then open the book often and recall what the Lord has done for your family.
Shabbat Shalom: What does daily family worship look like?
Kuzma: Family worship should be a time to praise the Lord! It should be fun, meaningful, interactive, Bible-oriented and age-related! I favor short daily story-based encounters laced with familiar songs. Reserve a weekly family counsel time to more instructive material. Equally important, however, is the informal spiritual instruction or discussions that should occur throughout the day—driving to school, washing dishes, making beds, walking around the block, or when rubbing backs at bedtime.
Shabbat Shalom: Have modern trends in Western society that have caused breakdown in the family structure had an impact on Christian families too?
Kuzma: Yes. First, the popularity of divorce as a way out of a bad marriage—instead of commitment on the part of both to do whatever is necessary not just to save the marriage but to grow in love.
Second, the acceptance of abuse within relationships— physical, mental, emotional and sexual. Abuse is wrong, and must be stopped. God asks no one to live within an abusive relationship, and until we empower individuals to stand up for their right not to be abused, many will continue to suffer within the context of a “Christian” home. Third, children growing up without a stable, committed, loving, and strong father within the home. Fourth, the lack of respect to parents—of all ages. And fifth, the attitude that “I can do it myself.” Families need a good support network of extended family, friends, church members and neighbors—that’s what makes them healthy!
Shabbat Shalom: What counsel would you give to fight the disintegration of the family?
Kuzma: Pray more; ask for God's help! And believe that with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27). We give up too soon. God’s timetable is not the same as ours. There is wisdom in the counsel, “Wait patiently on the Lord” (Psalm 37:7). And when problems come, get all the information you can from God’s word, books, the internet, seminars and professional counseling. Don’t give up!
Shabbat Shalom: What are the main differences you would see between Jewish and Christian families?
Kuzma: I see more similarities than differences: similarities of a strong value system, belief in God, and belief in the importance of family. I wish each Christian family, however, could have a close friendship with a Jewish family which mentors them on the meaning and observance of the Sabbath. Many Sabbath-keeping Christians don’t really understand the significance of the Sabbath. The Jewish welcoming of the Sabbath and closing ceremonies with their accompanying blessings and prayers would be a healthy tradition for Christian families to adopt.
Shabbat Shalom: What particularity would characterize the Adventist family?
Kuzma: The Adventist lifestyle is a holistic one that encompasses not just spiritual health, but physical, mental and relational health as well. No other denomination emphases education, health, community service, and age-graded children’s spiritual instruction as do the Adventists. That means that those who adopt this lifestyle generally find their status in life improved. Adventist Bible-based, commandmentkeeping and Christ-centered theology should translate down to families practicing a more love-centered and freedom-oriented lifestyle. In other words, allowing individual choice within the boundaries of love and limits, rather than rigidly demanding conformance to traditional roles. And most important, since Adventists believe Christ is coming soon, there should be within each Adventist family a sense of hope in an exciting forever future.
Based on all this, Adventists should be the most love-centered, freedom-oriented, optimistic people in the world! Unfortunately, many are so tied to the pain from their past and the demands of eking out an existence that there isn’t much difference between Adventist families and others!
Shabbat Shalom: Would you share with us an example of a model family, or some insights as to leading principles for our families?
Kuzma: What is a model family? One without problems? No. There are none. Every family has problems. Each is unique; each has its own set of values within the context of Christianity. Perhaps the closest to a model I could present would be an Adventist mother married to an non-believing father of Jewish heritage, and their two teenage children.
Why would they be models? Because each has chosen to do what is best for their family, rather than for themselves. Dad, for example, began attending the Adventist Church when the children were born so they could have a spiritually united family. And when mother isn’t available to lead out in the daily family devotional, Dad takes that role—raising the children Christian, although he himself can’t quite believe.
The family gave up their professional career network and the dream home to move to a community where their children could attend Adventist schools. Mom is like a lioness fighting the devil for her children’s souls. She sees the bad choices she made in the teen years, now haunting her children (from generation to generation), but she’s not going to give up. Instead, she has searched out help programs and counseling; she has made it possible for a child to get a GED instead of attend a school program that was damaging to the teen’s self-esteem. And even though she is a primary bread-winner in the family, she takes significant time with the children, listening, encouraging, and sharing. The children have no doubt where her priorities are. And as a result, she and her children are best friends! She has also challenged the local church to offer help for troubled youth, to provide more “family” oriented activities (rather than age-related ones), and both she and her husband have been active in a couple-oriented Sabbath School program. Plus, she’s a prayer warrior.
Follow the good you see in this family—and with Christlike actions and God's help, you can have a successful family.