Actress Melissa Joan Hart, best remembered for her starring roles in “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Sabrina The Teenage Witch,” recently spoke with me about her faith and raising three boys (ages 5, 10 and 12) with husband, Mark Wilkerson. Melissa also starred in God’s Not Dead 2, which is being re-released in a God’s Not Dead 3-pack DVD.
In God’s Not Dead 2, you play a teacher whose career and Christian faith come under attack. Knowing what you believe and why you believe it is vitally important in today’s environment of relativism. How are you preparing your boys for speaking God’s truth to an unbelieving world?
Melissa: We make a habit of going to church together as a family. Before we had children, we made that a priority. Once we had children, it got harder, but we also liked to make the time because we could drop them off in the nursery and go in and get that hour to ourselves to really savor God’s truth. With every child, it got more and more difficult, but finding a church that had a nursery, that gave us that moment to calm our souls and collect ourselves, and then go back to our child with a fresh start for the week. Now that they’re older, it’s now a habit that Sunday is church, it’s not an argument. It took a little while to get there.
Going every week and having them be part of a kids’ group and the youth group and having friends there, being part of a church family has really helped. Our oldest is now in youth group on Wednesday nights. He just started tackle football, and he’s concerned that football will now overlap with youth group night, which he’s not happy about. This son collects all of his friends—including some who don’t go to church—for youth group and we end up taking eight kids to church every Wednesday night. They love it. … At a retreat, I heard my son was the first one to walk up and declare Jesus as his Savior.
It’s really nice to hear he’s really taken the spiritual side, seen the commitment to it, seeing I go to Bible study, his dad reads the Bible every morning, prayers over dinner. Prayer is a constant thing in our house. … Surrounding ourselves with good Christian fellowship helps as well.
On the other side of it, I have a lot of friends who are Jewish and Muslim and atheist, and having that conversation and learning about it, seeing where the differences lie, and having that conversation about here’s what I believe—not in a way that one’s superior to the other, but in a discussion and dialogue that I think is lacking today. We’re afraid to talk about politics and religions, and that’s the two things we should be talking about because no one understands anyone else or have empathy for anyone else. … Everyone has their own stereotypes about others, and I think it’s important to talk about where we agree and where we don’t agree, and why we don’t agree.
Melissa: My son is probably the only one going into 7th grade who doesn’t have a phone. He doesn’t have a phone, he doesn’t need it. He doesn’t really ask for it. Around here, everybody gives phones as the fifth grade graduation present, thinking their kid’s going to miss out if they don’t. But you know what? I missed out bike riding around neighborhoods after it got dark when I was a kid. There are certain rules you have to lay down, and you can’t worry if this one’s doing it or that one’s doing it. It doesn’t matter—it teaches them that this is how our family operates.
I think social media is really dangerous. My kids have iPad and use WiFi—they don’t have social media. They can group text with their friends, but my kids are the ones who have to go to the front office at school to make a phone call. And we have to make plans ahead of time, rather than do things willy-nilly, last minute.
I understand that there’s sometimes parents who might be a need to be in touch with their kids because they work until 6 p.m., and they need to know where their kids are at—and I get that. But like my son would just lose the phone anyway. … I also like the old school way—the way I was parented—that when the street lights come on, come home. Or telling your kid, “You know you have to be home for kung fu practice at 4 o’clock, so you can go to so-and-so’s house but be back at this time. … Having that communication with our kids [is a good thing]. I feel like in this day and age, we don’t make plans ahead of time, and I think that’s a big problem. … The way we were raised wasn’t so bad, and I’m trying to instill some of that in my kids, and have a little more of that in our home.
However, we are starting to lay down the law. … We’re printing out one of those [device] contracts, and we’re putting a basket in the middle of our kitchen island, so when kids come over, they need to put their phone there. If they need to call their mom, they come here. No phones in the bedroom and no electronics at dinner time. [The contract] will state what happens when they break the rules that everyone signs.
The God’s Not Dead trilogy, now available for home entertainment in a three-pack DVD set, features God’s Not Dead (with Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain), God’s Not Dead 2 (with Melissa Joan Hart and Jesse Metcalfe) and God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness (with John Corbett and Tatum O’Neal).