(By Thor Knutstad)
Our family recently had the opportunity to spend a week together at Spofford Lake (Camp Spofford) in beautiful southern New Hampshire. During our monthly "family meeting" in June prior to the trip (yes, we actually do this after a good meal together, usually on a Thursday evening for about an hour once per month), I lovingly warned our sons (Jordan- 20, Bryn- 13, Jadon- 12 and Elijah- 7) that the gift and the investment of vacation would be discussed and evaluated at the next family meeting. I explained the costs, what was expected as we journeyed north toward NH and told them that we would talk about it in late July after our week away together. Needless to say, besides a few battles among one another (siblings) over who would shower first after canoeing or swimming in the lake, space in the bunk beds, and electronics with limited usage, it was a memorable and enjoyable trip. There were loud moments, ornery moments of teen boys and lots of laughter filled with pictures, memories and good meals together. But even after a week of travel distance and the dynamics of our energetic boys, my wife Lisa and I truly needed a vacation from our vacation. The stress of managing the excursion took its toll on us, and we needed some real rest. This rest is actually happening as I write - and we are both working this week :)
In our follow-up family meeting with all six of us together, I addressed the following aspects from the previous month:
- Scripture memory and Bible reading- though the culture distracts our kids from God's Word in a thousand ways, we want to teach this and model it as a priority - we as the parents even have our own verse to study and memorize
- Chores- to help manage household tasks and take the pressure off of one another, as parents we are teaching our kids to assist and work together for the benefit of the household with time sensitive expectations
- Relational Dynamics- this is self-explanatory, but it relates to how everyone is getting along and
- Vacation Behaviors and Observations from the trip- this took some gutsy honesty on my part, laced with encouragement of the positive that I observed.
Near the end of the family meeting, I asked our children two pointed questions of risk as I affirmed our love for them and for one another:
- Are your needs being met?
- Can Mom (Lisa) and I do anything better as your parents?
Before you try to precisely replicate what you are doing or want to do as a family, ask the Lord to help you think of creative ways to bring unity, wise communication and disciplined reminders to your children and one another. It's not that these meetings are perfect for us - they have rough edges all the way around. And so do our kids. The goal is to sandpaper smooth some of the rough edges of our children's hearts, carving away the desires of their own hearts’ idolatries. Overall, this is God's artwork in their lives. He is ultimately creating each as a workmanship (literally "masterpiece"). Our hearts want to MODEL and TEACH selfless Christ-likeness, merciful grace of the Gospel in less than perfect moments (there are many of these) and to overarch every moment somehow with the undying and sacrificial love of our Father God. I would challenge you to have these "tune-ups" of whittling to that God's carving work happens through you the parents in your family - your children may just respond to you and the God Moments may just surprise you.