One of the greatest gifts we are given on earth is family. Over our lifetime we play many different roles in the family unit, often multiple roles at one time. We start out as children, then become parents, aunts or uncles, grandparents and possibly even great-grandparents. As children we only have one role to fulfill, but then as we become parents, we play dual roles being adult children as well. One of the most important things for a family unit, especially as it grows, is to make sure that the family unit spends quality time together so that there can be strong relationships across generations. The family unit is only as strong as we make it.

In our blended family there are a lot of things we should have been more intentional about doing over our years together, but one thing we have been pretty good about is getting together as a family, especially for a vacation. We have taken at least one family vacation together every year. Several of those years we were able to fit in a second trip after Christmas as well. As the children have gotten older and started having families of their own, there have been more challenges to getting us all together, but it is something we feel is important and we work each year to make it happen. Though we all cannot be together everyday or even every week of the year, we can set aside these few days to get together and strengthen our relationships. This is even more important as the children get married and have their own children so that our newest family members have an opportunity to grow their relationships.

Having time for your family each year is not something that will just happen. There are some things that are necessary to making it happen. Some of these things are true for single-day family gatherings and longer times such as a vacation. Either way, if family is something we value, we should be committed to finding time for our relationships to grow. Here are four things I have found to be true to make these times together not just happen, but happen successfully.

One of the keys to successful family time is learning to be agreeable. This means sometimes we must set aside our own personal preferences and desires for the good of the family. The larger a family gets, the more personalities and opinions are involved and the more complicated certain decisions can be. Learning to be agreeable in these family gathers is a key to making the time together more enjoyable and successful. We must remember that the goal, as in most relationships, is not to get our way but to grow our relationships.

Consistency helps people plan and make these times together easier. As a family unit, we have two times every year that everyone knows we want to get together – Christmas Eve and family vacation. Christmas Eve is our time to celebrate Christmas together. Several years ago we recognized that in order to gather our growing family for vacation it would require a little more planning. For that reason, we selected a specific week in June so everyone could plan for the same time each year. As I write this, our family is on our annual vacation and we are having a good time. Having times that are consistent will give your family the freedom to plan other things their immediate family wants or needs to do.

There is a certain amount of sacrifice required to have family gatherings. It may be as simple as setting aside our preferences of where to eat or what activities to do. It will always require a sacrifice of time and money. What you do for family activities such as vacation does not have to cost a lot of money, but there will be certain financial investments that have to be made. Time may be the biggest sacrifice. We all have things we want to do and sometimes those specific things may have to be changed, postponed or even canceled. It requires sacrifice from each person in the family as they come together for the better of the whole instead of just the benefit of themselves. Sacrifice always reveals what our priorities are. Family must be a priority.

Large family events and the memories they create do not happen by accident. We must be intentional about planning and preparing. We may have to be intentional about setting the time aside or budgeting our money during the year. We have to be intentional about creating memories that last longer than an event. The memories may be the one thing we have found to be the most valuable. Long after they have forgotten a gift, our children remember trips and events that we were all a part of and the memories that were made. Strong family units and time spent with our family will require us to be intentional so those things can take place.

There are lots of creative ways we can spend time with our family. It does not have to be expensive or last days at a time. It will, however, require you to be agreeable, consistent, sacrificial and intentional. I encourage you to practice getting your family together. The memories you make will last a lifetime.