Whatever happened to the family meal? According to the Food Marketing Institute, only 40 percent of families eat together, and when they do, only two to three times per week. This rings true in our experience with people over the years.
Ron and I once met a busy family that told us they did not have time for a regular family meal, so they did what they called “grazing,” which for them meant grabbing something to eat in the kitchen while on the run. If there was any family interaction around a meal, it was an accident and it usually happened standing up. There was always plenty of food in the refrigerator. But there was no time for sitting down and having a real conversation around a prepared meal.
Ron and I both grew up in homes where the family meal was important and valued. We carried that custom forward in our family. I cook. Ron cleans up. That works best for us. He also serves as the grill master. The dinner table was and is the place we connect as a family, laugh, listen, and tell each other about our day. On special occasions, we even pull out the red plate that says, “You are special today!” We always made it a big deal to have someone’s meal served on the red plate at the Jones family dinner table. That may sound like a throwback to the “Leave It to Beaver” days, but for us it has always been an important part of family life.
Years ago, we also learned about something called the “convivium” from our friends Randy and Rozanne Frazee. Convivium is the Latin word for “feast” where the table is the centerpiece of family life and community. At times, our family meals included friends and neighbors through our participation in a life group, a smaller extension of our church family. In his book Making Room for Life, Randy writes, “The table is the centerpiece and heart of community. This is an ancient belief, a tradition that stood the test of time. The ‘making room for life’ vision is to come to the table, to share a meal and conversation with a circle of family and friends each evening. It is no mistake that Jesus chose the meal as the place where the community remembers his saving work on the cross.”
Even if the family meal has not been part of your regular family rhythm, you can start today. Plan a meal in your home for the express purpose of feeding your body and soul through good food and meaningful conversation with family and friends. You might be surprised when your kids say, “Can we do this again tomorrow night?”
This blog is an excert from an eBook by Dr. Ron and Cathryn Jones called It's Apparent: Plain Talk About Raisng Kids Who Love God.