Before having kids, my husband and I believed that family dinners would come naturally. Neither of our parents seemed to have much trouble making this happen, so we thought we wouldn’t either. Veteran parents might laugh at us for being so naive, but it hadn’t been difficult for us to eat dinner together before. Boy, did our baby girl change things.
Because she was born in the spring in Florida when we were on vicarage, a year-long internship for pastors-to-be, I wasn’t going to be working outside the home until I secured a job back in St. Louis upon our return. Because I was at home, I thought I would be able to have dinner on the table when my husband came home. And for a while, I did—freezer meals brought by kind friends and two weeks of my mom’s cooking allowed us to eat family dinners together. But once my family left and we ate through the freezer, I found that I still didn’t have the mental energy to plan, prep, and cook meals. And that didn’t change when I went back to work.
Studies consistently show that eating meals together as a family leads to positive outcomes for the children in your household. It is a beneficial practice for families. I know we need to cultivate this habit for the benefit of our kids. If you’re struggling like me to really find the energy or get in the groove of dinner, let’s motivate ourselves together. And if you’re one of those veteran parents, find the comment section on Facebook and give the rest of us your best tips to make family mealtime smooth!
Sharing Meals Is Biblically Grounded
Jesus and His followers often ate meals together. It was during these meals that He would preach and teach. Once He even went as far as feeding more than 5000 people! These meals were how people got to know Him and hear His Word. In all four of the Gospels, you can find accounts of Jesus eating meals with people.
In Luke 24, the risen Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. As they are walking, they do not recognize Him. Jesus speaks to them about His death and resurrection prophesied in Scripture, and they are in awe. They invite Him to eat with them, wanting to continue the good conversation. As He broke bread, they recognized Him and Jesus vanished from their sight. But He had left them with a new understanding of their Savior, their faith, and His Word.
As we look at the importance of mealtime, this conversation leading to new understanding is one we recognize. Without the meal, who knows if these disciples would have recognized they were walking with their risen Lord!
It Gives Space for Faith-Connection
Meals give us a chance to slow down and develop a routine of time together. Because mealtimes are often technology-free, they allow for conversation to develop. It is a great place to work in a family devotional. When you intentionally participate together in reading the Bible, this makes a space for your children to ask you questions about Jesus, your faith, the Word of God, and the life of the church. Model asking questions and giving answers to your children; that’s why discussion questions are often the prompt for the Everyday Faith Calendar.
- Keep easy-to-make, shelf-stable meals in the pantry. When it’s one of those busy nights or you find that what you had planned to make seems too complicated, these easy meals can make dinner possible.
- Pair a new recipe with a familiar one. If you’re trying a new chicken recipe, don’t pair it with the honey-glazed vegetable recipe you’ve been eying. This prevents one dinner from feeling too overwhelming.
- Plan for several options for meals over the week. While some people prefer to schedule meals, I’ve found that planning out the meals but allowing myself to choose which one on a particular day has made things easier.
- A rotating menu may be helpful. During my childhood, different days of the week were scheduled to be certain foods (example: Mondays were oatmeal, Tuesdays were pancakes, and so on). While I don’t think you have to be that prescriptive, using a theme may help lessen decision fatigue.
As the school year approaches, commit to creating a habit of family dinner and know that God works through the conversations around your table.
With this month’s Everyday Faith Calendar, walk through Colossians 2–3 and invest in being a part of your children’s relationship with Jesus.