FamilyLife Today® Podcast

More Recipes for Successful Family Fun

with Kurt and Olivia Bruner | December 28, 2012
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If family devotions make you yawn, it's time to cook up some fun! FamilyLife's Just Add Family recipe tin makes family devotions a quick and easy treat, and authors Kurt and Olivia Bruner will tell you how. Family fun is cooking at meal times, bed times, or anytime at all... just add family!

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • If family devotions make you yawn, it's time to cook up some fun! FamilyLife's Just Add Family recipe tin makes family devotions a quick and easy treat, and authors Kurt and Olivia Bruner will tell you how. Family fun is cooking at meal times, bed times, or anytime at all... just add family!

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

If family devotions make you yawn, it’s time to cook up some fun!

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More Recipes for Successful Family Fun

With Kurt and Olivia Bruner
December 28, 2012
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: You've heard people suggest that it's important to have family times together—to have family worship together, to talk together about the Scriptures, to pray as a family.  The question is, “How often do you do that?” or, “Do you ever do that?”  Kurt Bruner understands how you're feeling.  He's been there.

Kurt: I would hear you say that and say, "Hey, man, that's what I need to be doing.  That's right; I agree with that."  When is it really going to happen?  Well, it's going to happen because we've got a mealtime—Thursday night—when the whole family is together.  We've made a routine, now, that we're going to tell stories.

Olivia: And we actually do that almost every night because we all want to talk about our day.  It's great, and it's easy.  We've gotten to the point where people look at each other and they want to know, "How was your day?” "How was your day?"  It's made our kids care about the other person.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 28th.   Our host is the president of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  If you need help with your family times together—keeping them focused and on track—stay tuned.  Help is on the way.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  I know a lot of folks are out of their normal rhythm during this holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s.  There are a lot of folks who aren’t going into work because they’re either taking some vacation days or work just shut down for a few days.  We have some of our team who actually wind up working some long hours these days.

Dennis:  They do.

Bob:  The reason for that is because we’re starting to get some envelopes in and starting to get some phone calls from folks, the last couple of days of the year.  This is when folks often make that yearend decision about a contribution to a ministry like ours.  We’re hoping to hear from folks today, throughout the weekend, and next Monday.

Dennis:  About 60 percent of our annual giving that keeps FamilyLife Today on this station occurs in the month of December.  If you’ll take a look at, you’ll see a thermometer that represents a sizeable, substantial amount of money that has been brought forth as a match.  A group of families has said, “We’ll match every dollar, up to the total amount that’s on the thermometer, throughout the month of December.”  But you have to get your gift in before December 31st.

If you’ll notice, it’s chilly on the thermometer.  [Laughter]  It’s low.  I’ve been praying and asking God to raise up people who believe in what we’re doing, here on FamilyLife Today,who say, “You know what?  You guys have helped me in my life—as a single man, single woman, single parent, as a husband, a wife, a dad, a mom, a grandparent—and we want to stand with you.  We want to keep broadcasts like yours on the air every day, here on FamilyLife Today.


Bob:  Yes, we’re listener-supported, which means that the cost of producing and syndicating this program—if we don’t hear from listeners, then we can’t continue the program on our network of stations, all across the country.  Because we’ve seen a fall-off in the last several months, we have to look hard and say, “What are we going to be able to do in 2013, related to FamilyLife Today?”

Dennis:  And in terms of stations like this.  You may say, “Dennis, I can’t write a big check.”  I just want you to know that, over the years, it has been donors of all sizes—who have given small gifts, medium-sized, and larger gifts—who have said, “Yes!” to keeping FamilyLife Today coming so that you could enjoy it.

If you’ve never given, I’d like to challenge you to help us take advantage of the match.  Your dollar will be matched with a dollar.   So, if you give $25, that will become $50.  If you give $50, that will become $100.  If you give $100, that will become $200—or double whatever you give.  The reason those families gave that money is because they believe in what we’re doing.  They’ve seen the crunch that we’ve been through in the last few months; and they said, “You know what?  We want to make sure that you guys finish the year strong and healthy.”

I’ve always had the commitment, Bob—over 20 years—you know, we’ve talked about this numerous times—if the money isn’t supplied, then the listener has spoken.  We want to stay on the air, providing what we provide; but it’s dependent upon God moving people to be a part of this ministry and saying, “Yes,” to wanting to be a part of FamilyLife Today. 


Bob:  You can make a yearend donation by going to  Click on the button that says, “I CARE”, and make a donation online; or call toll-free.  We’ve got folks who are ready to take your call, right now: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number; 1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”; let us hear from you.  We want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for whatever you’re able to do, here at the end of 2012.

