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As explained in a previous article, the church is supposed to be a family of families.  And as many different sources explain, strong families are the backbone of strong communities and strong economies (even outside the church).

Moreover, we have this amazing verse in Ephesians 6:4 – “Raise your children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  So even if we didn’t have strong empirical evidence to build strong families (which we do), we still have this command from God.

But the question, then, is, “Well, how do I raise my children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord?”

In this article, I want to give you one example of a powerful venture to do just that.  It has done wonders for my family.

It is the family meeting.

It’s simple, I know.  But simple doesn’t always mean easy.  And it definitely doesn’t mean that everyone does it.  So this article is meant to give some pointers on successfully running a regular family meeting.  And I’ll give you an example of my own experience at the end.

FYI, I first got the idea for the structure of our meetings from these two articles.  However, we’ve made it our own (primarily by making it Christian-based), and what you see in this article is my personal advice and experience.

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A Few General Tips for a Family Meeting

Family Meetings Must Be Practical

If you’re a Christian like I am, you know how easy it would be to fall into the trap of just teaching doctrine (which you definitely should do), and accidentally ignoring how important it all is to daily life.  But you can’t be purely theoretical.  Our faith isn’t theoretical.  It is practical.

family-beachLook at Titus 2.  Paul said that Titus was supposed to teach “sound doctrine”.  But then does he spend time explaining dispensationalism?  Or why you should be for or against transsubstantiationism?  No.  He spends the next few paragraphs, which can only be defined as Paul’s definition of “sound doctrine”, telling how older men, younger men, older women, younger women, and so on should act in relationship to one another.

That is sound doctrine – living out your faith, not just knowing a lot about it.

So yes, teach important doctrines of our historic faith.  But emphasize ways that it can become real for your family.  Daily habits.  Dealing with difficult situations.  Goals and strategies.  How to relate to one another.  Important life skills.

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Children Should Participate in the Family Meeting, too

The hardest thing is getting little children to sit still long enough to have a decent discussion.  What this means is that children under 3 or 4 years old probably can’t participate.

But any older than that, and you can still build a meaningful dialogue which clarifies things for you and your spouse, but which also helps give your children direction in the household.

Use examples of real-life events or habits which the little ones can understand.  It builds a foundation for them, as they interact in increasingly more mature ways.

The Family Meeting Length Should Depend on Your Family’s Age and Maturity

When I started, my children were aged 6, 3, and 1.  For those ages (the 1 year old did not participate), we never had a meeting longer than 30 minutes.  Often, it was more like 20.

They are now aged 8, 5, 3, and 10 months.  Our daughter who is 3 currently is not quite mature enough yet, so she still does not participate.  But our meetings are more like an hour long now.

For teens, you can probably do 2 hours… If everyone is up for it.  If you have a large age span in your home, like little children as well as teens, don’t be afraid to dismiss the little ones early.

Just be willing to be flexible.  It’s a formal meeting, but it is still a family living in the real world.

“Regular” Meetings Can Mean Whatever You Need it to Mean

family-meeting-roomWe have our meetings once a week.  Occasionally, we’ll have to miss a week due to prior engagements, and it’s no big deal.

If your meetings need to be more or less often, don’t feel bad about that either.  The important thing is that your children learn that these directional meetings are a priority.

It’s Very Hard to Start this Habit.  But It’s also Very Worth it

Believe me, if you’ve never experienced regular family meetings, you will struggle to persist.  It’s very easy to say, “Man, I’ve had a long day,” or “Well, there isn’t much to talk about.”

But resist that temptation.  Every time you spend this kind of intentional time with your family, you invest in building a strong household.  Strong love for one another.  Strong problem solving skills.  Reinforcing your family values.  Giving direction and accomplishing more as a family.  Passing on vital life skills.

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Family Meeting Structure

Start Your First Meeting by Creating a Family Mission Statement

family-photo-collectionA mission statement document succinctly explains the main priorities of your family – why you do what you do (purpose), how you do it (culture), and what exactly you do (action).

This helps you all focus and helps you to accomplish more by saying “yes” to the best things together, and “no” to the things which are good, but not most important.

