Let’s be honest. The modern family has little to compare with families of one or two generations ago. Back then, families gathered together every night for dinner around the table.
In today’s world, with the plethora of electronic communication, music and video gadgets and the demands made on every member of the family (from the youngest to the oldest), it is a challenge just to get the family to sit down in one place for a home cooked meal.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. —Proverbs 22:6, KJV
In spite of this challenge, it is vital that we take the time to do just that. Family dinner is time to share ourselves with each other. Without time to communicate and share with one another, a family simply becomes a group of related people living in the same house but with no real connection to each other.
This is not what Heavenly Father had in mind. Just as we put one day aside to honor the Lord, so too should we put aside at least one evening a week for a family dinner where everyone is present.
Start with a family meeting. Decide upon what day or days the family will gather together for a family dinner. At this meeting, also ask for menu suggestions. Use the planning stage to talk about nutrition and what our bodies need to stay healthy.
On the assigned day or days, before beginning the preparation, gather everyone together for a short family prayer. Give thanks for the opportunity to dine together, ask God to keep everyone safe while preparing the meal and thank all those who had a hand in supplying the food for the meal.
Have everyone chip in and help prepare for dinner. Even the youngest members of the family can be given some small tasks to keep them busy (with supervision). Assign family members for cooking, table setting, serving and clean-up. Helping to prepare the meal is a great way to share traditional family recipes and cooking techniques as well as stories from when the parents were young.
As the food preparation is nearly complete, turn off the TVs, radios, cell phones, computers, iPads and all other distractions. If you can, turn off the house phone or reduce the volume of the ringer so that it can be ignored. This is, after all “family time,” and should not be intruded upon by the outside world.
As the food is brought to the table, assign someone to say grace, giving thanks for being able to assemble as a family, thanks for the food and to all those who prepared it. Make this a meal of leisure by having everyone take their time eating. With this extended meal time, allow conversations to blossom. Talk about anything under the sun.
Get caught up on each other’s activities. If discussions about problems crop up, table them until after dinner when more insightful attention can be given to them. Share something funny that happened or a good story or book that you are currently reading.
After the meal is finished, have everyone pitch in and clear the table. Once clean-up is complete gather everyone together for a family evening. This can consist of some Scripture study as a family. At this time you can discuss any problems that need addressing. Following the Scripture time, play a game or watch a movie. Then, everyone can once again get back to their world of electronic communications and diversions.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. —Matthew 18:20, KJV
The secret to the success of these “family home evenings” is to involve everyone in the planning and execution of the tasks. By having a personal stake in the proceedings family members will not see it as a chore but something to look forward to.