How Rituals Can Knit Your Family Together

For most of my life, I rejected the “r” word. Ritual. After all, why would I want to pray someone else’s prayer? (Never mind the fact that this is precisely what we do when we read the Psalms.) Who wants to perform a mindless activity? Eventually, I realized that I had a hyper-individualistic conception of my faith, and that I completely misunderstood what ritual was about.

Ritual is not confined to religion, though it is typically associated with it. And, it frequently occurs in our lives regardless of whether we realize it; e.g., the activities which accompany birth, death, and birthday parties. As it is used here, ritual refers to “a culturally strategic way of acting in the world.”[1]

Unfortunately, ritual is often viewed as a mindless activity wherein a worshipper manipulates God by repeating an action. While it is true that repeated activities are susceptible to autopilot, any activity (even the spontaneous) can be mindless. Intentionality, therefore, is critical. The beauty of ritual is that, when constructed well and entered into with full engagement, it is a powerful means of formation which can be leveraged for the family.

Why Create Family Rituals?

Recent research on ritual shows that, contrary to what many assume, it does not primarily symbolize belief. Rather, it embodies or effects belief. This means that ritual can mold and shape us in healthy directions while providing an alternative to aimless habits and reactionary postures which control and deform us.

Creating family rituals will not solve family struggles, but they will contribute toward a healthy environment. More importantly, they will be a regular source of bonding for family members. Here are three reasons why creating family rituals are important:

Tips on Creating Family Rituals

Examples of Family Rituals

Here are a few rituals that our family uses.

For further prayer ideas see 10 tips for your family worship time

[1] Catherine Bell, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. Oxford University Press, 2009, vii, 7.

Ben is a husband, father, priest, and scholar with a PhD in Biblical Studies (NT emphasis) from Asbury Theological Seminary. Prior to his studies at Asbury, he completed his M.Div. at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and served with Mission Aviation Fellowship in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He and his wife, Amy, have 4 handsome sons. Ben loves to play music, make (and eat) sushi, dabble with tech, and help his boys navigate life. He currently serves as the Soul Care Community's Editorial Assistant and Book Review Editor.


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