Weekly Family Meetings: How to + Agenda + Ideas

Having a weekly family meeting is an idea that I stole from my friend (and someone who is well known to my readers!) Jennifer Grant. We’ve been having family meetings, off and on, for about a year, and their importance and value has increased to us over time. Now, if we skip the meeting for the week, we are sure to see some negative effects and confusion during the week.

This is the routine that works for us, and we’ve refined and simplified the process over time. If there’s something in here that you can use with your family, I hope you do!

For us, a weekly meeting works well, and we have it on Saturday mornings, after breakfast, typically. We used to have our meetings on Sunday nights, which might be a good time for some, but for us, since we’re in ministry, we’re just wiped out on Sunday nights and we were cranky and overwhelmed. Having it after breakfast allows us to enjoy coffee as we meet. We usually wait until everyone’s mostly finished with their food.

Our agenda is the same every week and includes:
Gratitude/What’s going well
Areas of Growth
Old Business
New Business
Close with prayer

A little about each one.
First, gratitude. One of the things I love about our family meeting is that it incorporates a weekly faith practice each week. If I were to pick one spiritual practice for families to try and incorporate into their weekly routines it would be gratitude. Gratitude anchors our week in positive memories and gives us all the opportunity to focus on good things. I love seeing what everyone comes up with. The moderator of the meeting is the one who writes down the gratitudes. (More about the moderator in a minute!)

We go around the table and take turns mentioning one thing we’re grateful for from the week that just ended. We record them on our paper roll on the wall.

Here’s an example of our gratitudes for one week

And another one

Notice the rainbows on this one! Those are from our favorite rainbow maker!

After the gratitude, we talk about things that are going well for the family. Elias and I try to pull out things from previous weeks that have been highlighted as challenges or to point out things that feel worthy of celebrating.

After that, we talk about areas for growth. It’s tempting (for the parents!) to turn this time into a lecture, but we aim to be brief and highlight things that could be smoothed out. When we started these meetings, it was mostly parents bringing up issues to the family, but as we’ve gone on, the children are starting to bring their own growth areas and suggestions to us, and it’s so encouraging to see.

Next up is schedule and meals. During this time, we review the schedule for the week along with who is cooking the meals for the week and (sometimes) what we’re having. For our family this can often involve some time in advanced planning and Elias and I have refined our own process here. Early on in the family meeting iteration the children would get impatient/antsy when hashing out the schedule took too long. Now, to streamline things, I write everything down for the week on the whiteboard in advance, including meal suggestions/schedule and then we refine it as necessary. It’s way easier than starting from scratch. Here’s a picture of what our whiteboard looked like a couple of weeks ago.

We use a 24×36 inch magnetic whiteboard like THIS one. Using labels makes it easier. We just have the PLAIN ones, though I’ve thought about upgrading to COLORED ones or even cute magnets like THIS, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. We have both regular dry-erase markers and also the handy MAGNETIC ones.

A word about what goes on this calendar. I have my own work calendar (and so does Elias) that has absolutely every. single. thing. on it, and it’s a google calendar, and it looks like a spaceship sometimes. It’s possible that as the children grow and get into high school we’ll just pull out a google calendar, but for now, this keeps us all organized and on the same page. It has just the right amount of information on it for what we need it to have.

After the schedule and meals, we deal with Old Business and New Business. Perhaps this is a time to mention that my husband and I are both Presbyterian ministers, so we can be a bit… intense when it comes to moderating the family meeting, but, hey, it’s how we roll! We ask for agenda items in advance but also deal with things as they come up. The business can range from family routines to fun outings, to selecting the movie for the week. This morning one of my sons made a proposal that there be an exception to the no screen time during the week rule for the nights before late start. Clever, and his motion passed after some negotiation. 🙂

We adjourn the meeting in prayer. The moderator prays or chooses someone else who volunteers.

We take turns moderating. Marina, our youngest, needs lots of help, but she still loves being in charge! We’ve seen the children grow in their confidence and ability to manage a meeting. I used to type up an agenda with the items for the week, but it just became a chore. Now we write agenda items on the whiteboard as they come up throughout the week, or I ask everyone on Friday night and just make a brief checklist to help guide us through.

Time Commitment
Start to finish our meeting usually takes 30-45+ minutes. (I know! It’s long! We are talkers!) The things that make it more efficient/shorter are:

– parents understanding the schedule/negotiations ahead of time. (We spend a lot of time talking about who is doing what in terms of drop offs, pick ups, etc., and when Elias and I get this all sorted out ahead of time, it’s a lot shorter in the actual meeting.)

– Thinking through agenda items ahead of time

When things are really rolling along well, we can get it done in 15-20 minutes.

When to Start /Ages
We started these last year, when the children were 9, 10, and 4 years old. At the beginning, our youngest would color while the rest of us would meet. Now she’s able to follow along throughout most of it.

A final note:

Family meetings help things run smoothly in the family and I’m so glad we do them. That said, please know that they are not universally loved, even by the adults in our family! Neither are they perfect or idyllic. Sometimes the meeting can feel like a chore. We’ve had to adjourn meetings in the middle and take them up again later if someone gets stressed out or upset about something, but the more we’ve stuck with them, the more profound the benefits have become. I’m quite certain they will be legendary and remembered by the children when they’re adults.

So there you have it!

If you have family meetings, how do you run them? What tips do you have? What questions can I answer?

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