How to Be Intentional in Building Close-Knit Families

I’m delighted today to introduce you to my friend Susan Yates. Susan is one of the most intentional people I know and her post today is full of ways to create a strong healthy family and ideas for creating fun relationships. Summer is coming soon and now is the time to start planning for family gatherings even if they look different than in the past. Everyone needs a family that is supportive in spite of our sin and brokenness. Susan’s wisdom will help you create that environment with your own family. Enjoy!


Are you tired of being cooped up, ready for real family time, even a reunion? Do you long for a family that’s close but wonder how to help this happen? 

You may be saying, “But my family’s a mess. I’m tired of being isolated, tired of my kids, tired of my life, too tired to even think about building a close-knit family.” Or you may be a grandparent who longs to connect with your adult children and grandchildren but aren’t sure of the best way to do this. 

Here are four things to consider:

1. There is no perfect family. We are all a mess to some degree. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest are only images. Behind every photo is a self-centered person. One who has used ugly words, done awful things, hurt other people, and even discovered they don’t like themselves very much. 

It helps to remember that God is not shocked by your situation, by your wounds, or by your history. He’s seen it all. And there’s nothing He can’t forgive, nothing He can’t change, and no one He can’t heal. As Luke says, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

So no matter where you come from or your current marital status, you can be the first generation of a healthy family. God has given you your particular family and His desire is to bless it.   

3. Let grace rule. You may have a difficult relationship with your daughter-in-law. You wonder if she likes you. Or your son may be in a hard place, and you feel him withdrawing from you and the family. 

Cousins may not have much in common or may even dislike each other. Decide now to set aside your assumptions and choose to let grace rule. This may involve choosing kind words (Proverbs 16:24) or remaining silent when offended (Proverbs 17:28; 19:11). As Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

3. Be quick to forgive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go to my husband and to my children (and friends too) and say, “I need to ask you to forgive me for___. Will you please forgive me?” I can’t remember a single time I’ve felt like doing this. I’d much rather chime in with, “But if you had or hadn’t done this … ”

We go to one another to ask for forgiveness not out of feelings but out of obedience. God has called us to do this. Feelings and trust take time to be healed and restored, often a long time. But asking forgiveness opens the door to allow healing to take place and trust to begin to be rebuilt. A close-knit family will be one that practices forgiveness a lot!

4. Plan a family reunion or a camp for your grandkids. It’s difficult to feel close to someone you don’t see or don’t even know. Families are often separated by geography and this year in particular we’ve felt that distance all too keenly. 

But things are changing!

Now is an opportune time to plan a family event. Social distancing rules are easing, and we are desperate to re-connect. Hungry for community, longing for hugs! Some grandparents have not seen their grandkids in over a year or even met a new baby. Parents want their kids to know their cousins. Perhaps one blessing of Covid is that we have realized afresh how much we need each other. 

So I’d like to encourage you to plan a camp for your grandkids or some type of family reunion. Every family is unique, and you will have to determine what is best for your particular family in this current season.

For 11 years my husband John and I have hosted an annual “Cousin Camp.” We want our grandchildren (from five different families living in different places) to know one another. You have to be age four to come to our camp. We started with five children and for the past three camps all 21 of our grandchildren attended.

Here’s how to begin:

  • Decide with your husband or wife the type of event that would be best for your family. If you are a single parent enlist another family member to co-host this event with you. 
  • Decide who will be invited. 
  • Determine the best dates and the location. You will need to talk to the participants to get some general feel of schedules. It’s unlikely that everyone will be able to attend, so go for the majority and set the date. You don’t have to go someplace fancy. Ours is held at our little farm and kids sleep together on floors and in closets! 

I have written a book about our camps that can be your guide to planning a camp for your grandkids. It contains concepts like balancing realistic expectations with surprises, a detailed daily schedule, how to create a buddy system, choosing teams, Bibles studies for morning devotionals, crazy traditions like the “gutter banana split,” and the most amazing obstacle course.

The book has a whole section on what others have done, including adult retreats, a day-long extended family reunion with a theme, a single aunt who hosts her nieces and nephews and neighbors, and many other ideas. 


You can order Susan’s book, Cousin Camp, here. You can also find some of her Cousin Camp videos on her website (scroll down to the bottom of that page to see the blog posts). If you schedule a camp or reunion, be sure to let Susan know when you schedule it so she can pray for you while you are hosting it. Also, sign up for her blog and as a bonus you can download four One Word Cards with original artwork, calligraphy, one character trait of God, a verse, and a thought. 

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