Several studies over the last few years examined the habits of families at dinnertime. While more families are having dinner together five nights a week than they were fifteen years ago, a concerning percentage of families still don’t gather around the table for dinner on a regular basis. No one needs to spend much time thinking about why this might be the case. Practices, long commutes, the easy availability of fast food, and homework war against this simple, yet effective family practice.
In our lives, we tend to ignore important things to focus on urgent things. Practice, homework, and squeezing in an extra thirty minutes at work feel urgent. It seems as if these things must be done and they must be done now. Taking the time to share a meal together does not invoke the kind of urgency other tasks do, but its importance cannot be overstated. Here are three basic reasons that we need to recover the family dinner table.
Family Dinner is a Time to Talk and Laugh
If you asked me to name the first image that came to my mind from my childhood, it would be sitting around the table with my family. At the family table we laughed, we told stories, and we learned about life. We pray our daughters will have the same memories from the family dinner table. Typically we try to get our girls talking about the things they have been doing and are interested in. At every family dinner, we end up having a discussion about something from my or my wife’s childhood. When the conversation lulls, one of my favorite things to do is to make up a story about something I dreamed the night before. I never know where the story is going when I get started, but by the end, we are all laughing. This time of connecting has been invaluable for our family as we get the chance to make sure we aren’t missing time with each other in the midst of our sometimes hectic schedule.
Family Dinner is a Time to Eat Healthy and Develop Good Habits
One of the few alternatives to the family dinner table is eating out at a restaurant or getting fast food and eating in the car. There are times this becomes necessary, but we need to work to make those times fewer. A post on CNN shared a study which found that children who ate at home with their families were more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables and less fried foods and soda. While it is difficult to find healthy options for eating out, eating at home can ensure your family eats healthier. Also, children learn how to help pitch in during family dinner. They learn responsibility through helping to set the table and clean up for themselves after dinner.
Family Dinner is a Time for Bible Reading and Prayer
One of the greatest challenges to family devotion can be finding a time to get everyone settled down. Family dinner provides a built-in time for family devotion. Family devotion does not have to be the length of your local church’s worship gathering. It should just be a simple time of Bible reading, prayer, and singing. If your children are small, I recommend the Big Picture Story Bible or Jesus Storybook Bible. As your children get older you can transition into using your preferred Bible translation. Currently, our family reads a portion of the Gospel of Luke and we discuss it together. This time rarely lasts longer than ten minutes since we have an eighteen-month-old. When you sing together, choose songs that are age appropriate. In fact many hymns are easily singable for children. Our children picked up “Jesus Loves Me,” “Come Thou Fount,” and “Be Thou My Vision” when they were pretty young. For our youngest, she loves the song, “My God is So Big.” Prayer time should focus on specific family needs, praying for friends, praying for opportunities to love your neighbors and praying for your children.
Family dinner time does not offer a panacea for all possible families problems, but it can significantly affect your family’s relationships.
For Further Reading:
A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home by Jason Helopoulos