Dennis:  And let me just say, “Thanks,” to those who have already given this month and the legacy partners who stand with us every month.  Thank you for keeping FamilyLife Today on this station and for standing with us.  I really mean that.  I appreciate you and your family.  I would ask you to pray for us.  Pray for our listeners, across the country, to really rise up and say, “You know what?  We’re going to make this one of the best conclusions to a year FamilyLife Today has ever had.”

Bob:  Well, I have a question for you as we get started on today’s program.  I think I know the answer to this, but the question is, “What kind of learner are you?”  I mean—

Dennis: Experience.

Bob: Yes, that's where I was—tactile.  You've got to do something to learn; don't you?

Dennis: I need to engage around some kind of experience and let the truth be related to real life.

Bob: What kind of learner am I?  You tell me—What kind of learner am I?

Dennis: Um—

Bob: I'm in radio—does that help?  [Laughter]

Dennis:  Well, I would imagine, Bob, that you were pretty cerebral in school and would enjoy listening.

Bob: I'm an audio—

Dennis: Just like to soak it in.

Bob: I'm an audio-learner, but the “cerebral-in-school” part—that did not fit.

Dennis: That didn't fit?

Bob: No, no, no.  I was tuned out—somewhere else—during most of school.

Dennis: Were you listening to your—

Bob: We didn't have iPods back then. [Laughter]

Dennis: There wasn't any music allowed in classes in those days.

Bob:  We didn't have Walkman® back then—so, there wasn't anything to listen to.

Dennis: Well, if you're interested in teaching your children how they can grow up to follow Jesus Christ and His plan—

Bob: No matter what kind of learner they are—

Dennis: That's right.  We've got the program for you today.  Kurt and Olivia Bruner join us on FamilyLife Today.  Olivia, Kurt, welcome back.

Kurt: Thank you.

Olivia: Thank you.  Good to be here.

Dennis: Kurt and Olivia live in Dallas, Texas.  Kurt is the pastor of spiritual formation at Lakepoint Church.

Bob: What is that big lake that you look out over?

Kurt: Lake Ray Hubbard.  It's the main water supply into Dallas; so, it's a pretty large lake.

Bob:  I thought that was it; alright.

Dennis: Is that the one that's—that's Lake Grapevine—that's north of—

Kurt: Right, this is on the opposite side.

Bob: So when you drive over on I-30—when you're heading into Dallas, you know—

Dennis: That is a big lake.

Bob: Yes, Grapevine is the one you fly over when you're flying into Dallas.

Dennis: Exactly.  Well, Kurt and Olivia have four children and a lot of experience—both in teaching and in the church.  They've developed—well, it's a recipe tin; but it's not a little bitty tiny recipe tin.  It's about—it's like 8.5 x 11—except it is four-inches thick.  It's a tin that's got 48 recipe cards in it—all designed to help you teach your children—about who God is, how He wants them to live as they grow up—and help you, as a parent, have a fun relationship with your children.

Bob: And, Olivia, you were a schoolteacher for a number of years.  You see how he is a tactile learner?

Olivia: Yes.

Bob: How—if he can't fiddle with the can, he's really not learning anything?

Olivia: Yes, he likes that lid—how it opens and shuts, and opens and shuts.  [Laughter]  Well, and as a teacher, I was always known as the fun teacher because it was very important to me that my kids were engaged in what I was teaching.  That's just how all children love to learn—if they are engaged in it, no matter what kind of learner they are.

Bob: I want to ask you about that because you have stressed, as we've talked about this subject this week, that in putting together the Just Add Family resource—and giving parents experiences that they can create with their children, where they can help them learn and understand about God—you've stressed the need to connect fun with these learning experiences.

I can imagine somebody who would say, "Well, I understand the motivation behind that; but aren't you training kids to think, ‘If it's not fun, I should tune out’?  Aren't you getting them to develop an appetite for candy and they never have an appetite for broccoli?” —you know what I'm saying?

Olivia: Yes, and that question has been asked.  That's why I think you need to remember the ages and stages of your children because, believe me, with our high schoolers now, we don't do—we don't draw their picture on a piece of paper and say, "Look, you're made in the image of God."  We have come out of that.  Now, Kurt is asking the boys to read Romans; and they're discussing it when they go to breakfast.

So, you grow out of that.  There are different ages and stages for your kids; but if you try to read Romans with your five-year-old, they’re going to look at you like, “What is this all about?”  So, there are ages and stages of learning.  It's important that you develop that relationship and fun so that you are set up for when they get to the stage of their life when they have the questions—the big questions—you can discuss it with them and get into the meat of the Word.

