The U.S. Constitution’s first sentence begins with “We the people” and stipulates that an important part of its purpose is to promote “the general welfare” of the people of the United States. The signers of the Declaration of Independence demonstrated the strength of their commitment to the general welfare of the people by mutually pledging to each other their lives, fortunes, and honor.

As activist Roberto Vargas asserts in Family Activism: Empowering Your Community Beginning with Family and Friends, promoting the general welfare often begins with family, specifically with family councils. Vargas defines family councils as “special meetings organized to address family needs and advance the tradition of being familia [family], caring for each other and our community.” A family council should be a time for all household members to come together for genuine dialogue, open and candid conversation where everyone speaks and is heard. Family councils can be held to hear how everything is going, to share what’s important, to solve individual and family problems, to define a family mission, to set personal and family goals, and to make important decisions.

To get started holding your Family Councils:

  • Set a schedule for holding family councils consistently — at least weekly, if possible.
  • For each meeting, designate a facilitator and a recorder/note taker, define the purpose of the meeting, and be clear about the process for holding the meeting. Rotate roles among family members and be open to different ways of holding the meeting.
  • Begin and end each meeting with a loving affirmation and prayer or a moment of meditative silence.
  • Give every family member the chance to speak and to feel heard.
  • Take time to assess how well things are working for family members in general. Also, evaluate the effectiveness of how the family council meetings are going.
  • Write down the results of the council meeting, noting the decisions, commitments, etc.
Habib Todd Boerger, Roberto Vargas in Practicing Democracy at Home by Habib Todd Boerger