When our children were still living at home, the table served as the centerpiece for family life. We gathered there every evening, unless I was traveling, to not only eat, but to also experience life together. We read and discussed God’s Word, prayed, we talked, we told jokes. I used the table as the place where I would check in on whether the kids were keeping up their responsibilities and chores, or getting their homework done well and turned in on time.
Discussions revolved around the lesson taught in Sunday school that week, or read in that day’s devotional, activities with peers, what they were learning in school, and whatever else was on their hearts—or ours—at the moment. Many times I would choose the devotional to be read and discussed ahead of time but then assign one of the children to lead the discussion. This gave my kids practice in teaching God’s Word and facilitating spiritual dialogue. Other times, I’d have the kids pray for each other not only as an expression of caring for each other but also to hone the virtue of thinking of others, not just themselves, when they prayed.
Table time didn’t consist simply of a lecture from the Bible on my part. Instead, the kids shared flannelgraph stories, performed skits, recited verses, or sang songs as we sat together after we were finished eating. There was never any rush to leave the table. It became our hub, and it remains so even to this day when the kids or grandkids stop by.
Above all else, I wanted our table time to be an enjoyable and fun experience for everyone. I saw my children respond best in that type of atmosphere when the more serious discussions would inevitably arise. I wanted to make them comfortable yet accountable, entertained yet interested. Sometimes I’d say, “Okay, everyone, let’s go around the table and each person tell their very best joke, or do an impersonation.” We also used the table as a place to teach etiquette: how a gentleman treats a lady at the table, how she is to respond, and the proper manners we should all have.
Table time in our home didn’t include just us either. We were always intentional about hosting visiting missionaries or various ministry workers, not only to practice the gift of hospitality but also to strategically use the table as a way to reinforce our value system with our children. As our children heard stories about God’s work from those in ministry or missions, they gained a greater appreciation for service. They also learned to cultivate their own gifts of hospitality, as we required them to pitch in with meal preparation, table setting, conversation, and cleaning up.
My philosophy on table talk grew out of my desire to create a centrally located place of discipleship in our home and take advantage of something we were already doing together naturally. But the theology behind table talk reaches much further back than that. The table often served as the meeting place for families in Jewish culture in biblical times. In fact, King David incorporated the table in my all-time favorite chapter of the Bible—the chapter that speaks about the kingdom family, Psalm 128:
How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.
When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, you will be happy and it
will be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your
house, your children like olive plants around your table. Behold, for thus
shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you from
Zion, and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your
life. Indeed, may you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel!
In the third verse we read that the kingdom family will have “children like olive plants around” their table. We are to use the table as a major place for kingdom parenting, and in so doing, our children will receive the nurturing necessary for their growth. The olive plant takes on average fifteen years to become a tree, but it has to be nurtured properly during that time in order for it to grow into a strong tree. Kingdom parent, the table is not only the best place for physical nourishing of your children, but also for spiritual, relational, and moral nurturing to take place.
Now, I understand that circumstances don’t allow for every family to gather around the table every night, but it’s my hope that, as much as possible, we as a body of believers raising kingdom kids will make an intentional return to the table. Let’s recognize it for the strategic place it plays in the life, health, and development of our homes. Your time at the table establishes rapport, openness, and familiarity within the family. These things contribute to your children’s healthy maturing and provide the location for all other virtues and values to germinate. As you intentionally guide discussions, questions, and devotions, you can focus on areas needing the greatest improvement while offering encouragement and praise for those areas that have already been cultivated well.
But don’t let the table become a formal time to check off your list. Instead, allow it to organically produce conversation guided along the lines of responsibility and growth. This creates an atmosphere for sharing and fun to occur, as well as an openness to learning.
Raising Kingdom Kids by Tony Evans
From the bestselling author of Kingdom Man and Kingdom Woman, Raising Kingdom Kids equips parents to raise their children with a Kingdom perspective and also offers practical how-to advice on providing spiritual training as instructed in Scripture.
Dr. Tony Evans begins with an overarching look at the need for Kingdom parenting, our roles and responsibilities in raising God-following children, and how to prepare children to take on the assignments God has for their lives. He then takes a practical turn, with examples and illustrations to help parents understand and provide specific training for kids in the power of prayer, wisdom, loving God’s Word, getting through trials, controlling their tongues, developing patience, the surrender of service, and much more.
This book is for every dad or mom who wants to fulfill the parenting role God has given them—not just in raising healthy kids intellectually, physically, and socially, but in contributing to their child’s relationship with God and alignment under His plan.