Kurt: Well, and remember, an object lesson is a means of learning that actually connects to most of us because it has the tactile and the audio—it has all of it integrated together.  So it's not an either/or, it's a both/and.  But remember something about our faith—Christianity is the only faith in the world that has something called "The Incarnation".  What does that mean? —“That the Word became flesh.”  That's the scandal of the Christian Gospel.  You know, even world religions are happy to have a god who shouts down truth in a book; but He actually became flesh and blood?  Well, take that to your home—to have an incarnational faith in the home means that The Word becomes flesh and blood in the context of the experiences in the home.

So, we're not trying to replicate or replace the academic environment, which has its purpose, or even the Sunday school environment, which has its purpose.  That's where I learned my books of the Bible; that's where I learned my memory verses.  What we're trying to do—in the context of the home—is to have the faith become alive and real through experiences that catch the children off guard by truths they may have memorized somewhere else but haven't really connected with them at an emotional level.

Bob: So, do you see a lot of family devotions as, “Mom or Dad shouting down truth to the kids rather than incarnating it”?

Kurt: Well, for some people, it works.  Again, it depends on your children; it depends on your context.  It didn't work in our home.  We had seven children, all of different styles and different types.

Bob: The home you were growing up in.

Kurt: The home I grew up in, right.  We know our children—one of our children it would work with.  Our oldest—he and I used to go to breakfast on Saturday mornings because we would rotate with the children.  We'd sit and have a discussion about, you know, “What did C.S. Lewis mean when he wrote this?” —a very cognitive discussion.  I love that kind of thing, and so we'd enjoy the conversation.

I brought my second son and tried the same approach.  As I'm sitting there, talking to him, about the latest sermon and what that meant to him, he's staring out the window.  Then, he says, "Dad, if a rocket came through that window right now, would we all die?"  [Laughter]  That's when Olivia said, "With Sean, it's got to be fun.  You've got to be engaging."  So, it just depends on the context.

Dennis: There are really two things we're talking about here—one is incarnation, which is relationship—the other is the truth.  I want to make a confession, here on FamilyLife Today.  I was guilty, as a parent, of many times erring on the side of only having fun; okay?  We had some family times—in fact, a good number of family times—where we just laughed and just had a good time.  I remember one time when we played "Pudgy Bunny".  Do you know how to play Pudgy Bunny?

Kurt: No, but I'm at the edge of my seat.

Bob: Is there spitting involved in this?  [Laughter]

Dennis: Yes, there can be.  This goes back to an earlier broadcast.

Kurt: Why did he look your way when he said "pudgy" that way?

Bob: Hey, hey.

Dennis: What happened is—and there was no spiritual lesson around this—what the purpose of this was—was just to get together, as a family, and associate good times with the family, at a set time during the week; okay?  I just want—

Kurt: And that's hugely important.

Dennis: I think it is!  I really do.  But here's the game—you get a big sack of marshmallows.  Then, you have a game to see who can stuff the most number of marshmallows in their mouth while still being able to say, "Pudgy bunny".

Olivia: Oh, that is good!

Dennis: And I'm going to tell you—you really do need to have a plastic cloth, Bob, on the ground, because it could be a spitting—

Olivia:  That is good.

Bob: There's at least some drool involved—if there's not actual spitting involved.

Dennis: It's just fun, you know, and—

Kurt: Well, that's also an idea—not in the Just Add Family kit—because it wasn't designed to be a lesson or to have a point; right?  It was designed to have fun.  But I should say this—having fun together, as a family, dramatically increases the likelihood that your children will want to embrace your beliefs because you increase the odds that they want your faith when they enjoy your company.

Bob: But I have to tell you that, like Dennis, I probably erred more on the side of relationship versus truth.  If you're just doing that—if you think the goal is, “Just let's have fun, as a family,” —you're missing an important part of the equation.

Olivia: Right, exactly.  That's why we wanted to put the two together.  We want a fun experience; but then, what's interesting is, after you've had the fun experience, it's almost like they're ready.  Even when you don't think they're getting it—that's what's great—the next day they'll say something like, "Do you remember last night we did Family Night, Mom?  I learned this, and I learned that."  They just pick it up, over time.

Dennis: You've got all these recipe cards—a bedtime recipe, mealtime.  Walk them through this because this was one—and I didn’t have your recipe cards—but this was one that we did.  It was, "I remember the time...." or, "I remember the activity or the experience that we had...."  Share with our listeners how they do this one.

