It’s where we eat, play games, and have heart-to-heart conversations. Holiday meals, quick breakfasts, and after-dinner coffee all take place here. For families, it’s a place to make memories. Knowing they have a place at the table can be a source of newfound stability, connection, and the start of healing for children in foster care.
The new testament is full of stories of Jesus ministering to people at the table. To the shock of all around him, he invited himself to Zacchaeus’ table. He gently guided Mary and Martha at theirs. Even His final moments before the cross were spent gathered around a table with his disciples. Spending time at the table was an important part of Jesus’ ministry as he met his companions’ most basic needs of food and fellowship.
Knowing this, it’s no wonder that we see children in foster care begin to find healing at the table. When families provide children in foster care with a place at their family table, they experience Jesus – often for the first time in their lives.
FaithBridge Foster Care Board Chair and Co-Founder Rick Jackson spent his teens in foster care with a Christian family. He credits them with helping set his life on a course of hope and healing. He recalls that the experience of seeing a religious family eat and pray together “changed my view forever. I want more kids in Georgia to have that same chance.”
Making time for dinner at the table is one of the most powerful spiritual disciplines that foster families can do to help the children in their homes.
A Place to Belong
One of our children struggled with the fear of rejection. She was often looking for evidence that we didn’t love her as much as the other children in our home. Passing the potatoes to her before anyone else it was strategic. It was a simple way to prove our love and help her heal. Her past abuse said, “you are not loved”. The neglect she experienced said, “you don’t matter”. Having a place at the table said, “you are important,” and “we won’t start without you”. She needed to know that not only was she wanted, but she also belonged.
A Place to Learn
The table is a place where we learn manners, how to care for others, and how to be a part of a team. For one child at our table, having a chore during mealtime gave him purpose. The setting of the table and the clean-up of the table gave him a sense of accomplishment. It taught him that each person in the family had a role to play and that he could do his part with confidence. As a family, we work together, and we share the fruits of our labor in the meal that we enjoy together.
A Place to Heal
A teenager at our table, in the past, was never given a choice of what she wanted to eat. Letting her choose her favorite foods was a simple way to demonstrate that we cared about her needs and wanted to meet them. To a child with a past where food was scarce, a bountiful table is a healing place. At the table, our children experience the blessings of the Lord and “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) We use the table to teach our children how to receive these blessings, make healthy choices, and share with others.
A Place to Connect
Our children hear prayer, observe healthy relationships, and learn essential social skills at the table. We never dine alone. Everyone has a place at the table, surrounded by the ones who love us. We build relationships and trust at the table, and this allows us the opportunity to speak into one another’s lives. We tell stories at the table because we want to know each other and also to be known. The table is a safe place to be ourselves. We share the good stories and the hard stories because we want to help each other. As a family, we solve problems, celebrate our wins, have fun, laugh, and linger together at the table.
A Place to Grow Spiritually
“When I first entered care, my faith in God was very low, but when I moved with a foster family, they completely opened my perspective to God. We prayed every night at dinner, and they introduced me to my church youth group.” – Morgan, a former foster child.
At the table, we teach each other how to live in a relationship with Jesus by asking, “how did Jesus help you today?” and “how can we pray for you today?” We help each other reframe our problems and difficult circumstances. Our past difficulties don’t define who we are but rather point to a God who has been with us through it all. The children at our table hear God’s truth, and they begin to rewrite the narrative of their lives. Their place at the table says to a child, “you are a brother or a sister, you are a son or daughter, you have purpose and a place. You are worthy of our love and worthy of God’s love.”
What You Can Do
If you don’t already do it, commit to a regular table time that works with your schedule. Maybe it’s breakfast or dinner every day or even dessert time every night. Consider each child and adult and their specific needs, loves, and fears. Ask God how you can bring hope, healing, and love to those who sit around your table.
At FaithBridge, I have watched our foster families use the family table to minister to others in the same humble way that Jesus did. Inviting others to a place at our table will no doubt take sacrifice and bring hardship. The table will never be perfect. Children will tease each other, and someone at the table will probably spill their milk on the freshly mopped floor. We can trust God to use these ordinary moments to do the extraordinary. God will be faithful to bless this sacred family time. As you establish this spiritual rhythm for your family, you will create kingdom impact for generations to come.