By Bill Tenny-Brittian

Quick, what’s the most used appliance in your house?

For most North American homes it’s the television. The average American adult spends about four hours a day watching TV and our children and youth generally spend even more time. And though I recommend “fasting” from the television from time to time, there are ways you can transform your family’s television watching from simple entertainment to a spiritual habit. Here’s how.

1. Watch television together. Many families have a television set for each family member, so the act of watching a program together can become problematic. However, to “redeem” some of our family’s television time, find a show you can all agree on (or take turns choosing). Which show you watch is less important than the fact you’re sharing an experience together.

2. Enjoy the show together. However your family enjoys watching TV together is fine. The key is that everyone has an enjoyable time – even if you’re not wild about the program, allow yourselves to enjoy the experience of being and sharing together.

3. Linger after the program for conversation. Often “family time” concludes by everyone disappearing into their own personal world. To transform television watching into a spiritual habit means taking time to reflect on the experience. And whether you watched an old rerun of M*A*S*H* or the current episode of American Idol, it takes time to “mine” a program for relevant spiritual bits (and some shows may take longer than others to find something worth mining for!). It may be helpful to “schedule” fifteen minutes or a half hour for conversation.

4. Ask thoughtful, reflective questions about the experience. We often focus on our opinions about the program (Did I like the program? The actors? The characters? The plot?) rather than focusing on the experience of watching the program together. For instance, rather than asking, “Which of the characters reflected a godly life?”, a conversation about what we’ve learned about ourselves through the program could be much more fruitful.

In that light, here are a few example questions to get you started:

  • How did you feel when…? (It could be an event in the program or it could be about something a family member said or did during the program.)
  • Where did you see God? (In the program and/or in the family time.)
  • What did you learn from the program? (This could be framed in either a positive or a negative… “I learned to ____” or “I learned I don’t want to ____.”)

Conclude your time together with prayer.