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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Discussion Questions: The Death of Ivan Ilyich Liturgy of Life Reading Group

Liturgy of Life Reading Group
This happened! The first physical meeting of the Liturgy of Life Reading Group. We had a small but mighty gathering and we are looking forward to more. If you are thinking about a book club consider gathering a few friends to read along with the Liturgy of Life Reading Group.


For those of you who are reading along in Tolstoy’s, The Death of Ivan Ilyich with the Liturgy of Life Reading Group, I wanted to share the questions we used in our discussion.  Please share your thoughts in the comments.


1. Is the moment of Ivan’s death a triumph or a failure? For example, he declares: “Death is finished. It is no more.” Is this a positive or negative statement?
2. Discuss the significance of the title. If the work professes to be about Ivan’s death, why is it almost entirely dedicated to Ivan’s life?
3. Is Gerasim a type of Christ? What do we learn about caring for the dying from him?
4. What did you think of the black bag as a symbol?
5. What has been/is/should be the Christian response to an illness that can not be cured?

6. How does our society view/treat those at the end of life is this consistent with the Christian faith?
6. Do you think Ivan would have reached the same conclusion at the end of his life if it had not been for the suffering that came with his dying? Is suffering good? Is it bad?
7. How does this story inform our approach to suffering among the living? Among those who are in their last days? Do you think the last days of someone’s life can be meaningful/valuable even if they involve suffering? Does this inform our response to the movement towards physician assisted suicide?
8. Was Ivan’s suffering primarily physical, spiritual or emotional? What about in your own experience or in watching others, what type of suffering is most significant or is this an impossible separation?
9. How does suffering when it does not result in death affect our spiritual life? What should the Christian response be to suffering?



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Barbara Kingsolver Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Liturgy of Life Reading Group Discussion Questions

Some Questions to Get Us Started Thoughts on Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

For those of you who know my earthy ways Animal, Vegetable, Miracle may not seem like an odd choice for this reading group. But for those of us who are just getting acquainted this may seem like an odd choice. Maybe you found this group when you were searching for some spiritual direction, specifically Christian direction and saw that we read books like  The Rule of St. Benedict or The Problem of Pain.

Kingsolver is not unspiritual but she clearly does not write from a Christian perspective.  Still her book offers us a great insight into the Christian world and perhaps in a direction that has been overlooked by mainstream American Christianity.  To begin I’m posting some questions that I’ve been asking myself, simply some ideas to chew on as we read. I’ll try to address some of these subjects over the next few months and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Discussion Questions for the Christian reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle


Is there any spiritual significance in cultivating land? Does it change my relationship with God when I recognize that the same dirt I use to grow plants was used for the creation of man and remains the substance out of which all creatures are made and sustained? Can working this land help me know God better?

Barbara Kingsolver Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Liturgy of Life Reading Group Discussion Questions


Does what I do with my body have an impact on my soul? Does doing meaningful work affect the way I interact with the world? Is there value in producing something through my own physical labor? Does the process of building, growing or creating with my hands help me to understand God as my Creator?


Does experiencing the Creation teach us something about our Creator? How does spending time in nature feel different than being inside in man made structures? Does where we are change how we experience God?


Barbara Kingsolver Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Liturgy of Life Reading Group Discussion Questions


Does meeting our own needs by cultivating God’s Creation teach us anything about meeting the needs of others? Does realizing that all that sustains us comes from God’s Creation help us to develop as sense of gratefulness in our own lives?


What is man’s relationship with animals? Is there any spiritual significance in the way we care for animals whether they be pets or for food? What about in the way we slaughter animals? Does the way we care for animals that we use for food have an impact on our physical health? What about on our spirits?


Barbara Kingsolver Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Liturgy of Life Reading Group Discussion Questions


Is there any spiritual significance in gathering at a common table for a meal? How does eating together verses eating alone affect our relationships with one another? What about with our relationship with God? Does anything change when we work together to grow or prepare food together? Does feeding someone else or depending on someone else to feed us teach us anything about the way that we are fed by Christ?


Does what I put into my body affect me physically, emotionally or spiritually? Does being well fed affect my sense of gratitude or my energy? Is there a relationship between caring for my physical health and improving my spiritual health?


Just some thoughts to get us started. I’d love to hear what questions you have now or as we go through this book. Thanks for reading with us!

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This post is part of our Reading Group series. Right now are reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. We would love for you to join us.

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.