The Spiritual Practice of Family Dinner


A lot has been written about the benefits of eating dinner with our kids. But breaking bread with our parents and grandparents has benefits, too. It’s time to reclaim the tradition of intergenerational family dinner.

The tradition of family dinner

My mother grew up in a duplex that her parents shared with her grandparents. She enjoyed and benefited from the experience of having grandparents and a great aunt who lived right next door.

I never met my great-grandparents, but one of the stories I remember was that Great-Grandma Brehm always cooked Sunday dinner for the whole family. Up until the day she died, she cooked dinner and shared a meal with her family.

While big family dinners are a lost art for most people, my mother has continued the tradition of an intergenerational family dinner every Sunday.

Family dinner is a team effort

I’m the oldest of five siblings. So, as we’ve grown up, we’ve experienced exponential growth at the Sunday dinner. When siblings and spouses and kids all get together, there are 22 of us — and there’s another one on the way.

Cooking dinner for that many people every week would be overwhelming for some. But my parents seem to enjoy it. We all pitch in to help cook, set the table, and clean up. It’s a team effort.

Preparing family dinner each Sunday is also time to reconnect, tell stories, and just relax. The cousins run around and play. It’s loud and busy. It’s just fun.

Family dinner is good for people of all ages

We know that eating with our kids is good for their health, their grades, and their connection to parents. But eating with our parents and grandparents is good, too.

Sadly, a recent senior care industry survey showed that 75% of people only eat with their senior parents at holidays. Not only is that isolating for senior citizens, but it prevents their grandchildren from hearing the thoughts and recollections of a different generation.

We all have a heritage and family narrative that extends beyond our nuclear family. It’s healthy for us to understand who we are in the intergenerational context of family. Eating a healthy meal may have less to do with our food choices and more to do with whom we choose to eat.

So, why don’t family dinners happen more often?

Making time for family dinner requires better stewardship of our time. Is it really necessary to pack the weekend so full of activities that there’s no time to relax with loved ones?

It’s time to get off the soccer field on Sundays and observe some Sabbath rest. It’s good for your soul, good for your body and good for your family.

How to revive the spiritual practice of family dinner

Family dinner reminds us of God’s goodness. It’s a time of feasting on food and strengthening relationships. When it’s done well, it can be a spiritual practice:

  • It’s a time to offer hospitality, welcoming all that can come.
  • It’s a time to offer thankfulness for God’s provision.
  • It’s a time to offer grace and forgiveness. (Not all family conversations are smooth sailing.)
  • It’s a time to hear stories about God’s faithfulness across generations.

I’m grateful to my parents for continuing the tradition of family dinner. It has enriched my life, my children’s lives and my parent’s lives, too.


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