It passes on a sense of purpose and identity.  It provides unity as a family with the shared vision.  It communicates value to your children as they participate with you instead of just distracting you from your goals.

Create the document together.  Take input from everyone (even the little kids).  Listen to them, even if you know their idea is not where your family needs to go.  And write it all down as you brainstorm.

Then take time to put it altogether into a succinct, cohesive document that can be used as a reference to everyone at any time.  We keep ours on our refrigerator.

If it takes you more than one meeting to complete the piece, then so be it.  I think it took us 3 meetings.

Be willing to update it as needed, too.  Let it be a living document.

Take a look at my family’s document, which is located at the end of this article, for an example.

Spend the Subsequent Meetings Discussing One Point on Your Mission Statement

This one is pretty self-explanatory – take a bullet point, and discuss ways to apply it in real life.  And how you can do better as a family to accomplish it.

But I’ll use 2 examples from my document to help demonstrate some difficulties you might have.

First, we wrote about “using our home as a base for ministry”.  This one was primarily aspirational for us.  We were not yet inviting people into our home, taking care of our neighbors or holding church/community meetings at our home (that was how we defined it – all with the purpose of honoring Christ and sharing the gospel).

We knew we should be doing this, but there was nothing to draw on in our lives to assess ourselves or give good examples to our young children.

But what we found was that as we explained what we should be doing to them, it changed how we actually lived our lives.  We actually started using our home as a base for ministry!  It then made explaining it that much easier in the future.

The second example is one bullet point which did not include specific people in the family.  We wrote, “Nate is loving and understanding toward Meg.”  The kids are simply not a part of this point.  It’s between husband and wife, but it is still in the family.

How do you lead a family discussion whose subject excludes most of the people in the room?

Our answer was that we used the opportunity to teach the children how husbands and wives are supposed to act toward one another, so that they can learn how to do it for themselves one day.  We talk about things which they have seen us do so that they can turn the ideas into concrete actions in their heads.

And When You Run Out of Bullet Points…

family-getting-to-workAnd when you run out of bullet points, enough time may have passed that you might want to spend a meeting by reanalyzing the whole document.  Add things which are missing or take things out which don’t really represent your family’s mission.

When you’ve done that, you have a few options.

Go over it all again – God knows there are going to be new situations which call for new applications, and you will never run out of things to talk about.

Or maybe you’ll want to study a book of the Bible, and discuss how the lessons in the book relate to your family’s direction.

Or maybe you’ll want to spend time focusing on a particular skill – handling money, people skills, good citizenship, and so on.

A Living Example:  My Family’s Mission Statement

What you see below is an exact copy of my family’s mission statement document.  As I said earlier, each meeting centers around one of the bullet points, and we discuss what it means, how we are currently apply it daily, and how we can apply better in the future.

As you read this, don’t try to make an exact replica of mine with your family.  This is simply an example to get your leadership juices flowing.  Make your own based on the culture of your own household that you create.

Mission Statement of the Morsches Family

To Serve God in our relationships with each other and with the church and with those in our community.

We do this by:

  1. Praying to and worshiping God.
  2. Developing loving relationships.
  3. Doing our work diligently.
  4. Being generous and taking care of people in need.
  5. Using our home as a base for ministry.
  6. Reading and obeying the Bible.
  7. Obeying those in authority.
  8. Being wise stewards with our possessions and finances.

Cultural Statements

  1. Our relationship with Christ permeates every area of our lives.
  2. We accomplish great things, even at great cost.
  3. We prioritize lifelong learning.
  4. We maintain disciplined lifestyles.

Structure of Our Family

From Ephesians 5:22-6:9, Colossians 3:18-25, 1 Peter 3:1-7, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9

  1. Christ is the head of the household.
  2. Meg submits to Nate and is respectful.
  3. Nate is loving and understanding toward Meg.
  4. Nate leads as the parents train the children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord without exasperating them.
  5. Children obey Nate and Meg.
  6. We all obey our employers and work hard.
  7. As supervisors or employers of others, we treat people kindly and fairly.

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