The Difference a Meal Can Make
Trust me, I know the routine… finish work, pick up kids from school, run any errands that have to be done today and can’t wait until tomorrow, come home, work on homework, wash uniforms for school, spend a little time playing, start getting kids in the tub and ready for bed. But wait, somewhere in all of that is dinner time. Not just sitting and eating, but preparing the meal. In our crazy, busy, hectic, fast-paced, go-go-go lives, so many people resort to heating up dinners, going through the drive-thru or letting each person fend for themselves from leftovers and a stocked pantry (when the kids are old enough). Parents eat bites in between getting backpacks ready, folding those uniforms you’ve washed, feeding the pets; kids sit at the table, sometimes even eating in shifts depending on what extracurricular activities they had that night.
Table fellowship time is the first thing to go in many busy families. That time is so important. It’s the time of day to sit down and talk about your day, discuss what happened at school and work, and really hear what your teenagers are saying.
In youth ministry, table fellowship is crucial. It is a chance for the youth to just visit, and foster that relationship we want them to have, especially for students that do not go to school together. Meals during youth time are the chance for the youth minister and volunteers to really hear what is happening in the lives of their youth. It’s those candid moments that the youth know there are adults that care about them, that want to hear how they are doing and be a part of their lives. The time around the table enjoying a nice home-cooked meal (well, actually pizza or fried chicken!) gives your group a chance to really get to know one another on a more personal level, and is something that no activity can equal. It’s not about the content of the conversation, it’s about the quality.
So parents, I know how hard it can be to sit together as a family for a meal, but give it a shot if you don’t already. Look at your calendar and pick one night a week to be the designated family night. If you have more than one night a week for a family dinner, go for it! Sit together, turn off the television, cell phones, iPads and computers. Give everyone the chance to talk about their day. I hear some parents say, “My teenager won’t talk to me.” Here’s one way around that - make “Blessings and Bummers” a part of your family dinner. We do this almost every week in youth group, and the kids can’t wait to share their blessing and bummer from the previous week with everyone. “Blessings and Bummers” is the equivalent of “Highs and Lows”, with the stipulation that you may have more than one blessing and bummer per person, but you cannot have more bummers than blessings. See what you get tonight when you sit down for dinner and discuss your day. Give everyone a turn, even the parents. It’s important for the teenagers to hear how your day was as well.
Happy eating, and talking!
Director of Youth and Family Ministries, St. Paul’s Episcopal, Waco