Family Dinner is a topic that is close to my heart.
“Family Dinner” is a regular, open-door-policy, bring-a-friend gathering of families for a casual potluck meal. Young adults and families desire and need community so much, and getting together regularly (kids too!) for a casual meal is the perfect way to nurture relationships. Maybe it’s because I’m from the South, but eating together always seems to be the go-to way to get to know people.:)
Michael and I moved to Houston right after we got married, and early on in our 5 1/2 years there, we helped to found a weekly Family Dinner community that was an integral part of forming Michael and me into who we are as a couple and as a family today. The guest for this episode, my dear friend Kristin Fontana, was part of that first group of four couples who started our Family Dinner in Houston.
One of the beauties of Family Dinner is that it is hosted regularly, and ideally at the same home for a while. If you have to miss one or five in a row, you can pick up right where you left off. As for the food, you can pick up a bucket of chicken on the way there, or spend hours on your favorite party dish if that’s where your passion is. It’s not about using your fancy dishes, or having your house be immaculate beforehand, or impressing anyone with what you bring. It’s not about making sure you and your kids get a balanced dinner that day, either. (Although, Kristin shares that she always keeps some veggie pouches on hand for her kids.:) Family Dinner is also not about all being from the same church parish or even religion.
Family Dinner is about the community. It’s about coming as you are, as a family, and intentionally connecting with others. We learn about ourselves when we are spouses and parents in the presence of others–and when we watch other couples be spouses and parents in front of us. A group like this gives us people who know what our current joys and struggles are–and that is a gift. In a culture where so often we don’t live near extended family, our friends become a different kind of “family” that can be just as much of an emotional support as the real thing.
Kristin and I have known each other since before we got married. She was the bubbly youth minister at our church parish. I was trying to make friends, and so I joined the staff of her upcoming high school girls retreat. One amazing retreat (actually several), two marriages, seven children, and a whirlwind of early marriage and parenthood later, we can’t wait to tell you in this episode how important Family Dinner has been for our marriages and families.
In this episode:
- How Family Dinner got started
- What it looks like in Houston and in other communities where couples have started Family Dinner groups
- What works and what doesn’t work as well for frequency of hosting, hospitality, and house rules
- How to handle food allergies
- Hospitality as evangelization, and why hosting Family Dinner is a ministry
- Ideas for including single adults in Family Dinner
This episode is dedicated to:
The Perryman Family
The Fontana Family
The Hines Family
The memory of dear friend, inspiring husband and father, and head Family Dinner prankster Matthew Coles
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Erin, I have been so happy to see how Family Dinner in Houston and now Baton Rouge has blessed your life and marriage so far. It was good for your momma to know that you had such a wonderful community of friends in Houston when you lived far away from “home.” Proud of you, sweetie!
Sarah Snell says
I want to echo the “doesn’t matter if you have to miss a week (or more)”. We moved out of state for a year and a half and it was so good to come back to the group when we returned. Our growing family just jumped back in where we left off. We met some new families and made new friends too. Family Dinner was one of the reasons we tried to relocate back to Houston. It’s such a vibrant group of young adults and kids that share my values and they are just plain awesome to be around.
Erin Franco says
Sarah!!! I miss you. So excited for baby Snell #3 (thank you, FB, for keeping me in the loop!). You are so right about jumping back in where you left off–that was definitely the feel of our Houston Family Dinner group. What a treasure that Michael and I still miss so much. We all grew up in each other’s company with marriage and our first babies and job changes and first homes…I still cry every time I find the scrapbook everyone made for us when we moved. Hugs from Baton Rouge!
Kathryn H. says
I liked what you said about how “casual can be a great leader into friendship.” We have a true need for authentic friendship. Real friendships take some time and effort. Growing a community organically requires more than just setting up a “faith-sharing group” in Lent or something (although that can be a start). People need “normal” things to do together with people that allow them to get to know each other naturally over time.
I find as an introvert that it helps me to do the initiating with friendships sometimes, because if I feel I have a “job” to do (like helping organize, etc.), I am more naturally outgoing, so I appreciated the advice for introverts to take the initiative, too. When I’ve been in the position of reaching out, I actually realized that others appreciated it!
Kristin Fontana says
Just wanted to post this link if anyone is interested in learning more about the Clear Lake Family Dinner: http://clearlakefamilydinner.weebly.com
Thanks so much Erin for letting me be a part of this!