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Parenting: Childhood

The Power of the Coffee Date

What if I told you of one simple activity that could decrease conflict and increase unity in your home? In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that this habit has been a huge blessing to our relationship.

When Sharon and I were starting out, we wanted to be intentional about our parenting. Thanks to some good teaching we had a great start. But the Lord graciously added more children to our family every two years. With our children 6, 4, 2, and newborn we were starting to disagree more and more.

Why the Problems?
As we stepped back and analyzed it, we realized that while the issues were becoming more complex, our time and energy to discuss them was decreasing. Earlier, we had used to discuss certain issues over dinner or before we went to bed. Now we could barely get a word in at dinner and we were collapsing into bed at night.

It was about this time that a friend shared a plan that had helped his family. And indeed, I found that it was a lifesaver for us.

It was a regular coffee date.

For years, Sharon and I had a regular coffee date. I look back on this as one of the best investments in our marriage. Setting aside this time enabled me to hear my wife’s heart, listen to what she was dealing with at home, and chart plans for us in the future.

Shepherds Need to Meet
Think with me a little about this. I have served for 30 years as a pastor with other elders. What helps us shepherd the flock together? Regular meetings of the shepherds. This habitual time enables and causes us to think about the status of the church as a whole and of individual sheep. It allows the full-time pastors to get the input of those who are not. And it “forces” the nonvocational elders to think about the status of the church.

You and your wife are shepherds of your own little flock. Men, you are supposed to be leading this flock while delegating much of the day-to-day responsibility to her. How will you regularly keep aware of the issues? How will she regularly feel your support? Regular meetings!

While I know that every couple does not have to do this, I do know many couples that would benefit.

The How-To
Here are the details that helped us.
1. We had a small notebook in the kitchen to write down the things we wanted to talk about on this date. There were several benefits to this. It allowed both of us to write down decisions we needed to make or problems we needed to talk about. For example, if we saw a new behavior pattern in one child, we didn’t have to bring it up in the moment. We could just write it down to be talked about.

A second benefit was it allowed both of us to preview the list before we went out. This meant that if we were going to talk about a touchy subject, at least we had some warning to brace ourselves so we would react in a godly way.

2. We had the day marked regularly in our calendar. At times it was weekly, and at other times it was every two weeks. This meant that it did not get squeezed out by other activities. Or if it did get replaced, at least we realized it.

3. We went out for coffee. For a babysitter, we had a family who lived next door who could walk to us. If the babysitter is a logistical or financial challenge, consider trading off babysitting with another couple. It was important for us to get out of the house.

We deliberately just went out for coffee instead of a full meal. Why? We wanted to create a sustainable, regular habit on our tight budget. In addition, we separated this time from our other “dates.” A full meal or an event is a time for us to reconnect as a couple. A coffee date is like a family shepherd business meeting. Its goal is to make decisions, not necessarily reconnect.

4. We started with prayer. When we went out, we prayed together in the car to start our evening. With young children, there were times we were falling asleep in the car!

5. We talked through the notebook. In the coffee shop, I took the lead to go over the things on our list to talk about. We tried to leave with decisions made or plans made on all the things on our list.

The Benefits
This regular coffee date had numerous benefits. It pulled my focus back into the family. It reminded me that I was a dad leading a family and not just a pastor. It pulled Sharon’s focus off of the children and back on me. It reminded her she was a wife, not just a mom. And it sent a message to the children that Mom and Dad care for each other and are taking time for their relationship.

Over time the frequency changed as the schedules changed, but the essence was there.

Does every couple need to follow this pattern? Obviously not. But many family shepherds would benefit from this routine. Just as church shepherds benefit from regular meetings, so family shepherds need to sit down and discuss how their sheep are doing.

Try it. I think you will be surprised at the benefit.

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