Preserving the Family Meal Table

“There is no life experience that replaces the connection and significant created by eating together at the table. Whether young or old, when a person experiences trauma, temptation, or embarrassment, being invited to the table makes them feel valued and restores their sense of significance.” – Devi Titus, The Table Experience

“Come and get it!” was often the call resounding through our home at the dinner hour. I have many a precious memory from our family dinner table as a child to a young adult. It was often a challenge to gather all eight children plus mom and dad around the table. Family togetherness at dinner was a thing my mother preserved. It may have been only 3-4 nights each week, but they were special sacred times together, especially our weekly family night every Friday evening.

Sometimes it may have been buffet style, at other times it was a more formal pass the plate around the table, or a picnic out on the back deck or lawn, or simply take and bake pizza, but in every case the preservation of love and relationships were cherished. Many times it was simply served on paper plates, but that mattered little, as we were together. Food has such a powerful way of bringing us together. Turn off the distractions, the technology, and build your health as well. It is an opportunity to slow down and focus on what is most important – our relationships. It is one way to preserve and protect the family.

Preserving Laughter & Relationship

Conversation and fellowship over the meal provides wonderful opportunities for family bonding and planning. The ability to share our lives with one another face to face not only strengthens our own identity but also fosters security, love, and affection. Use the time to ask each other about their day, to laugh at our mistakes, and encourage one another. Plan family trips, church activities, ways to serve others, or any other upcoming events. Eating together can have such power in building a strong family unity that will make a difference in this day and age.

Preserving Thankfulness

Why not make the table a place to cultivate thanksgiving? Go around and ask each family member what they are thankful for, or something that they are thankful for that transpired that day. This is a simple way to share the events of the day and conclude it in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving, which not only encourages one another, but draws the attention back to acknowledging the Source of our lives.

Preserving Prayer

The dinner table is a powerful opportunity to come together and pray on behalf of others. Set up a world map next to your table with missionaries or other people on your heart as a reminder for prayer. Designate a night each week with a prayer theme. Perhaps pray for neighbors on Mondays, your nation on Tuesdays, etc.

Preserving Hospitality to Your Own

Preserving the dinner table is an opportunity to demonstrate hospitality to those dearest to us. Put a little thought into your table setting. Make it special with candles, cloth napkins, cloth place-mats, a simple bouquet of flowers, or something meaningful to your family. Serve a favorite meal. Or designate one night a week as a special celebratory family night. We love having homemade pizza every Friday night followed by some fun family outing, games, or movie night. Be creative. It need not be every meal, but making an extra effort on occasion can really bless your family. They need to know that we love and care for them just as we would others.

Preserving Working Together

Meal preparations were often a family affair at our home. Mom would have an assigned helper for the meal or my sisters and I would take an evening meal once a week to prepare on our own. More often then not, there were multiple of us in the kitchen cooking together. This not only helped build our nutrition and cooking skills but also assisted in building our relationships as we prepared meals side by side. With younger children in tow, it’s fun to include them in meal preparations as well. From simple dicing with a safe knife, to setting the table, it is easy to find a job for eager hands to complete. For more ideas and inspiration, read Cultivating Learning in Everyday Activities- in the Kitchen.

That being said, it doesn’t have to be dinner time for these goals to be accomplished. Strive for one other meal during the day to which you could sit down face to face with each other. Or if one member is not available, don’t throw in the towel altogether. You can still cultivate peace and relationship even if one or two are absent.

It’s beneficial for the body and soul.

“Every soul has its unique nuances. Each of us is uniquely formed in our mother’s wombs…However, there is one thing we all share – the need to connect. To dine with someone is to connect with that person. The table experience with your spouse, family, friends, and colleagues – and even your enemies – has the potential to begin bonding human hearts in a new way, a deep way that brings spiritual connection, a bonding that life’s circumstances should not break. During meals hurting hearts heal, sad hearts are made glad, depressed hearts get new vision, and divided hearts come to peace.” – Devi Titus, The Table Experience

Further Resources:

Dinner Table Conversation Starters
The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier & Happier
by Miriam Weinstein
The Table Experience: Discover What Develops Deeper, More Meaningful Relationships
by Devi Titus

How do you maintain a regular time of eating together as a family? Any hints you might share?

