Understanding Levels of Decisions

Preferences, House Rules, Organizational Norms, and Absolutes.

The figure below helps outline the different levels of decisions we all face at times. Often difficulties may arise when decision-making parties see the issue on different levels of the pyramid. Before coming to a decision, both parties need to agree on the underlying level of importance of the decision.Below are descriptions of each level:

  • Preferences are personal opinions, decisions, and choices. For example, your favorite restaurant, color, or model of car are all preferences. Two individuals may agree or disagree about each other’s preferences, but neither is wrong.
  • House Rules are rules of conduct established by families or groups of closely related people. For example, in a family the parents have the privilege and responsibility to create and maintain the house rules for their own home. Two sets of parents may agree or disagree about these rules; however, they each must determine what they believe is best for their own family and abide by it.
    • For example, if one family sets the curfew for the children at 9:30pm and the other sets the curfew at 10:00pm, which one is wrong or better? Neither is. While each set of parents may disagree with each other, each set of parents has the responsibility to set the house rules for their own home.
  • Organizational Norms are standards of conduct, behavior, dress, and participation/non-participation in activities established by businesses, churches, and social/service organizations. This level is where many church customs, traditions, and practices are found.
  • Biblical Absolutes are God’s moral laws that are explicitly stated in the Bible as either commands or principles. These are true for all people, in all places, at all times. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14) is a biblical absolute. Adultery is sin in God’s eyes – period. This has been true ever since the law was given and will remain true as long as the world stands.

Each level of the pyramid above has a different authority. For example, the authority for biblical absolutes is God’s Word. An organization determines organizational norms, while a family unit determines house rules. In a marriage, house rules, which may be described as personal “convictions,” become a couple decision rather than an individual decision. Each spouse should prayerfully and respectfully consider the other’s opinion, mutually submitting to one another.

This chart is implemented in the following example of a married couple deciding how to school children.

1. Always start with “biblical absolutes.”

Ask yourselves, “What does the Bible say about the education of children?” A few of the verses that speak to raising children include Deuteronomy 6:4-7 and Proverbs 22:6. Clearly, there is a biblical mandate to raise children to know God’s ways. However, note the biblical instruction does not specifically address how children should be taught mathematics or geography or how to teach a child with a learning disability. Therefore, at the Biblical Absolutes level we have been given a clear teaching about the spiritual nurturance of children; however, it does not provide a command about other aspects of education.

2. Identify organizational norms.

Ask yourselves, “Has the church given direction on the education of children?”

The Elder Body has affirmed the biblical truth that children are to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The elders have concluded that the education of children is a decision parents must make thoughtfully and prayerfully; they acknowledge parents of one household may come to different conclusion about what is best for their children (public, private, or home schooling) than parents of another household. That said, the elders encourage all parents to have respect and Christ-like love for those who choose differently. Therefore, the organizational norm has affirmed the biblical absolute and has given guidance that parents should prayerfully consider the options, choose what best fits their family, and respect those that choose differently.

3. Create house rules.

Ask yourselves, “What do we, as a couple, believe about the education of children?”

House rules are accepted and/or created by a couple. Many house rules develop by default without much thought. For example, which chair does each person in the family sit in at supper time. Other times, house rules simply develop out of what the parents grew up with in their own families of origin. Conversely, some house rules are the result of a deliberate process of information gathering, prayer, discussion, and counsel.

A couple may find that they have very similar or dissimilar views on the education of children. However, as they pray, discuss, and gather information, they can come together to make a decision. Ultimately, the parents must make a decision for their own children and family, not anyone else’s. It is okay for them to choose an education option that is different from another couple. However, it is not okay for the couple to judge another couple’s decision. Once the couple has decided on what type of education they would like their children to have, the decision-making process is complete, and they must work toward implementing their decision.

For Further Information:

Roles, Responsibilities, & Decision Making in Marriage

Preferences, House Rules, Organizational Norms, and Biblical Absolutes: A framework for thinking through decisions.