We have Family dinners together every week.
We enjoy ourselves but feel we can spend our time more meaningfully than just eating and gossiping. Our grandchildren are teens.
Do you have any suggestions?
Dear Concerned Grandparents,
Like you, we used to do the same thing – eat together, talk, joke, then come back the next week and repeat the routine. This is not a bad thing because we make it a point to meet up regularly and bonding does take place. This is important for intergenerational connection and communication. Like you, we felt it was imperative to put in something more valuable and edifying.
First, we increased the attractiveness of our get-togethers. I remember in our early married days we always looked forward to going to my parents’ home because my mother always prepared our favourite dishes with delicious desserts, fruit, tidbits, appetizers, etc. So we decided to think of providing attractive food for our grandchildren to make them eager to get together with us – favourites such as fish and chips, pizzas, burgers, ice cream and apple pie. We prayed we would have the “tolerance of a foreign missionary” to tolerate eating their kind of food once a week for their sake!
Our son-in-law suggested having a short Bible study after dinner. He specifically stated it must not be a sermon but a discussion. Once, my husband, Tek, made a PowerPoint of Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son and flashed it on the wall. Inspired by Henri Nouwen, he initiated the appreciation of the Dutch master’s genius of using light and shadow to draw attention to the scenario depicted. This led to a discussion of the human drama revealed – the emotional dynamics of the various persons in the painting.
As everyone was discussing the painting, one grandson drew our attention to a figure with folded arms standing just a little outside the family circle. He exclaimed excitedly, “He is the elder son! Look at his sulky demeanour.” This led to our focusing on God’s grace: grace when shown to ourselves is wonderful but when others see grace shown, it may stir up jealousy! There followed a lively discussion of how Father God re-conferred His love and authority of sonship back to the son who absolutely deserved none of it – this is truly amazing grace. We all felt enlightened that we had learnt something remarkable about our Heavenly Father.
Unexpectedly, it was in conversation some time later that another grandson shared how at one time during his adolescence, he hated going to church. Although in obedience to his parents he continued to attend, he found it boring and meaningless. Then one day after dinner while Tek was leading a study on the Prodigal Son (one of his favourite parables), this teenager suddenly felt convicted that he had been rebelling against God. Quietly, he repented and committed to return to the God of his parents. He had not shared this with anyone, so we were all hearing it for the first time. How thankful we were that the Bible studies had borne fruit.
Initially, some families may not fare well with Bible studies, so try to prepare something not overtly religious. Choose topics that are interesting, informative, edifying while passing on your Christian values, your worldview, your morals, etc. Select something that everybody will find easy and stimulating to participate in.
The idea of making every gathering intentionally edifying needs planning and prayer. It may not be easy at the beginning – don’t expect them to jump at the suggestion, but don’t lose heart. Once they taste meaningful discussions they will likely be willing participants. And hopefully this may lead to an edifying family bonding tradition.
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