And we've had some great family nights. Sometimes they simply involved popcorn and a movie, while other times it was Sonic burgers followed by flag football at a park. We've played board games, had picnics on the living room floor in the winter, or simply went on a pajama run (hopping in the car to go to the Dairy Queen drive-thru while wearing our pajamas!).
Last year, however, as we were facing the Lenten season, we decided to include a spiritual side to these nights . . . to add faith to the fun in our Family Nights. We also wanted to have the two older boys become more involved in planning these nights.
So we decided to try this: Every Friday would be Family Night, to be planned by a different member of the family each week (excluding our toddler, of course). And these family nights had to include three elements:
- a devotion: this could include a preparation for next Sunday's gospel, the rosary, Stations of the Cross, or a favorite Bible reading. By starting our family nights with a prayer or devotion, hopefully our sons are learning the importance of beginning an activity (whether work or play) with prayer, of offering whatever it is they're doing to God and asking for His blessing. They are also learning how to lead in prayer. We want our sons to be able to pray extemporaneously and to be comfortable in leading others in prayer.
- a meal: whoever plans family night has to think of a family meal. Of course, the boys still need my help, but they get to make the all important decision of what we were going to have for dinner. It goes without saying that hot dogs, pizza, or tacos are popular choices.
- an activity: this is always the easiest part, but we've noticed that ever since the boys have been involved in the planning, we've done some very different things. One night my middle son organized a scavenger hunt in the house, complete with clues and riddles. Another time my older son gave everyone $3 (from his own savings) and had us draw names. Then we all went to Target and had to buy something in secret for that person. We all came home and exchanged the "gifts" amid a lot of laughter and fun!
We started doing our family nights this way as a Lenten act, but they've been so successful that we've just continued them in this fashion. And here's what we've discovered: praying beforehand sets a spiritual tone that extends through the meal and activity; the boys like to be in charge and have some great ideas; they are getting good at leading in prayer; and we really, really look forward to these nights.
Food, family fun, and most important of all, faith...all three bundled into one happy package, working together to create lasting memories.