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Written by Dan Istvanik
I’ve been a father for 14 years and a husband for 18 years. Throughout this time, I have always made it a priority to be home for dinner with my wife and children.
Of course, there are times and seasons when this cannot be a nightly thing. However, it has been a fairly consistent, daily part of our family life.
When I have ministry scheduled during the evenings, I have made it clear to my supervisors that I will be going home for a brief time to see my family and have an early meal. Often, my family has brought dinner to the church so we could share a few minutes together at the end of our day.
Some may think this is an unrealistic or impossible goal, especially if your busy schedule consists of work, sports, school, and church. I am also keenly aware this may not be a reality for everyone on a daily basis. But, prioritizing family dinner a few times a week in your home will make a difference in your family.
Here are a few reasons why family dinners still matter:
1) Social Interaction
Family meals are opportunities to teach and prepare your children for society. In the span of time from toddler years, all the way to graduation, there are thousands of opportunities to teach and talk socially. For this reason, enjoy your family meals around a table, in chairs facing each other, not sitting on a couch facing a screen. Human community happens in circles, not in rows.
The family table is the first-place children learn social skills such as manners, etiquette, politeness, and even conversation. These things are slowly fading in our society as more and more families move away from a shared eating experience.
The family meal table is also a place where your family can talk about life and discuss the events of their day. As you share the ups and downs of social interactions and challenges, these are teachable and priceless moments with your child. This should also be a safe place to talk about society itself, as you discuss current news, topics, and even politics… politely.
At first, this might seem to be a given. A meal equals sustenance… but, does it? In our fast-moving world of snacks and junk food, do our children really know what to eat? If every meal is on the run, or on our own, do our children leave home knowing how to cook and prepare a meal for themselves?
A family meal is the obvious moment to teach about healthy eating and nutritious food choices. A family meal does not always have to be homemade and perfectly healthy, but consider the opportunity to taste and and experience healthier options.
Make it fun with a shopping trip earlier in the week to a local market.
Make it a challenge as you cook and prepare the meal together.
Make it an adventure by having one item that is healthy, that your child has never tried.
Make it sustainable by talking about monetary and bodily stewardship – discussing the value of food, both by price and health.
3) Spiritual Growth
“And they broke bread together…” Do you realize how many times food is mentioned in the Bible?
Have you ever noticed the stories about meals and those that take place around meals? Even Jesus chose to make one of the most powerful, symbolic remembrances of himself, around a meal.
A family meal can have spiritual power and significance.
When the devices are turned off and the only form of “entertainment” is face-to-face, these moments can provide an opportunity to talk about God, while experiencing His physical blessings and provision.
Meals together can provide opportunities for dialogue, questions, and Bible study.
Consider making your family meal a time where you share a family devotion and have a time of prayer. These meals can create an oasis of peace, away from distractions and a busy family schedule.
Prioritize this time in your schedule to invest in the spiritual life of your family.
You may find that a prayer of blessing over your family and your food may produce spiritual growth in your home.
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DAN ISTVANIK is the Lead Content Writer at Ministry to Parents and is also a 5th to 8th-grade pastor in Lancaster, PA. He has been working in youth ministry for over 22 years, serving churches in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Virginia. He is a speaker, ministry coach and writer, contributing to a variety of other great ministry resources. He shares daily middle school ministry specific resources, and hints on his own site “The Middle Years” at WWW.MIDDLEYEARSMINISTRY.COM