For those with young children, I imagine you want to see your children grow and flourish in all that God has for them. For those who have some type of leadership role where you work or worship, I’m sure you want to see your company or church thrive.
So how do you get there?
I’m all for the fundamentals of education, leadership training, strategic planning, and the like. We need discipline, character, mentoring and coaching. Tutoring, extracurricular activities, and career planning are all helpful practices.
But what about eating?
Sociologist Cody C. Delistraty researched recent scientific literature on childrearing and discovered that the single most crucial element in raising kids to be drug-free, healthy, intelligent, respectful and kind is frequent family dinners.
His research demonstrates that “the most important predictor of success for elementary-aged children is frequent family dinners. The primary factor in shaping vocabulary for younger children is frequent family dinners. The key variable most associated with a lower incidence of depressive and suicidal thoughts among eleven- to eighteen-year-olds is frequent family dinners” (Smith, The Hospitable Leader, 52-53).
Sharing meals at a table is a gift of grace. It creates an environment for listening, laughing, and learning, which are all acts of grace. Anytime we gather around a table to share with one another, an environment of home is created. We participate in a sacrament of breaking bread (Acts 2:42).
A sacrament is where the physical embodies the spiritual. Unseeing eyes only look upon bread and wine to nourish the body. Eyes that see (Mark 8:18) look upon food as a way also to nourish the soul. As we share in the sacrament of the table, we share in the gift of fellowship. Children learn from parents, and parents listen to children. We serve one another. We participate in the joy of conversation.
What happens around the family table can happen around any table where friends, co-workers and fellow travelers gather. Better workplaces and churches begin at the same place as better homes—around the table.
If the most important predictor of success for elementary-aged children is frequent family dinners, maybe businesses and churches should instill a higher value for joining around the table, and not just to watch a PowerPoint presentation or even just to share in communion.
As N. T. Wright once wrote, “When Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal” (Jones, Dwell, 180).
Not bad advice for us all. The next time you want to pass something along to a family member, co-worker or friend, why not do it over a meal?