Are you ready to plan a family gathering to reconnect with loved ones you haven’t seen in a while?
This last year has been hard on families. Grandparents have not been able to see their grandkids, even meet the new baby. Adult siblings have been out of touch. We are all suffering from zoom fatigue. We are tired of being cooped up. We’ve had it with demanding toddlers, angry teens, teleworking while overseeing online school. And we are tired of ourselves!
I’m cranky. Are you?
We long to re-connect with our families. AND we desperately need a new vision–something fresh and fun to look forward to!
It’s time to plan a family gathering!
John and I have been married for almost 52 years and over these years we’ve hosted lots of family gatherings. Years ago when we first began to have our own kids (5 in 7 years) we began to pray that they would come to love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and souls and that they would love and care for each other. (Based on Matthew 22:37-38). This has been our family mission statement and our prayer for our grandchildren as well.
We realized that we needed to be intentional in doing whatever we could to help this happen.
Because our adult children live in different states it’s hard for the cousins to know one another. And it’s hard to love someone you don’t even know! So we began Cousin Camp to provide a time once a year when we could get all the cousins together.
We began with 5 cousins from 3 different families and the last several years we’ve had all 21 grandkids attend. Our camp lasts 4 days and 3 nights. You have to be age 4 to come to our camp. We hold our camp at our little farm in Virginia. Kids sleep on floors, in closets, in sleeping bags. Parents are not allowed!
We’ve made lots of mistakes, shed tears, laughed uproariously, thrown out plans, separated quarreling kids, cheered when kindness overcame selfishness and fallen into bed exhausted, but above all we’ve had a blast. Seeing two girl cousins who used to fight like cats now snuggling on our bedroom floor in sleeping bags giggling together, makes it all worth it.
There are many different types of family gatherings!
A single friend of mine hosts gatherings for her nieces, nephews, and neighborhood kids. Her theme is planned around animals since she lives on a farm. She has taught the children how to clean out stalls, mix food, move slowly around animals, and clean up their messes. These children have learned new ways of sharing and their relationships with one another have grown.
Glenis’s seven aunts and uncles organize a reunion every other year. They alternate locations to make it easier for families to come. They have found state parks with camping and cabins to be great options. Various relatives take turns writing creative skits and hosting unique meals. Different generations participate in leading and creating the fun interactions.
A few years ago John and I hosted an adult reunion with his three siblings, their spouses and a close first cousin, and his wife. We were all in our mid-sixties to early eighties. In order to foster meaningful conversations, we chose a theme for our gathering. Over three days we asked the question, “Where did you see God’s faithfulness in the first twenty years of your life?”
Later we shared the second twenty years, then the third. Our goal was twofold: to focus on God’s faithfulness and to get to know each other in new ways. We learned surprising things about one another that we did not know. One wife shared that she had been born blind. While her family wasn’t particularly one of faith, she did have a godly grandfather. This grandfather went to see every pastor in his small town and asked them to put her on their church’s prayer list. She completely recovered her sight. Focused conversation keeps us from complaining and instead encourages thanksgiving.
So where do you begin to plan a family gathering?
Ask God to show you His plan for this coming year. What groups do you want to focus on? Where and when will you have your reunion? Will you have someone host it with you? It helps to get feedback from some folks but don’t expect everyone to be able to come. Go with whoever can come. The important thing is to take the first step.
What will I find in your book, Cousin Camp?
*An honest look at messy families and tips on how to let God bring healing.
*A plan to help you design your own family gathering of any type.
Including: A new way to plan, detailed sample daily schedules, 3 different Bible studies to use, easy craft ideas, a buddy system for the kids, creative conversation starters, lots of handouts. You’ll learn some of our favorite traditions which you can copy- like how to build your county’s largest banana split, design a winning obstacle course, share Christ in a winsome way, and specific ways to pray for your family.
You can order Cousin Camp here.
You’ll find some of our Cousin Camp videos on my site (scroll down to the bottom of that page to see the blogs).
I’d love to hear how your camp or reunion goes and I’d love to pray for you while you are hosting it so let me know when you schedule it.
Susan Alexander Yates
Susan Alexander Yates is a mom to five children (including a set of twins) and grandmother to 21 (including a set of quadruplets!). Susan and her husband John have been married 51 years. Susan has written 16 books and speaks on the subjects of marriage, parenting, faith, and women’s issues. Susan’s favorite time of the year is June when all her kids and grandkids are together for a week of “cousins and family camp” in the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia.