This series will drill down on the missional community practice called “The Family Meeting”. Although there isn’t a formula, here are some things to consider putting into practice:
- Sharing a Meal
- What Do You Talk About?
- An Evening of Prayer
- Celebrating Communion
How to Conduct the Missional Community Family Meeting
Rather than dive into practical, “how-to” answers, I usually spend most of my time on “why?” Against my normal tendencies, in these next posts I will try to be immensely practical and explicit about what we do in the different gatherings of missional community life. Before I go too far, though, we are immensely flexible with forms as long as they are pursuing the proper function. What one missional community does, another may do completely differently, yet hopefully they are pursuing the same purpose.
For the Family Meeting, the objective is to live out our identity as a spiritual family. The primary focus of this gathering is the meal – together as a community preparing, eating and cleaning up from a shared meal.
As we train missional communities, I’m often asked a bunch of practical questions…everything from “should we go potluck or have one person prepare the meal?” all the way to “do you have any recipes for large groups of people?” I have the spiritual gift of grilling, so that’s usually the route I go if I’m on point!
While there is not a single way to do this, here is what I would suggest.
Find the Right Time
First, find a time of the week where you won’t be under a time crunch. For most families, one of the best times to gather is on Sunday evenings. Mid-week is so often crammed with activities and events that it is really difficult to pull this off. Second, I’d highly recommend that you aim for an every other week rhythm on this in order to cut down on some of the stress of a larger gathering.
Planning the Meal
For the meal itself, I have found it works best in our community for one family or person to do the meal planning, but to involve others in the preparation. This cuts down on a lot of the planning and communication that is often necessary to do a potluck-style meal (and also limits the number of leftovers that get left behind!). If you rotate through who is taking point, then it shares the burden over time. Some meals that have worked well for us, and been relatively easy to prepare are homemade individual pizzas, oven-roasted chicken tacos, lasagna and other pasta dishes, grilling with a variety of salad options, and a bunch of others. I keep bugging my wife to share some of her tricks!
When Do You Start?
Our Family Meeting will usually “start” at least 30 minutes prior to meal time. This allows for people to pitch in for some preparation, as well as to have some conversation before the meal. Because we have small kids, we will often aim for a 5 pm start so we’ve got enough room on the backside to get the kids bathed and ready for bed. We’ve also found that it’s a good idea to either feed the kids before the adults, or to let the kids play outside while the adults are eating, in order to give us some uninterrupted time.
Generally, we will gather in the kitchen and the host dad will pray for our meal together and sometimes provide a topic of discussion for dinner. We eat for about 30 minutes, and often will have some kind of dessert following the main course to appease the kids and provide a little more opportunity for conversation. At the end of the evening, we generally invite people to help us clean up after the meal, then it’s time to head home. In general, from start to finish we usually take about 2 to 2.5 hours.
There’s nothing special about what we do, but then again we’re aiming at being a family together, rather than doing something special in this time. In the next post, I’ll walk through what we spend our time talking about during this kind of gathering.