While there are a lot of things I don’t love about the “new normal” that COVID-19 has ushered into our world, there is one thing I have loved to see: the time families are spending together! With so many of us inside our “bubbles”, our families have become the ones we eat with, play with, work with, study with and even do church with.
As a children’s & families pastor, I have been so excited to see the way families have been growing in their faith together. Seeing parents lead their kids in “at-home kids’ church”, participate in challenges together, watch church online and do devotionals is amazing.
While I love seeing families teaching their kids the ways of Jesus, or discipling them, I worry that some of us – parents and pastors alike – see this method as a “quick fix” or “fad.”
Do we see parents teaching their kids simply as “keeping things going” until we can get back to normal?
Are we equipping families with resources, devotionals and tools just to “keep them busy” or “stay connected” until they can be part of our programs again?
Is family discipleship a temporary solution?
Or should it be something more?
While I am excited to get back to worshipping with my church family, and connecting with the kids in our church and community – I’ve found myself asking this question:
How can we make sure family discipleship remains at the forefront?
How do we prevent family participation from being a fad or quick fix, and instead become a permanent fixture in our ministries?
While I don’t have all the answers to this question, here are some suggestions:
1. Keep things simple!
One of the things that this pandemic has done is forced us to keep things simple. With online ordering slowed and limited supplies at local shops, ministry to families has been stripped of some of the “bells and whistles.” Don’t get me wrong – I love the bells and whistles as much as as the next person – but I do think this season has forced us to keep things simple for kids and their families.
In my experience, as we keep things simple – with an easy-to-read devotional, engaging video clip, straightforward activities with supplies at home, or conversation starters – we see families participating. When parents don’t need hours of prep, loads of research, or better yet – when they can learn with their kids, it seems they’re more likely to take the lead and disciple their families!
So, as we start to return to “church life as we knew it” – how can you keep it simple?
How can you equip families with straightforward, simple tools to keep discipleship happening at home?
2. Make worship a family affair!
One of the exciting things I’ve seen during this pandemic is the way families are worshipping together. Kids are sitting (okay, sitting might be a strong word) around with their families and everyone is watching worship! We’re seeing kids on church live streams – singing, reading Scripture and participating in other unique ways.
If this isn’t the norm already in your church, consider how you can make worship a family affair.
While I believe in the value of age-appropriate programming, I also believe in the value of families worshipping together. Kids are a part of the Church today – not just in the future – and having them participate with us on some level is essential.
What conversations do you need to have with the leadership in your local church to make this happen?
How can kids participate in your gatherings on a regular basis?
One of the ways we’ve done this in our local church is by having our middle-schoolers (grades 6-8) serve in a variety of capacities. They help work tech, serve as ushers, play on the worship team and volunteer in kids’ ministry.
Younger kids read Scripture in the services and participate in a children’s time before they’re dismissed to their kids’ ministry.
When families are worshipping together, parents are equipped to continue the conversation and journey at home!
3. Plan gatherings that engage every age group.
For many of us, even when we return to church services, children’s ministry may be on hold for a while – due to physical distancing requirements. That means families will be worshipping together for the next little while.
That isn’t going to be easy – and I say that as a mom of two small children. Participating in a church service with infants, toddlers, and even moody preteens can be quite a challenge.
With the leadership of your church, consider how you can plan gatherings that engage every age group. I’ve seen several people sharing this quote from the great Charles Spurgeon this week online:
There should be part of every sermon and service that will suit the little ones. It is an error which permits us to forget this.
What will that “part” of your service look like? Here are some suggestions:
- Be sure to take the time to welcome kids to your service. Jesus made a big deal of children, so we can too!
- Incorporate worship songs that all ages will be familiar with. If kids don’t sing the same songs as you in their worship time, consider including one or two!
- Use an easy-to-understand Bible translation in Scripture reading and sermons.
- Consider including hands-on illustrations in the message to keep kids (and let’s be real, adults!) engaged too.
- Equip parents with resources like A Family Guide to Worship so that kids can take age-appropriate “notes” (or doodles for preschoolers) and understand what’s happening in your service.
- If you’re participating in traditions kids may be unfamiliar with – like Communion, Baptism, Corporate Prayer – take the time to explain what’s happening!
- Have kids participate in a variety of ways during your service.
4. Don’t neglect the at-home piece!
With so much excitement and enthusiasm to get back to “normal”, it will be easy to let the emphasis on equipping parents to go the wayside. Parents will be happy to get a break, kids will be excited to get back to routine, and you’ll be relieved to get a break from screens!
In all our excitement to create an awesome in-person eoxperience for our kids, let’s not neglect the at-home piece. Parents who are informed, equipped and engaged will continue to be parents who take the lead in discipling thier families.
Here are some simple ideas to do just that:
- Keep parents informed on what’s happening! Are you starting a new sermon series? or in your kidmin? Give them a heads-up.
- Encourage your volunteers to connect with the parents and families of the kids who would typically be in their small group to see how they’re doing and what tools they could use!
- Give parents simple family devotionals to use, like this Journey through James, or the Family Guide to Abide.
- Continue to give families simple challenges to do at home that connect to what you’ve talked about on Sunday! This makes parents the heroes!
- Equip families with discussion questions, like the ones included in this Family Guide to Worship, to allow parents to lead conversations about what’s happening on a weekly basis!
- Give families fun tools to keep growing spiritually together! Tools like a Church Takeout Box or this Summer Bible Bucket from Vanessa Myers would be awesome and make discipleship fun.
Family discipleship is something I am very passionate about. My prayer is that this pandemic will propel families into discipleship like never before. Instead of rushing back to our “normal”, let’s discover new ways to equip and empower families!
Interested in learning more about family discipleship?
Check out these posts:
- Quick & Easy Ideas for Teaching Your Kids the Bible at Home
- How You Can Stay on Track for Summer: Parent Edition
- How Do I Help My Kids Study the Bible?
- When Sundays Are Hard: How You Can Serve Young Families in Your Church
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