Along with many from our church community, my family and I are about to embark upon a 48 hour unplugged challenge. This challenge is essentially a 2 day fast from electronic entertainment and it originated out of a desire to intentionally encourage, strengthen and support families. Our pastoral team believes that many families are suffering from a lack of genuine connection with each other, and a big part of that is due to the large amount of time the average individual spends watching tv, playing video games or engaging in social media. We have committed as a family to spend the next couple of days intentionally interacting with each other with the aim of strengthening our connection with each other and growing together as a family. As I have been anticipating this challenge, I have formulated some personal goals for this 2 days that I realized might also serve as valid reasons for you to consider “unplugging” your family for a period of time. In no particular order, here they are:
- Spend some time in prayer together as a family. I’m talking about some extended (that’s a relative term when we’re talking about 5 kids under 12) time of family prayer where each individual can share their concerns and pray with and for their family.
- Read scripture together. There is something powerful about simply reading God’s word out loud together – even without teaching or explanation. I plan to ask the kids to read a favorite portion of scripture and to share some of my own. You could choose to simply read through a shorter book of the Bible together.
- Have some substantive conversation. Some of you with teenagers are already skeptical, but I think it is possible to have some genuinely substantive conversations. That will look different for each family, but start with some specific questions that require some thought and don’t feel like they come from a place of judgment or condemnation. Don’t ask questions that necessarily have right or wrong answers. The goal is just to engage in conversation about something more meaningful than sports or weather.
- Tell stories. Story telling is becoming a lost art, but it is a tremendous way to develop imagination, speaking and listening skills, memory and creativity. It is also a powerful teaching tool. While I think anything from silly fictional tales to Bible stories can be valuable, I would also encourage you to tell personal stories. My kids love to hear about when I was a kid. You can use story to communicate a lesson while also building a connection.
- Of course you can set aside some time to read individually, but our big emphasis this weekend is family togetherness, so I want to do some family reading. This could be reading out loud with younger kids or reading something together with older kids or as a couple.
- Find wholesome, interactive forms of entertainment together. Play board games, take walks, put together puzzles – the options are really endless. All it takes is a little creativity. Again, don’t squander the opportunity to do these activities together even if it’s tempting for each person in the family to go occupy themselves. Find something everyone enjoys!
- Talk about some practical issues related to the use of electronics in our culture. If there are kids in the home, than there are an abundance of practical issues we should be discussing with our kids in regard to electronics, social media, and the internet. You could talk about anything from good manners (i.e. get off your phone when you’re having a conversation with people) to online safety (i.e. don’t give out personal information on the internet) and a wide variety of topics in between. If you don’t have kids at home, you could still talk about ways that electronics affect you as a family – you may be surprised at how different life is without Facebook or texting!
- Work together. You could do chores or even tackle a special project together. Working together can provide a sense of teamwork and accomplishment that we often miss out on by always working individually.
- Have a family meeting. Take some time to sit down and talk about your family. This will look different at every stage of life, but can still be incredibly beneficial for everyone. You could discuss goals, evaluate family health, get feedback on parenting, discuss schedules and activities, or even plan some future trip or event. However you use it, a family meeting can go a long way to developing a sense of togetherness and unity within a family.
- Enjoy each other! Finally, have fun! Don’t make this a miserable experience. Remember that the point of the challenge is to remove distractions so that we can reconnect as a family. Whatever you do, enjoy it!
Of course, every one of these goals could be accomplished to some degree without “unplugging,” but most of us don’t practice many of these activities on a regular basis because we feel we don’t have enough time. Well, without tv and other electronics you will find yourself with a lot more time on your hands to devote to these (and other!) family building activities. I challenge you to “unplug” from electronics for a little while and instead invest that time in your family. I promise you won’t regret it!