Protectionism or Isolationism?

Do you ever wonder whether it is right to shelter your children from worldly influences such as the TV or playing unsupervised with neighborhood children? Do you struggle with feeling like you are becoming an isolationist? Recently we had a mom ask us some questions along these lines.

“I wonder sometimes if I am doing the right thing by sheltering my children as much as I am. I have a burning desire also to tell others about Jesus! I want to minister—even if in just some small way. I don’t feel like I’m doing that by keeping us at home and sheltered from the rest of the world. I feel that I have really begun to isolate my children from everything and wonder if this is the right thing to do . . . I wonder if there isn’t more we could be doing.” Lisa

This mom asks several excellent questions—ones that are important for us to answer. What a condemnation on us as a group of Christian homeschoolers if we are secluded in our homes with no outreach for our Lord Jesus!

I would not term what we do with our children as isolationism but rather protectionism. God requires us to protect our children from ungodly influences. Scripture is overwhelmingly full of directives to us, as parents teaching our children and as Christians in general, to live holy lives.

Matthew 18:6-7: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”

Does this mean we live in isolation? Absolutely not! Instead, we minister as a family. For Steve and I, this means we are around our children constantly, serving the Lord Jesus with them and protecting them at the same time. There are so many ways the Lord has given us to minister, serve, and evangelize as a family through the years. I will share a couple of current ones with you.

Steve and the boys minister monthly at the Kansas City men’s homeless shelter. Steve is with his boys (from age 7 to 25) and able to oversee their conversations, discuss the consequences of sin in these men’s lives, and develop a love in his boys’ hearts for others who are very different from us. Every month, in addition to the personal conversation and evangelism Steve and the boys engage in, one of the oldest will preach. Our sons consider their time at City Union Mission a highlight of their month.

Two Saturdays a month, Steve and the children have a church service at the local county infirmary, a low-income nursing home. They have the opportunity to love the elderly residents, talk to them, sing with them, and share the good news of Jesus Christ with them. Joseph, our thirteen-year-old son, preached at the infirmary the last time they were there. He hasn’t had a call from the Lord to be a preacher, but we want all of our children to be able “. . . to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

I would encourage us that the questions we are considering are best answered by being “in the world” (John 17:11) but “not of the world” (John 17:14). We are not isolating our children. We are protecting them and also ministering with them to the lost world.

Let me share another story with you by way of illustration. The UPS man stops by our house every afternoon. Once when there was a substitute for a couple of days, the children asked where the regular driver was.

“You mean Caveman?” the substitute asked. The children’s eyes became really big as they realized that the UPS drivers had nicknamed our driver “Caveman.” That became our children’s name for him as well until we had a discussion one day.

We talked with the children about whether “Caveman” was a respectful name for our UPS driver even if they didn’t actually call him that when they talked to him. They agreed it wasn’t and determined to find out his real name.

Not many days after that they came to me and delightedly announced, “His name is Mr. Smith. His name is Mr. Smith.”

“Whose name is Mr. Smith?” came from my confused mind, which had already forgotten the earlier day’s discussion.

“The UPS man!”

Can you imagine what Mr. Smith thinks when he is greeted by five lively children each afternoon shouting, “Hello, Mr. Smith! Hi, Mr. Smith. How are you, Mr. Smith?” Remember, Mr. Smith’s coworkers call him Caveman.

Recently, eleven-year-old John gave Mr. Smith a gospel tract. A couple of days later John asked Mr. Smith if he had read the tract. “Oh, yeah!” he replied. “It was good. I even showed it to the other guys at the terminal when I got back.”

“Would you read another one?” John asked.

“Sure,” answered Mr. Smith.

This recent example, I believe, will show you that a protectionist lifestyle doesn’t preclude our children from sharing Jesus with others. However, they are doing it in an environment where their own hearts are being as carefully guarded as possible.

Scripture tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). So we know that protecting our children will not keep them from being sinful. However, we also know that temptations to sin are greater when a child has been exposed to sin.

I would encourage each of us, with our husbands, to begin praying about what ministry the Lord would have us do as a family. Consider a nursing home, the homeless shelter, a neighborhood Bible study, an outreach to a widow in your neighborhood, or having neighbors in for dinner—that’s just a start! When you have the Lord’s direction, begin to serve. You will have no concern about isolationism, but rather you will experience outreach within the protected environment of family ministry.