“I don’t like Turkish Delight.  But I’d follow the White Witch for white chocolate.” chirped Ellie

So started another unpredictable spiritual conversation at the Kamphausen dinner table last night.

It’s challenging and intimidating to initiate spiritual conversations as a Dad at mealtimes– but that’s one of my most important everyday jobs these days–and, though it doesn’t always work,  I’m committed to doing it anyway.

This kind of parent-to-child spiritual formation is difficult simply because it’s impossible to predict what’s going to come out of the mouths of my 6, 9 and ten-year-old girls in response to spiritual questions.  They’re all in different places and have different needs spiritually.

So, last night, over spaghetti and yummy homemade meatballs, we talked about Narnia–since, over the weekend, we’d gone together to see The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by the Christian Youth Theater Co. (in which Blanchard’s own Peyton Ebel, as Edmund, was brilliant and in beautiful voice…)  I thought I would start our conversation there.

I asked the girls to remember the Turkish Delight that the White Witch had offered Edmund in the play.  I asked them if they thought the White Witch was real in their lives.  Two out of the three said “yes”.  But one of them still viewed Satan as “the little red guy with the pitchfork” in his hand.

What followed was an intense, but important, affirmation of the reality of evil in this world and a very real reminder that Satan is indeed a living being, tempts us all the time, and is bent on our destruction as Christians.  We then encouraged each other with verses we remembered from the Bible to help us in our battles over the “Turkish Delight” in our lives.  I then finished our “table talk” by reading Psalm 23, a passage we’ve memorized at mealtimes over the past year, affirming God’s might and power over Satan as our Good Shepherd, leading us beside quiet waters, restoring our souls, not fearing evil–though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Did this late evening lesson stick last night?  I don’t know.  But it was definitely worth the attempt.

I’ve been saddened lately at various conversations I’ve had with moms whom I believe long for their husbands to “take the spiritual lead” at home.  While I’m certainly no spiritual giant (even last night by wife told me she’d like a better plan from me…)  But at least I’m giving it some intentional effort, taking advantage of the opportunities arising from everyday conversations during our mealtimes.

Dads, are you stumped and intimidated by being spiritual leaders?  Here are a few ideas to consider putting into practice.

  • Use your family life together as launching points for great spiritual conversations, like we did with Narnia and the White Witch…
  • When you ask questions, ask good questions that elicit answers from your kids–not “yes or no” questions but “Who, What, Where, When, Why” questions.
  • Pick a favorite Scripture passage to read, discuss and memorize, verse by verse, with your family at the table (like Psalm 23; I Cor 13; Gal 5:22-23 or, as Lent and Easter approach, all of John 19you’d be surprised what your kids are capable of!)
  • Learn to pray The Lord’s Prayer at mealtimes.  Use Luther’s Small Catechism to unpack the individual elements of the prayer in conversation as you memorize it. (While Luther’s theology isn’t an exact match with Blanchard’s–particularly on baptism (we don’t believe baptism saves as he did)–nonetheless, the small catechism is an excellent resource made for parents to instruct their children about basic Christianity around the table…)
  • Encourage your kids, in rotation, to pray out loud and thank God for your meals together. Help them (if they get stuck or stumble)–then have them try it again.  Remind them it’s just a conversation with their Father in heaven.  Family is a safe and welcome place for children to learn how to pray.
  • Make what you’re learning in your own time in God’s Word a part of mealtime conversations.  Set an example by being in God’s Word yourself (something I’m excited to be growing in right now, after a much-too-long dry spell!)
  • Dads, if you haven’t listened to it yet, take 50 minutes this week to listen to Case Seymour’s talk on Legacy Parenting.  It’s full of amazing, inspiring ideas to grow as a spiritual leader in your marriage and family.

And if you have some additional suggestions on ways you’ve been effective as a spiritual leader in your home, I’d be pleased if you could reply to this post with your thoughts–that would help all of us moms and dads do this important work more effectively…