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Inviting God to Dinner: Tips for Families

Karen Ware Jackson

Rev. Karen Ware Jackson is senior co-pastor, First Presbyterian Church Greenville, North Carolina, and co-editor of When Kids Ask Hard Questions: Faith Filled Responses for Tough Topics, Chalice Press (2019).

Connecting your family meals more intentionally to your faith can be as simple as lighting a candle or as involved as a mini-Bible study. Check out these tips for making sure God stays at your table beyond the Amen.

Communion, acrylic and ink on wood, Jennifer Bunge

  1. Light a Candle. Consider using the same candle at every meal so that it develops significance. The candle will burn down in proportion to your time at the table together, which can be a powerful physical reminder of the value of your family mealtime. Take turns lighting the candle so that everyone has a turn. You might use a phrase like “Christ, be our guest,” or “Holy Spirit, we welcome you to our table,” or “God, be with us.”
  2. Set a place for God. An empty place setting can be a visual cue that God joins you at the table. Your empty place might be there for Jesus or any stranger or friend whom God calls you to invite, calling you to extend hospitality as an act of Christian discipleship.
  3. Invest in a set of cards to enrich your conversation. Consider some of these options or create your own!
    1. Word Teasers: Faith Edition. Words and questions that are fun for youth and adults.
    2. The Muddy Fork Pray and Play Cards. Simple prayers, questions, and Scriptures that work for younger children, but are appropriate for all ages.
    3. Create your own cards as a family activity. Talk about what questions you have about God. Then, after the meal, have each person try to write three questions, each on a separate note card. You can pick one card at each meal, adding questions as you go.
  4. Play the Family Faith Fun!
    1. Objectives: Have fun. Share faith. Bonus: this game can be played in interfaith groups.
    2. Materials: 2 dice, list of questions numbered 1–12. (Create your own or use below. Note: the questions below would need to be adapted for those with sensory impairments).
    3. Rules: Each person rolls the dice and answers the indicated question.
      1. Doubles—you get to pick your question unless you roll snake eyes (double ones); then the person to your right gets to pick your question.
      2. Say “Amen” anytime you recognize a prayer, like “I’m thankful for my mom.” (AMEN.) “The best thing I ate this week was dessert because ice cream is amazing!” (AMEN.) Optional: you get a point for every Amen you say / prayer you recognize.
      3. Winning: Everyone wins, but if you enjoy a bit of competition, count the Amens or decide with votes, or really anyway you’d like. The winner gets to say a prayer at the end of the meal and is in charge of dismissing from the table.
    4. Questions:
      1. What is one beautiful or holy thing you saw today?
      2. Who are you thankful for?
      3. What made you laugh this week?
      4. What made you feel sad today?
      5. Who do you know that deserves a high five?
      6. IMPOSSIBLE ROUND: Who would you like to invite to eat with us? (Someone who is dead, a fictional character, does not inhabit a physical body, etc.)
      7. What is the most beautiful sound you heard today?
      8. What is the best thing you smelled this week?
      9. What is the most delicious meal you ate this week?
      10. What meal or food would you like to try soon?
      11. Who do you know who might need a hug or a kind word?
      12. POSSIBLE ROUND: Who would you like to invite to eat with us? (Friend, neighbor, family member, someone you’d like to get to know better, someone who might need food, etc.)
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