Families seem busier now than when I was a child. It's easy to understand, particularly with more two-career households, more activities for children and youth, and significant shifts in cultural values. When something has to give, family meals may fall by the wayside. And yet, family meals are not only a time for strengthening family ties and keeping track of your children's lives, they can actually lead to better physical and mental health for your children and for the entire family.
Studies in recent years have concluded that family meals are a central feature in better nutrition, mental health, academic achievement, vocabulary, parenting, and family life in general. Many of us can recall how we learned the story of our family and came to an understanding of our place in that family while sitting at the table with our families.
Have you noticed that as the trend away from family dining has increased, worship patterns on Sundays have also changed? I suspect the same factors that make it more difficult to gather the family around the dinner table also make it more difficult for Christians to gather around the Lord's Table. I invite you to consider that the health and well-being of the Church is impacted by regular worship in ways that are similar to ways our families are impacted by regular family meals. When God calls us together as to recall the family story and share in the family meal, we are nourished and formed as Christians. We remember who and whose we are.
Maybe the adage, "The Family That Prays Together Stays Together," is not so trite after all. I do understand that many people do not have good memories of family and home. Many have not found the church family all that wonderful either. However, there is universal hunger for a sense of belonging and identity that we might call "family feeling." Those who have found surrogate families will tell you how much it means. Those who have returned to their church families or found new ones will tell you how it has impacted their spiritual journey.
Now is a good time to pause and reflect on the busyness of our lives and consider what valuable times with our families and our church family have been crowded out. If we are too busy to gather around the table - at home or at church - maybe we are just too busy for our own good and the good of those whose lives are closely linked with ours. At home and at church, we need that time together!