Family Fridays: Creating Traditions for the Pastor’s Family
by John M. De Marco
At times life as a pastoral family seems packaged in a large resealable freezer bag — overrun with leftovers.
Church life, particularly during seasons such as Christmas and Easter, teems with obligations that often keep the pastor within the church far more than in the parsonage. Even when the rest of the family throws itself into the congregational whirlwind, there comes a gradual aching for quality time together away from the crucible of spiritual celebration and multifamily confluence.
Some believe the unwritten rule that pastors’ families simply must settle for less quality time than other families. Unhealthy marriages and parent-child relationships result, and ultimately, unfulfilling ministries is the natural byproduct.
Pastors’ families must intentionally carve out time for activities that help them grow together, enjoy each other, rest and be carefree. In particular, traditions can help families build fond memories and construct a foundation of strength and purpose that both the parents and the children can tap into through the years.
The church itself seems to have a fairly strong grasp on traditions. As the body of Christ we passionately cling to sacraments such as the Lord’s Supper and baptism. We rest upon cornerstones such as the Apostles’ Creed and Easter and Christmas cantatas — rituals that remind us of who we are as the church.
A family can learn from the church by building activities to help foster a keen sense of identity and vital fellowship. Though the typical tradition-forming of holidays doesn’t afford much time to pastors’ families, monthly traditions can be celebrated other times during the year. They do not have to be complicated, expensive or planning- intensive. The secret is intentionality, vision and a family who longs for bonding in their home.
Dining and dialogue. Perhaps on the first Friday of each month share a special meal. Eating together builds understanding and good favor. It is one of the highest peaks of hospitality. Families too often see eating on the same level as teeth-brushing. Eating together is relational. The time invested in sitting down at the same table will nourish hearts long after food has nourished bodies.
Make the meal fun. Allow each family member a turn to decide what the courses will be. Then spoil the chooser during his or her turn. The rest of the family should do the food shopping, preparing or cleanup.
Reel interaction. For the second Friday night of the month, watch a movie together, preferably at home. Again, choose a family member each month to select the movie (with parents’ discretion) and the snacks. But make it more than just two hours sitting in front of the television. Converge entertainment and critical thinking by assigning another family member to conduct questions and discussion. Any film that is decent will evoke thoughts about some of life’s issues.
Fun competition. For Friday No. 3, play games. Again, each member gets a turn to choose the game. Too often families drop such play when children move toward the teen years, but such play teaches sportsmanship, strategy, critical thinking, and so forth. These intangibles will pay important dividends across the spectrum of life’s challenges. Plus, games are fun, and the memories will stir children to pass it on to their own offspring someday.
Hosting outreach. Finally, an outreach night could be a great way for families to spend the fourth or fifth Friday together. Still enjoying the sanctuary of their own home, the family can invite others over for an evening activity. The person(s) may be facing a hard situation, may not know the Lord or be new to town. The purpose of the evening is to provide hospitality, service, love and encouragement to those who might need it. It is also for the family to learn compassion and giving.
The people you invite over do not have to be church members. They could be those you encounter as you build relationships beyond the church walls. Be careful not to turn the evening into another night of church ministry, but view it as a way for your pastor’s family to participate in the call to disciples as a Christian family.
Pastors’ families can enjoy hundreds of different traditions. The answer is finding the traditions that build good relationships, strength and love in your home. Intentionality is the secret, because families do not build their identities and memories by accident.