rediscovering christianity's forgotten, organic ways amidst the modern industrial religious machine

One Family’s Experience Starting A Family Meeting

By Adam Rust

A few years ago, some close friends of ours told us that they had begun doing “family meetings” in the morning and that it had a big impact on their family. They allowed our family to attend some of their “family meeting” times so that we could get a sense for how it worked.  It was pretty simple.  Just a worship song or two, some conversation about what their family was doing and why, and some prayer at the end.  We later made a few feeble attempts to institute a family meeting time of our own.  All attempts fizzled out after one or two mornings.  I thought maybe we just weren’t a “family meeting” sort of family.  So, we gave up trying.

Fast forward to the present.  An incident occurred with my 4 year old daughter in which it became suddenly very clear that she was believing some terrible lies about herself.  My wife and I talked it over on a walk one evening.  We were asking ourselves how it is that these insidious lies could have gotten into her head.  After all, we give our kids lots of affirmation and involve our kids in the worship time in our community and we talk about the Gospel a lot. Isn’t that enough?

We had to conclude that the main reason why our daughter was believing these terrible and destructive lies about herself was because we weren’t doing a good job of feeding her truth. The moment we realized that, we suddenly became desperate for a way to better teach truth to our kids.  We recalled the mornings we had spent with that other family in their family meetings, listening to the parents talk to their children about why their family was doing what it was doing.  The children of that family would grow up with an identity of being a part of a family that obeys God and is looking for his kingdom to come.  That is a better story to live, and we wanted to lead our children into that story.  So, we decided on the spot that we would start doing family meetings every morning.

Here is what a typical family meeting of ours consists of:

  1. Read a chapter from the Jesus Storybook Bible.
  2. Put questions out to the kids to help draw their attention to the important parts of the story we just read, and interact with their responses.
  3. Talk about what our family will be doing the rest of the day.
  4. Pray

I can reflect on the last few weeks since we started doing family meetings and see some very obvious fruit from it:

  1. Our kids are talking about and asking about the biblical story far more frequently throughout the day.  This is providing way more teaching opportunities for us as parents to speak truth to our kids.  As they learn more truth, they believe fewer lies.
  2. Our kids show a much stronger sense of trust in us as parents.  I think this is because they understand that they are being lead, and their response is to follow. They look to our family meeting time as a time to get direction and guidance about the rest of their day, and that seems to help their confidence.
  3. Our kids look for opportunities to tell other kids about truth.  We overhear our kids talking to other kids all the time, telling them about a story they read in their bible or about how their parents told them something about God.  They seem eager to share this knowledge with their peers.  I think this is due to the fact that they simply have the story on their mind a lot more, since they started the day with it.
  4. Our kids have a much better understanding of what we, as their parents, are doing and why we are doing it.  The more we tell them about God’s story and explain the connection of that story to the story of our family, the more they express a desire to participate in what we are doing.  In other words, our family is becoming more united than ever before.

I think the reason that our first attempts at doing family meetings didn’t work is because we weren’t desperate for it.  We basically thought everything in our family was fine the way it was.  Our first attempts at family meeting felt contrived, as if we were going through the motions of it because it seemed like a good idea, but we didn’t really know why.  After we were confronted with a moment of crisis with our daughter, we then had a very clear understanding of why our family needed some kind of rhythm to regularly surround ourselves with truth.  The practice of doing a daily family meeting seemed like a good solution to this need.

Based on our experience, I would offer the following suggestions to anyone who is considering starting a family meeting of their own:

  1. Do it because you are convinced that your family needs it. Doing it just because it seems like a good christian thing to do won’t be a good enough motivation to get you out of bed a half hour earlier each morning.  If you aren’t desperate to see your family saturated with truth and worship, then figure out why that is.
  2. Make sure that your spouse is in full support and actively participates. Kids have a special 6th sense that allows them to tell when mom & dad are not united.  They use this sense to get jelly beans from dad after mom already said no.  They will know right away if one parent is disengaged, which will probably make them disengage.  I recommend that parents to take turns leading different segments of the meeting.
  3. Don’t lose momentum on this practice if your kids give resistance at first. The first few days we did family meeting, the kids complained about it and they seemed to resent the imposition on their time.  By the end of the first week, however, they would start to look worried if something happened that made it seem like we might skip family meeting.  Now they run in our room most mornings shouting for me and my wife to get out of bed so we can do family meeting.  They didn’t know they needed it or wanted it until after they did it for a while.
  4. There is no magic formula for the perfect family meeting. I offered our meeting outline above just to show what we do, but there are all kinds of creative ways this can be done.  For more fantastic ideas about  how to structure time with your family to teach truth, see a previous post about family training ideas.  Or, read about it from the family that we learned from.
  5. Find a time that fits for your family. We do our meetings first thing in the morning.  Other families do it at the diner table.  Others at bed time.  If you can’t find a time that fits your current schedule, then get creative about how you can make some changes to your schedule.

I cannot make any bold promises or claims that starting a family meeting will solve all of your family’s problems.  It won’t.  However, I offer our family’s experience in starting the practice of a family meeting as a case study.  We have found family meeting to be a very useful tool in the discipleship of our family.  We saw very positive results in our family almost immediately. I wholeheartedly recommend this practice to any and every family.