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

14 Responses to Preserving the Family Meal Table

  1. charity crawford June 22, 2011 at 5:26 am #

    I could see no other way to eat but to sit down with the ones I love and stop and pray together and share a meal i prepared from my home. It will be such a special moment in mine and my child’s memories.

  2. This Good Life June 19, 2011 at 12:45 am #

    I could really relate to this post. My husband and I make a point of eating together at the table. It’s so nice to cook a proper meal and then having the proper intention eating that meal (on weekdays). Of course, for us, Shabbat is our weekly ‘excuse’ to really go all-out on setting a beautiful table and enjoying a tasty dinner that was cooked with love (including homemade challah loaves!) It really adds something special to our week.

    Thanks for sharing these useful tips and thoughts.

    This Good Life

  3. Heidi M. June 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    I love this post. I’m pretty easy going, “rule-wise”, but eating dinner together is a big thing for me. Yes, we are all very busy. All the more reason you should gather at the table. It may be the only time during your busy day for you to talk and connect. That’s how it was for us. When my son was small, he hated to sit. So, I let him stand while he ate. But we ate together and talked and connected. I cherished that time. I still love to have dinner with him when I can. I’ll even go as far as to say, that’s my favorite way to spend time with friends as well – all around the table sharing stories, memories, and a good meal.

  4. A.C. June 17, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    I feel compelled to write a response to Elizabeth B.’s comment. Yes, it *is* hard to get everyone–mom, dad, and children–all together at once to sit down to dinner these days with hectic schedules. However, I think that just the concept of *sitting down with as many as are together at the given time* (even if it’s just mom and kids while dad is stuck in traffic) is the important thing. The thing that I think is key is to put everything else aside and sit down together as much as possible. It doesn’t even have to be dinner. It could be a weekend lunch, etc.

  5. Elizabeth B. June 17, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    In the traditional family home where the wife stays at home to cook, clean, and care for the kids and the husband works a 9-5 schedule, then the concept of the family sitting down when Dad walks through the front door works.

    However, in most homes where both parents work to make ends meet, the thought of the family gathered around the table at 5 o’clock each night with a fresh apple pie waiting is a things of the past.

    We try to do the sit-down dinner as often as we can, but it just doesn’t seem to work out much, if ever. One parent might be stuck in the commute, one parent might be at a meeting, the kids might be at practice, one parent may be working night shift, etc. It just never seems to work out where we at all at the meal table together.

    Reading this article actually makes me sad that my family’s finances don’t allow me to stay at home with my kids and provide the family meal every night. My husband’s career (yes, he has a bachelor’s degree) just isn’t enough to support and feed our kids. I mean, sure if I quit working, we would qualify for food stamps, WIC, and state medical, but I don’t want to live like that. I guess bottom line reading this makes me wish life things were different for our family. :-(

    • Ambritt June 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm #


      I just wanted to encourage you that there are things that you can do! You mentioned meetings, practice, etc. Are these things that you have sceduled in advance? Maybe you could look at your calendar at the beginning of each month and schedule in family dinners too! Mark those nights on the calendar and make them a priority for everyone in your family to be there. I think that being intentional is the key. In our family at least, we have lost of ideas and things we think we should do, but unti we are intentional about it, they usually don’t just happen. Adding a game night to that would be an extra bonus and something your kids could look forward to. Then use those nights with your family dinners to incorporate some of the things that Lindsay mentioned above to start creatng those special memories for your family! I don’t mean this to be judging, I just want to encourage you that it CAN be done. My parents both worked growing up, and we still had family dinners every night. We didn’t have dinner at 5:00; they were a little later, but we ate them together. I don’t know the ages of your children, but sometimes if I know my husband will be a little bit late, I’ll give my kids a snack at 5 to hold hem over until we can all eat together. Another great thing to utilize when you’re working is the crock pot! Then you can all come home to dinner ready to eat!

