In the first chapter of Intentional Parenting, parents are invited to consider doing a time/activity assessment to put a magnifying glass, to the ways you spend time as a family, and to dissect the amount of time you spend doing the activities you do as a family. The challenge was to see how this aligned (or didn’t align) with your mission or core values. This basic exercise can have some surprising results. I love hearing from families who’ve attempted this, and the strategic, creative ways they choose to adjust the rhythm of their family. One family I know chose to turn an annual spring break trip into a staycation and opportunities for service. They alternated days and would explore a different part of the city on one day and serve in some capacity on the following day. Their children were actively involved in developing the structure of that time.
Another family committed to take one Saturday of each sport season and sacrifice being at a game to volunteer as a family. This decision felt important in communicating to their kids that while they valued sports and the extracurricular experiences their children had been given, they would sacrifice that experience at different intervals to prioritize service. As their kids got older, the stakes go higher in missing games, yet maintaining this decision rooted this family in a decision that best maintained congruence with their family mission.
A family I worked with banned travel sports. They had two children and realized that they spent more weekends divided than together, more weekends in hotels of other cities than in their own home, and more time with other families than their own. While they parented some gifted athletes, and realized they were sacrificing some opportunity down the road by limiting involvement in this way, they chose to pursue only recreational leagues and school sports opportunities.
A simple decision we’ve made as a family is to periodically host what we call “home church.” While we believe strongly in corporate worship and remain grateful for our local church, my travel with speaking seasonally means I may be gone 2 out of 4 weekends in a month. Because I work several evenings with my practice, I could go for multiple days during a week and miss the afternoon/evening ritual of being with my kids. I’d then board a plane on a Friday and spend the weekend speaking out of state on Friday and Saturday. Sunday becomes the only day to really see my family. Rather than heading out of the house on Sunday AM, we host “home church.” We break bread together over a big pancake breakfast in our pj’s. Breakfast is followed by my kids plotting a service together between the three of them, while my wife and I enjoy a second cup of coffee and catch up on conversations we’ve missed over the week and weekend.
We started this tradition when they were barely in school. My children have this opportunity to work together and plan something that allows our family to worship together. When they were young, they would line the living room with American Girl dolls, stuffed animals and action figures. Sometimes they would each be given a nickel or dime to place in the offering plate. Even the dog was given something to tithe.
My kids have come in costume and acted out a skit that connects to the “message.” They’ve performed solos, read from the Jesus Storybook Bible, and we experience God in the safety of our home. I wish I had recorded these “services” over the years. Hearing my own children read scripture aloud, my daughter reading something she learned from her journal, my sons playing guitar, or one of them praying for our family. I have so many rich memories of this slow, sweet time between the walls of our home. One Sunday we hiked together and pointed out evidence of where we saw God in nature.
These times have allowed us to balance family and activity, in addition to the opportunities for my kids to have to creatively work together, and a chance to build connection amongst the five of us (six counting the dog).
We live in a culture that elevates activity and opportunity above connection. We value fast above slow, more above less, performance above presence. There’s never been a time where it’s been harder to slow down, build connection, value time together, linger as a family, and create simple memories.
Have each member of your family write down their idea of a perfect Saturday and drop that slip of paper into a hat. Read them aloud together and decide what you’d like to do with the ideas.
(Excerpt from Intentional Parenting by Sissy Goff, David Thomas and Melissa Trevathan)