Holidays come and go every year with great predictability, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to plan for these times to be as rich, joy-filled and meaningful as possible.
Every family is unique. Families come in all different shapes and sizes, with one common theme…no family is perfect. No matter what state your family is in at the moment – crisis mode, thriving, or somewhere in between – you can take steps to maximize the opportunity that comes when loved ones are near.
Part of making our next season the best yet is bringing our creative leadership and intentionality to our family; not just our calling. After all, the first and most immediate impact you can make in your next season is with your family.
Holidays present a unique opportunity for connection and togetherness that we only experience a few times each year. However, this season also comes with a unique set of challenges and potential distractions. Instead of filling time with small talk, television, texting, football, and tons of food…
- How do we ensure that our family members head back home after time together with their hearts filled up and encouraged?
- How do we prevent loved ones from piling back in their cars and fighting traffic to get back to their busy lives without the joy of deeper connection or the chance to learn from and be inspired by each another?
While we don’t have a one-size-fits-all solution to this time of year, we do have a collection of ideas and tips that have worked for others in the past. It is the hope of the Halftime Team that one or two of the ideas below will be a pathway to something that blesses you and your loved ones, bringing more impact and meaning to your closet circle of influence.
Here are three important elements to cultivating deeper, more joy-filled family gatherings:
1. Preparation: the heavy lifting takes place beforehand.
- Set the tone up front. Something that we have found helpful is one-on-one interaction with family members before the group is all together. For me, this looks like a text, call, or some sort of tailored conversation with each family member that will be joining. I want to say “hey!” and let them know individually that I look forward to spending time with them. I also come up with a list of fun activities for the whole group and ask each person to pick their preference. Once the top choice is selected, I do the legwork and organize a game plan for the group.
- Make it a team effort by utilizing a partner-in-purpose. This could be a sibling or cousin, someone who has a pulse on the state of the family and would be willing to brainstorm ways to be a blessing together. Spend time thinking about each member and praying for them. I carved out time on a recent flight to make a list of our family members and pray. Then, I wrote down what I see as each one’s biggest challenge, biggest opportunity, and something that I could do to be helpful. That way, you’ve already got some thinking done so that when you sit down next to them, you can ask the right questions. Use your partner-in-purpose to bounce ideas off of and strategize.
- Gifts are a great way to prepare. What gifts (not always material) could I have with me that would be useful for this person – a special book, encouraging story from their past, etc.? It doesn’t have to be something shiny, but something that would serve them well with where they currently are in life.
2. Managing the environment: choosing servant leadership over control.
- Watch and listen. Then, adapt to what is really happening. When you wake up, instead of asking yourself, “what football game do I want to watch today?” make sure your antenna is up and gauging how to guide your family for what is needed now in this unique setting. Consider even the details such as lighting, music, and seating arrangement to actively remove distractions from the environment.
- Keep it simple. The temptation to introduce too much activity, food and entertainment is real. Don’t miss out on depth and richness because your family gathering is so busy.
- Manage technology. Model an attitude that says, “I am more interested in looking in your eyes than looking at my phone.” Ask family members to create a culture of engagement with one another vs. rooms dominated by screens.
3. Bringing rich content: a little goes a long way in getting the ball rolling.
- Bring things that start a deeper conversation. Depending on your family’s level of connectedness, you may need to prime the pump. You can do this in several ways. Start by sharing your own journey: How have you seen God at work in your life recently? Where are you trying to grow? Where have you experienced sorrow or loss this year? What are your dreams for next year? Asking for advice or input can be a powerful tool for deeper connection as well.
- Share stories. Ask for family members to share a touching story that has taken place over the past year that would be inspiring for the group to hear. Retell a story from your family’s past.
- Focus on inclusive activities that are great for all ages. This can be as simple as a reading a children’s book together. My family has played football with my 85-year-old mom and my 8-year-old relative all on the field — together. No matter what the activity may be, take time to create a memory.
Families are messy but wonderful, aren’t they?
They are God’s plan for us to be shaped and shape each other to be more like Christ. A little bit of intentionality goes a long way. Start slow, but I encourage you to take a risk and do what God prompts you to do in your family this holiday season. Then, celebrate what God does when you take those steps of faith.
Prepare, pray and trust that God wants to bring strong bonds into your family. Every family is unique and made up of individuals who have been uniquely wired. Use your gifts and lean into your specific strengths to serve your family this holiday season. We’re praying with you and we’re here to serve you. Feel free to contact us if you have any prayer requests or questions.
P.S. Would you like to hear more about this topic, including tips for overcoming common obstacles? Watch this recording of a live webinar Lloyd Reeb did about this topic recently!