      We are on state medical and some of my very best friends are needing to utilize some of the resources that you mentioned above in this season of their lives in order to be home with their children. They would all tell you that they are blessed beyond measure. Again, I am NOT trying to be judging, I just wanted to say that just because people live with less, it doesn’t make their lives any less rich. Sometimes I feel like since I quit working to be home with our boys, we have a significant less amount of money, so we do simpler activities to make memories, but those have been some of the best!

      Your comment just pulled at my heart strings because I have such a passion for family oneness. I truly believe that is how God intended our families to be. Obviously I don’t know the specifics of your family, but for us, we have also cut certain activities out of our schedules if they got in the way of our family time. That is our number one priority and even though our child may miss out on a certain activity, he is at home with his mom and dad where his foundation for life is being built.

      I am taking a moment to pray for your family and that you will no longer have to wish that things were different for your family.

    • Amy June 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

      Elizabeth, I stay at home, but we only eat with my husband on weekends. The poor man has to eat leftovers because it’s just easier for me to bathe and feed the kids and do most of the dinner dishes so he has time to play with them before they go to bed. So it’s not necessarily an at-home vs. working thing. I would like to have all of us eat later and bathe the kids before dinner so they can eat with my husband, but his schedule is such that I never know when he is coming home. It would just frustrate me and him to have to have a set time because he comes home when he’s done with his work. When he gets home the kids and I eat some after-dinner fruit or a snack with him and talk while he has his meal. I hope that as they get older it’ll be better, but he does have to travel a lot. We just do what we can and not worry about rules. We cannot control things and sometimes have to be flexible, and just showing love to our loved ones is the most important thing. I’m glad my parents were able to have us kids all eat together, but there are other ways to spend time together. I love the idea of making one of the weekend meals super special. We have a Saturday pizza tradition where my husband makes us his famous pizza and we make it together (the kids eat more toppings than pizza but you get that). But I’d like to make the table look extra pretty for this now.

  6. Alyssa June 17, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    I agree! Growing up my family ate dinner together most nights, and it was always a bonding time whether we were laughing and joking or sharing about our day. Going home to visit, I always look forward to sharing meals together, and this will be a tradition my husband and I continue with our own family!

  7. Ann Dunagan June 17, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    Very well done Lindsay!!! I appreciate how you shared how your mom “preserved” this time, even with 8 kids, even if it was only 4-5 times a week, and even if it was sometimes with paper plates. I love your heart to encourage and inspire, and to focus on what really matters!!! THANKS!!!

  8. Natalie Schoellhorn June 17, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    sitting down at the supper table was so important to my parents as well, and it soon became important to all four of us children too. so many of my memories from growing up took place in the kitchen. we learned to cook, bake, and even dance around the island in my parents’ kitchen. sunday nights were always pizza and classic movie night at our house! :)

  9. Jen June 17, 2011 at 5:28 am #

    Dinner at our house is and always has been a together-at the table affair. It’s such a wonderful time to connect. I feel my most appreciated and needed as a wife, mother and woman when I am serving my family food. I take pride in always setting a nice table, even on simple frozen pizza nights. Our kids also really get into dinner prep. They love to find creative ways to set the table, fold the napkins, etc. It’s also such a great way to teach my girls, by example, that serving others is fun and provides a sense of accomplishment. We enjoy hearing about the kids’ days. I have an opportunity to stop a few minutes from the tasks of a busy household and really listen to my husband as he talks about his. Thank you for this post.

  10. Heidi @ The Full Vine June 17, 2011 at 2:56 am #

    The resounding call at our dinner hour was “Sqweet time!” – a smooshed-together version of “let’s go eat!”… Family meals were sacred, incomplete if even one person was missing. And we had Family Nights on Fridays too! I hope to continue that tradition once our children are old enough to understand. I had no idea what a strong glue these rituals were. Now I get it.

  11. Kelly Rackley June 17, 2011 at 2:20 am #

    There are lots of good articles about this subject at…click on “articles” and go to “family meal table.” Also, Nancy has a DVD about the Family Meal Table and hospitality:

    Now that we’re settled in Uganda I need to do a better job at the family meal table!! No more excuses! Thanks for the great article full of wonderful ideas!

    :) , Kelly