Wednesday, July 31, 2019

FF: We Need More Celebrations of Life

by: Topher Wiles

     The line was long as it wound down the hallway to the entrance.  The small room was packed to the brim. Extra seats were brought in and immediately filled.  The late July heat was increasing as more people found space where ever they could sit, stand, or kneel.  The Wiles family found their way to the short steps located just before the entrance, two kids to a step. I stood just at the base of the steps where I had a pretty good vantage on the entire venue.  The event was beginning 30 minutes later than scheduled because it took that long for the line to wind down and people to find their seats. We were halfway through the Celebration of Life service for Joe Pat Clark at Hunter’s Funeral Home when I looked around and thought, “We need more of this for our families.  
     What I noticed was amazing. Many families at various stages of life were sitting, listening, laughing, and crying, all while giving full attention to the various speakers.  No children were fussing and fighting with siblings. Nobody was making mad dashes to the restroom. Not a single cell phone was out during the entire memorial service! That’s right, no men texted their workmates, no kids were playing games, and no middle-aged women were filming for Facebook.  
     I continued to watch for the full hour as friend after friend stood at the front to make you well up with tears or giggles with Joe Pat stories, and the entire time the audience in the packed out room remained focused on the speakers.  There was no high tech music for entertainment. There was no fancy Powerpoint for visual aids. There wasn’t a specific order in an elaborately planned program. What I witnessed was amazing and gave me hope.  
     I worry for modern families as I observe them in many different gatherings including: church services, public monument dedications, National Days of Prayer, company picnics, family reunions, and more.  In all of these events I regularly see families default to some form of technology to fill their attention and addiction. What I routinely witness are adults at the dinner table checking youtube videos, kids playing video games during prayer gatherings, and deacons checking sports scores during the sermon message.  Even I am not immune and am often tempted to pull my cell phone out in family time to answer emails, respond to texts, or plan my weekly calendar activities, all while missing the beautiful life around me.
     That is what made Joe Pat’s Celebration of Life service so special and why I believe we need more Celebrations of Life.  We need less Face-Time and more face to face time. We need fewer Facebook stories and more listening to people telling their life story.  This service time demonstrated that if we put our minds to it, we can strip down our gatherings to what is most important: people sharing life together.
     At this point you may be asking, “How can I strengthen my family to enjoy these beautiful life moments together?”  You’re not alone; many other families are asking the same question. Here are a few ideas to help. 
  • Set limits and stick to them.  Your toddler doesn’t need screentime for any reason.  Cut your teen down to no more than two hours of entertainment media per day.  Decide on your limits based on research and stick to them. 
  • Encourage your family to play.  Take them down the road to meet the neighbor kids.  Schedule time for them to ride their bikes to the next neighborhood.  Set a “healthy entertainment jar” on the kitchen table and draw a random event from it daily (i.e: hide-n-seek, freezetag, fishing, blanket forts, model building, puzzle work, reading a book…)
  • Create Tech-Free Zones.  Making the dinner table and the bed a tech-free zone will increase language development in kids and increase the quality and quantity of sleep for everyone.  
  • Don't use technology as an emotional pacifier. Media can be very effective in keeping kids calm and quiet, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children need to be taught how to identify and handle strong emotions, come up with activities to manage boredom, or calm down through breathing, talking about ways to solve the problem, and finding other strategies for channeling emotions.
  • Apps for kids – do YOUR homework. More than 80,000 apps are labeled as educational, but little research has demonstrated their actual quality.  Look to organizations like Common Sense Media for reviews about age-appropriate apps, games and programs to guide you in making the best choices for your children.
  • Be a good role model. Teach and model kindness and good manners online. Because children are great mimics, limit your own media use. In fact, you'll be more available for and connected with your children if you're interacting, hugging, and playing with them rather than simply staring at a screen. 
  • Do more research.  You can find some of these ideas and many more on websites like and  Check them out and decide what works best for your family.
     As we travel through this journey of life, we are blessed to connect with other families who are noticing the same trends and wrestling through the same struggles.  You and I are not alone in goals to increase our family fortitude in a rapidly changing world. May you succeed in finding allies and strategies that focus your family on the best things life has to offer.  As always, if we at Family Forte can help or if you have a suggestion for an article, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Central Church of Christ in Sparta, TN.  
     “May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” - Psalm 29:11
The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email,, or through our website,