Why Mealtime Really Matters

Family meals have been the topic of much discussion of late. There are endless commercials about the importance of eating together. Counselors and psychologists are telling us not to neglect having a family mealtime; it is important for our children to have that time together. The success of Starbucks and neighborhood coffee shops is partly due to the atmosphere of sitting and chatting with family and friends. We all crave and enjoy a little down time around a table with food, friends and family.

As a young newlywed, our family table was an ironing board. Our apartment was too small for even a card table! So, we improvised by putting the ironing board in front of the sofa, adjusting the height to table height, and using placemats to cover the ironing pad when we set our “table.” On special occasions, I would use a small linen tablecloth, place lit candles on either end, and get out my best china. I’m quite sure this kind of table setting is not in any etiquette book, but it worked great for us.

For three years, that is where we enjoyed our meals alone as a couple and with our family and friends. It was at that “table” that we prayed with our friends as one-by-one we graduated from seminary and left to serve in our called areas. It was at that “table” that we celebrated anniversaries and cried with friends after losing a child. It was at that “table” that we fed co-workers who did not know Jesus on a personal level. It was at that “table” that we talked through big decisions.

The kind of table we had did not matter, it was what happened around the “table” that was important.

Each of us prepare (or order take out) meals everyday for our families, so why not invite a few more families to join us? Invite a few neighbors over. Model for our children what “as you go” ministry looks like. Start the grill, put some hamburgers and hot dogs on, cut a watermelon, and make some lemonade. Ask everyone to bring their favorite side dish with copies of the recipe to share with the other guests.

Plan a few games for adults and children: horseshoes, beanbag toss, badminton, volleyball, water balloons for the kids (well, maybe the adults, too) or croquet. Eat, play, and take some time for a little “table talk.” Pray before the meal. Share your God-story as the opportunity arises. It may be the first time your guests have been around a believer in a casual setting. Remember it is not the food or the table that is important, it is the talk that happens around the table that matters whether it be with family and friends or just family!

As a missionary in the Philippines, “table talk,” food, and friends was my favorite way to share Christ with my neighbors. Try explaining cornbread to someone who only knows cornmeal as a food for pigs! In the midst of laughter, sharing, and talking came opportunities to share Christ. Living in Baltimore, my roof top deck became the place to invite neighbors for a meal and share my God story. In Little Rock, my real kitchen table and my backyard have become the places to share food and God’s story in my life.

Just think about it. God has done some of His best work around a table.

  • It was around a table that Esther revealed the truth about an enemy and an entire people group was saved.
  • It was around a table that David fulfilled a promise to his friend, Jonathan, whose son, Mephibosheth, was crippled and orphaned but still ate at the king’s table everyday. What a beautiful picture of our sin-crippled selves one day eating at the table of the King of the universe!
  • David tells us about God preparing a “table” in the presence of our enemies and they will not be able to harm us (Ps 23)!
  • It was around a “table” that Jesus fed over 5,000 people and taught His disciples about His abundant provision.
  • It was around a “table” that Jesus performed His first miracle of turning water to wine, teaching that something that was once dirty was now made perfect enough to be served to the king.
  • It is around a table in an upper room that Jesus broke the bread and drank the wine with His disciples on the last night of His earthly life, preparing them for what was to come.
  • It is around a “table” that we remember and cherish the events that followed His last meal and the salvation He alone can bring.

Family mealtime is important! It might be just the place that we welcome a new family member into the family of believers. Invite the neighbors over and enjoy a very special family mealtime and watch God do some of His best work around your family table!