It’s the only time of day when the whole family is together. Conversation, community and bonding happen around that table.
Except when it doesn’t. Not every dinner time is a glorious experience. However, the repetition of time spent together and discussing God’s Word adds up in ways we can’t always see in the day-to-day.
It’s why, even though my kids are busy teenagers, I still try to have dinnertime family devotions as often as humanly possible.
With dueling schedules and dueling siblings, it’s not easy.
Getting everyone at the table at the same time is a Herculean feat. Having a meaningful family devotions without bloodshed sometimes seems nearly impossible.
Here’s a peek into a typical family dinnertime:
Micah: I’m done with my dinner. I’ll read the devotion.
Molly: Oh, brother, why does he always have to rush to read the devotion? Can’t we just eat and talk for five minutes?
Micah: Stop it, Molly! Be quiet!
Micah begins reading then stops.
Micah: Why is she just sitting there glaring at me?
Mom or Dad: Just keep reading.
Micah continues reading. Molly interrupts with an observation — sometimes related to the devotion and sometimes not.
Micah: Why does she always have to interrupt? I swear, I can’t ever finish without her butting in.
Molly: I thought the whole point of these family dinners is that we’re supposed to talk.
Dad: Molly, let him finish. Micah, quit whining and just read.
Eventually, the entire devotion and Scripture is read. And an amazing thing happens. A discussion begins to take place that does not end in sibling assault. They start asking insightful and challenging questions. Don’t get me wrong. This does not happen every time. (If only!) Sometimes, the victory is just getting through it.
But more often than their dad and I would predict, all the pre-devotion wrangling ends with something like this:
Molly: That was actually pretty good.
Micah: Yea, I liked that one.
And despite the resistance, we’re actually glad we persevered.
Here are a few tips we’ve found helpful over the years:
* Allow each child to choose a devotion book and take turns.
* Wait until the end of the meal. Kids need time to talk about their day and loosen up.
* Keep the devotional time short. Kids’ attention is fleeting. You only have their attention for a few precious minutes. Dragging out devotion time will usually make them dread it.
* Ask a question or two to get the conversation going, but then let them carry the discussion.
* Make the table a safe place. They need the freedom to talk about what’s on their minds — even if it’s disturbing for us to hear sometimes. We want them working these issues out with us — the ones who love them most and have their best interests at heart.
My kids are at ages where they question more and try to figure out what they believe. They sometimes push against our instruction – in this and other areas, as well.
It’s normal. And good. It’s how they’ll eventually — with God’s help — make their faith their own.
That doesn’t mean it’s not scary for parents. And discouraging at times. So many times we’ve wanted to say, “Forget it! This is too much of a hassle! Go do your homework!” (Okay, we’ve said that a few times.)
But I’ve learned we have to continue to persevere. To not give in to the resistance. To continue to pour God’s Word and guidance into their lives.
If we allow them the freedom to question and grapple with their faith, they are more likely to one day enthusiastically embrace their faith again.
There are no guarantees. Our job is just to keep making sure they’re well fed.
The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. Isaiah 55:10-11