Kurt: Okay.  On this one—“The best use” —remember, it starts out with, "How do you use this?"  This is as a mealtime discussion tradition.  Again, this isn't a one-time deal—this is something you can make as a routine, in your family, around mealtime. 

“The ingredients needed” —this one is easy.  You don't have to pre-prep—the ingredients needed are memories of key moments in your life.

Bob: Cool.

Kurt: Just take five minutes before you sit down to eat and think, "Okay, what are some key memories?" 

“The nutritional value” —what are you trying to achieve?—“Creating occasions to tell your children stories from your own faith journey”; alright?  That's the goal. 

Then, “Serve it up” by following these steps:  “Remember how important it is for your children to hear stories from your own faith journey.  Make a point of jotting down noteworthy experiences from your past to relate to your children.  We all have such experiences but rarely think to share them with our children.”

So the idea is just be—if this is part of your tradition—just be jotting down little stories, as they come to mind, so that when you hit mealtime, you're ready to share those stories.

Dennis: For instance, maybe sharing the story of how you came to faith in Jesus Christ—just sharing your testimony with your children.

Kurt: That's right.

Bob: If you were going to do this—and you'd already shared your testimony with your kids— but you were going to share some other significant spiritual milestone, what would you pull out to share?

Dennis: That's a good question.  I'll answer that before the broadcast is over, Bob.

Bob: Okay; but it could be a turning point, spiritually.  It could be a decision that you had to make.

Kurt: That's right; that's right.

Dennis: It could be how you and your spouse met and how you made that decision.

Kurt: That's right; that’s right.

Dennis: To get married and—

Kurt: It could be a crisis of faith in your life,—

Olivia:  A provision.

Kurt: —it could be a moment in your childhood that just—an awakening—maybe the first time you listened to The Chronicles of Narnia.  You know, it could be anything.

Dennis: Or a major failure in your life that is appropriate to share with your children, where you learned valuable spiritual lessons.  Some of our best things we have to pass on to our kids come through, not the right choices we've made, but through the wrong ones.

Bob: But once again, and we've talked about Psalm 78 before.  Psalm 78 says, “Tell about your experience with God.”  You want to pass on the law, you want to pass on the Word of God; but your kids need to know that Christianity isn't something that just happens inside a book and nowhere else.  It happens through your life.

Kurt: Now, I would hear you say that—if I was listening to FamilyLife radio, and I'm driving down the road—and I'd hear that and say, "Amen!  That's what I need to be doing.  That's right; I agree with that."  When is it really going to happen? 

Well, it's going to happen because we've got a mealtime, Thursday night, when the whole family is together.  We've made a routine, now, that we're going to tell stories because we grabbed this thing and got some ideas down on paper.

Bob: Olivia, does this tin sit somewhere in your kitchen?

Olivia: It's on top of our refrigerator, yes.

Bob: And are you the one who puts it on the table and says, "Tonight's going to be a night we're going to do this"?  Does Kurt do that?  Do the kids do it?

Olivia: We kind of work together.  We already have our Family Night down, so that's when we do that.  As far as mealtime and your question of how often do you do it? —if you feel like your kids are getting to the point where, “Okay, this is feeling a bit forced,” back off a little bit because everything doesn't have to be a spiritual discussion.

Kurt: Well, you don't want your child to say, "Man!  You come off like Dennis Rainey," you know.  "All you ever do is ask questions."  [Laughter]

Bob: Roll their eyes.

Dennis: We've had some kids say that, by the way.  They've turned the radio off, at points.  [Laughter]  But to your point, Olivia, you really don't want to become too predictable with your kids—

Olivia: Right, exactly.

Dennis: —because they don't appreciate being lectured.  Especially, the older they get, the more important it is, I think, to begin to relate to them, not as peers— as in adult-to-adult— because, at that point, they're still not adults.  But asking them questions about what they think around key events of the day—that they are engaged with at school, or in politics, or in the paper, or at church—but get their ideas.  Some nights, at the dinner table, we just debrief, “What occurred in your life today?”

Kurt: Well, one of the other recipe cards is the “High/low”.  Why don't you describe how we do that?

Olivia: Well, yes, we actually do that almost every night because we all want to talk about our day.  We just go around the room; and we talk about, "What was the high of your day, and what was the low of your day?”  Each person tells the high and the low of their day.  It's great, and it's easy.  We've gotten to the point where people look at each other and they want to know, "How was your day?”; "How was your day?"  It's made our kids care about the other person, "What happened with you today?" —which has been great.

Kurt: It's as simple as we just—somebody says—it could be anybody—"High/low".  Everybody knows, “Okay, it's time to go around the circle and share.”

Dennis: And you don't get resistance from your kids as they get older?

