I am persuaded that although shared family meals are important , it is equally important to share spiritual meals together. I think there is a strong analogy here and that perhaps by comparing the two we can find our courage to try for the first time, try again or keep trying to have Family Bible Studies.
When preparing a meal for our families, whether large or small, what we serve and how we serve are both determined by who we serve. We want the food to be appetizing, nutritional, enjoyable, satisfying and affordable.
In order to meet this tall order we must take into consideration those who are to be fed. Solid foods? Food allergies? Individual preferences? Vegetarian? Health issues? Braces on teeth? Special dietary needs?
We also have to consider the when and how of the meal to be served. Quick breakfast as they run out the door? Celebration? Holiday? Picnic? Candlelit dinner? Ballpark? Hurry up they think they are starving? Lord forgive me but tonight it is a drive-thru?
Preparing a spiritual meal can involve as just as many varied factors. Sometimes it is quite challenging. It is however, doable. It’s a good thing that it is doable because it is so very necessary to proper spiritual health and growth. As we raise our children we are often measuring their height, weighing them, referring to charts and scales that tell us what the norm is. Monitoring spiritual growth is a bit less defined.
Of my seven children I have a pretty good grasp of their physical food needs and preferences. I know this because I know them. Some will eat a salad with gusto, others because they must. Some have to be encouraged to eat more, others cautioned not to overeat. Some have a big sweet tooth, while others … Well that’s pretty much across the board. Some tend to gulp their food down, others take it so slow it tries your patience. One refuses peanut butter – one refuses fish – one refuses mayonnaise – one refuses cheese – you get the picture. They are all different and what appeals to one does not appeal to all.
Even with all of their individual tastes and preferences, I manage to feed them. Sometimes I’m more successful than other times. Sometimes they leave the table more satisfied than other times. Sometimes I just have to serve myself a little grace and remind myself that I did the best I could with the time, resources, money and situation that I could. I can’t always please everyone all the time. As a matter of fact, about the time I think I’ve got it figured out, they change the rules. I’ve contemplated a conspiracy at times.
Just as each family makes meal choices according to their particular dynamics, such will be the case with family Bible study. There will be some trial and error involved. There will be times when you serve up a generic Hamburger Helper type devotion because it is easy. In the midst of busy-ness, easy can be a blessing. To that end, there are countless choices of available books, web pages and materials that can allow you to add a few fresh ingredients and turn out a family devotion that will serve the moment.
There will be other times that call for a crockpot type of meal. It may not be gourmet or elegant but, hey, it’s warm and filling. Those days may require a video enjoyed together as a family that focuses on a moral lesson and a corresponding scripture. There will be experiment days. Those days in my kitchen go like this. “What is that Mom?” “I haven’t named it yet.”. Perhaps that equals a family Bible study with creative measures. A Bible Trivia board game or a paint your favorite story from the Bible or we are going to try this while we are all in the pool together. Experiments sometimes fail and sometimes produce family favorites.
No matter who, when or where, as parents we try to meet certain basic standards when feeding our children. Whether they like it or not we encourage more water and less soda. No matter how they grimace we insist on including healthy vegetables. Regardless of their choices we strive to provide sources of protein, complex carbs and fresh fruit. Often we insist that they try something new and tell them they will never know unless they give it a shot.
The same goes for spiritual food. They may not always like what we are serving up. They make not appreciate our hard work and good intentions. They may appear to be refusing everything we offer with a scowl and a growl. But, we keep preparing, tweaking, adjusting, offering and encouraging them to partake of what is good for them.
Ten Tips that have worked for me –
1) Involve every member of the family. Take turns praying, reading and leading.
2) Encourage discussion by asking questions and rewarding participation.
3) Don’t hesitate to learn together, explore a word or a passage.
4) Include music whenever possible. It’s a great mood setter.
5) Insist on age appropriate polite behavior. Social skill honing.
6) Emphasize that this is a set apart time to focus on the Lord.
7) Object lessons are wildly successful for our family, all ages.
8) You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Access available resources.
9) Lighten up, smile, tell a corny joke, wear a funny hat, get their attention.
10) Allow littles small objects to keep their hands busy while listening.
There was a time when I was able to manage a short devotion with the whole family or at least with the kids almost every day. Times have changed in our family and now, I am thrilled if we can gather once a week. Usually for us, that happens either on a Saturday morning or a Sunday evening. Yesterday was a very successful example of when everything goes right. It is inspired me to blog about one of the most important and yet often overlooked aspects of parenting – The Family Bible Study. We were all together, we shared prayer requests and important news. We gave options and discussed possibilities. We ignored the dog who was insisting on going for a walk. We stopped the comings and goings of life and sat together and pondered Scripture and fed our spirits a feast of truth and challenged ourselves to make a difference in this world.
“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. (Deuteronomy 11:18, 19 NLT)