Discussion Questions, “What is a Family?” by Edith Schaeffer

This month we wind down our reading of What is a Family? I hope these questions are useful to guide personal reflection or to use in your reading group.  Let me know your thoughts!


1. In her book Edith Schaeffer looks at the family through various lenses, she describes a family as:
A changing life mobile
An ecologically balanced environment
The birthplace of creativity
A formation center for human relationships
A shelter in the time of storm
A perpetual relay of truth
An economic unit
An educational control
A museum of memories
A door that hinges and has a lock
Blended balances

Were any of these descriptions/lenses new ideas for you?

2. Which one of these roles of the family is something you already practice/value?

3. Are there any of these ideas you would like to focus on in your own life?

4. In chapter one (pg 18) Schaeffer talks about the family being, “an art form that takes years to produce but is never finished.” How does this idea mirror The body of Christ throughout history? Does living in a human family help us to understand God’s work in the world?

5. In chapter two (pg 40) Schaeffer describes the family as “the basic atmosphere for people” and goes on to say that communities of families then create the social environment for the whole world. What are some tangible ways (your own ideas or Schaeffer’s) that we can demonstrate the value of family to the world around us? How does cultivating the atmosphere within our family affect our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual lives?

6. Chapter 3 (pg 54) Schaeffer describes the family as the birthplace of creativity? What do you do in your home to encourage creativity? What could you do better? Does a home that encourages creativity draw us closer to God? Does it help us to be more true to ourselves?

7. In Chapter 4 Schaeffer talks about working as a family to become more understanding with one another. She goes on to say that this often requires coming up with “imperfect solutions”(pg 70). What have you learned in your own life by accepting a family member as they are and working through difficult situations? Has this process drawn you closer to God?

8. Schaeffer values time with family saying, “time can never be brought back,” (pg 74)? Where are you using time well right now and where do you think you should use it differently? What have been the best uses of your time with family in the past? What about the worst?

9. In Chapter 5 Schaeffer writes about a family being a “shelter from the storm.” She focuses on caring for each other during illness, saying, “this is a time that counts” (pg 95) emphasizing that both the suffering through illness and the caring for others during illness are valuable and useful times of life even though they are unwelcome. How has personal illness or caring for someone during illness affected your spiritual walk with God and/or your relationship with your family?

10. In Chapter 6 Schaeffer writes about the family being a, “perpetual relay for truth,” she says “consider your place in the family as central, not just in this moment of history, but as part of the “relay.” Don’t let a gap come because of you.” Do you think about the role that your family has and will have in relation to the history of the world? Does taking this perspective change our priorities regarding how we spend our time in our family?

11. In Chapter 7 Schaeffer writes about the family as an, “economic unit.” Emphasizing the importance of families working together through economic hardship. She encourages families to make their time together a priority over saving money? Where has your family’s financial practices helped you to draw closer to each other and to God, where have they drawn you away?

12. In Chapter 8 Schaeffer discusses family being an, “educational control.” What are the educational priorities in your home? How have you used your home to balance the education that your child receives in the world?

13. In Chapter 9 Schaeffer describes the family as, “Museum of Memories.” How have you been intentional about creating memories with your family?

14. In Chapter 10 Schaeffer describes a family being a, “Door that has hinges and has a lock.” How has your family been a protection for each other from the world? How do these experiences help us relate to God’s protection over us? How does your family practice keeping the door open? How does participating in hospitality as a family draw us into deeper relationship with God and the Body of Christ?”

15. In Chapter 11 Schaeffer writes about, “Blended Balance.” How do the differences in the people in your family enhance you personally?

16. At the end of her book Schaeffer talks about “putting the most important thing first and being willing to lose everything materially” for the sake of your family. Do you agree with this idea? Where are you doing it and where could you do better?


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