Kurt: Oh, no.

Dennis: Because they love to talk about themselves.

Kurt: Absolutely!  Seriously—especially, the low point of the day.  I mean, there are seasons there where we find things out—we found things out we wouldn't have known if we hadn't had that little cute activity—that were really significant in the child's life.

Bob: Well, you know, we can talk about this; but the real proof is:  “Does it work for anybody other than Kurt and Olivia Bruner?  Do you have to be kind of super-intentional, creative types in order for this thing to get pulled off?”

Kurt: Are you asking whether you have to be amazingly brilliant to pull this off?

Olivia:  No.  He’s asking if you need to be—

Dennis: I'm telling you, from look at these cards—

Olivia:  No.

Dennis: —this is simple. 

Olivia:  It is.

Dennis:  And, you know what?  I think that's what parents want today because they're busy.

Bob: This is something a listener could do tonight, if they wanted to, without the tin because we've already talked about one idea here today, which is—

Dennis: Are you talking about Pudgy Bunny?

Bob: I don’t—[Laughter] —Well, they could do the pudgy bunny.

Kurt: That’s one idea—not a good one, but it is one.

Bob: I was thinking of the spiritual milestones— you know, “What's a spiritual highlight from your life?”

Dennis: Right.

Bob: And you were going to share—if it wasn't your testimony, what would you have told your kids?

Dennis: Well, one of the stories I would tell would be the year 1978, when FamilyLife was about two years old.  I was really on the fence, thinking about quitting.  I'd gotten my feelings hurt, and really thought about leaving, and just going to kind of take my Bible and go somewhere else—you know? —have a pity party over the whole deal.  Earlier that year, God raised up a couple who had sent us a gift—a financial gift to our ministry—for our personal support.

Bob: Yes, because you raised your own support.  Back then you did, and you still do today; right?

Dennis: I still do today.  It happened that his name was Adolph Coors, IV.  Adolph had become a believer and a follower of Christ.  He and his wife B.J. sent a gift, unsolicited, to our support.  I kept going back to that saying, "Lord, if you want me to quit, then why did you send the money?"  The answer was, of course, “I don't want you to quit."

I look back on that decision, back then, and just almost shudder to think what was at stake—first of all, in my life—my relationship with Barbara and my kids—but then, what God has done.  He would have raised up somebody else; but the lesson is, “To walk by faith and make sure you really are smack dab in the middle of what God wants you to do.”

Bob: And the recipe tin is just a way to help get stuff like that out on the table so that you can be talking about it, as a family, so that those kinds of stories come out.  As we've said before, if you've got something that you're doing, as a family, and it’s working for you, keep doing that.  Our goal here is to help you have effective times together, as a family, where there’s discipleship going on—where there is some spiritual development, spiritual formation happening in your marriage and in your family—but if you don’t have something that’s working for you, go to and look at the Just Add Family recipe box, with the recipe cards in it.  You just pull them out—they’re easy to execute.  It’s a way to set you up to win in this area.  You can do this once or twice a week.  The recipe box will take you for several months, if you just use different recipes each time.  Again, go to for more information on the Just Add Family resource. 

We have other resources available.  I’m thinking of Marty Machowski’s book, Long Story Short—that takes you through the Old Testament with a series of family devotions.  You’ll find information about what’s available when you go to  If it’s easier to call, just call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.  We can make arrangements to have the resource you need sent to you.

Now, Monday is New Year’s Eve.  On Tuesday, it will be a brand-new year.  You heard Dennis mention, at the beginning of the program, that we are down to the wire on the matching-gift fund opportunity that’s available to us.  We still have a ways to go if we’re going to take full advantage of the $4.1 million matching gift that we’re hoping to be able to access in the new year.  If we’re going to do that, we need you to make as generous a yearend contribution as you possibly can.  Every dollar we receive from you will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, up to that total amount of $4.1 million.

Your gift really goes twice as far, here at the end of the year.  Would you consider going online at and making a yearend contribution?  Or call us, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation over the phone.  If you’d like to mail a donation to us, you can do that, as well.  Here’s our mailing address:  FamilyLife Today, P.O. Box 7111, Little Rock, AR, 72223.  Of course, as long as your envelope is postmarked by Monday, your donation will qualify for a tax deduction in 2012. 

With that, we’ve got to wrap things up.  Thanks for joining us today!  Hope you have a great weekend.  I hope you and your family are able to worship together in church this weekend.  I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about having some wise stewardship principles in place as you head into a new year.  Ron Blue is going to be our guest.  We’re going to talk about getting our “money house” in order for the new year.  I hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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