By Michelle Thomas-Bush, MDiv ’94
It is at the dinner table where significant moments in my life are celebrated, revealed and sustained. Not through the food, but through the relationships and the conversations with those gathered to be family in this moment. Sitting down together at the dinner table builds a strong family. Dinnertime with family also builds a strong vocabulary.
According to this Washington Post article, researchers found for young children, dinnertime conversation boosts their vocabulary by 1,000 significant words. Compare that to reading books aloud which only builds their vocabulary by 143 words. We have known that everything we worry about as parents and youth leaders — from drugs to alcohol, promiscuity, to obesity and academic achievement — can all be improved by the simple act of eating together. Eating and talking. Regular mealtime regardless of the meal, or the type of family, is a more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spent at school, doing homework, playing sports or creating art. It turns out that sitting down for a nightly meal is great for the brain, the body and the spirit. We express our love for one another, confess offenses, deepen our sense of calling and often feel renewal through the breaking of bread.
Why not begin to build a faith vocabulary during those dinner conversations? There is a rich spirituality in eating together that easily sets the stage to have faith conversations. Combine intentional conversation with well-worn practices of hospitality to cultivate mature faith and a rich vocabulary. There are apps like Bible Trivia (free for Apple or Android ). GenOn Ministries has several resources, including the Family ‘Round the Table app for Apple products, and companion downloadable versions, one for each year in the Revised Common Lectionary. Expand your vocabulary with Word Teasers, ( available at www.bigideasym.com) Word Teasers sit on the dinner table and make it easy to use to ignite these faith conversations and give you vocabulary that can become part of your everyday. The faith edition offers 150 words of faith along with conversation questions about those words. This resource can help your family, youth group or friends grow together in faith.
Dinner may be the one time of the day when a young person can share a positive experience – a well-cooked meal, a dream, or a story – and wouldn’t it be nice to have these small moments intentionally connected to their faith so they can gain momentum creating stronger connections with God and each other away from the table.
Go ahead, cut out some time and do it. It’s never too late to start a new tradition!
Michelle Thomas-Bush is Associate Pastor of Youth and Their Families at Myers Park Presbyterian Church. Michelle created Word Teasers, the faith edition, along with Julie Hester, and Sonia Lee. More information is available at www.bigideasym.com or on the Facebook group Big Ideas In Youth Ministry.