Coming Back Stronger: The Recommissioning of the Family During COVID-19
Can I make a confession to you? I am really missing my church family. I am so proud of my pastor and the team who have worked really hard to bring us a weekly online worship experience. In this period of social distancing, it was the best that any of us could ask for. And to my pastor and all those brave pastors out there who did the same, I want to say thank you!
But let me honest, I have really missed the physical gathering with my church community. I imagine the same is true for you.
Since we’re being honest with one another, I have another confession to make. During this period, I have had more conversations with my daughters about our faith, than ever before. I have prayed more frequently with them, outside of our typical prayers at meals and bedtime. We’ve read and studied God’s Word more as a family. And we’ve prayed more regularly for each other, anointing one another with oil praying for God’s protection, provision, and spiritual growth.
You see, at the onset of our shelter-in-place orders, I prayed and purposed that I would not only refocus my time with the Lord personally, but also prioritize spiritual growth for my family. I cannot help but imagine, and have also prayed, that this would be true for the families of our local churches all around the world.
And many have testified that the same is happening in their homes, in big and small ways.
International Children’s Ministries has been providing a weekly discipleship lesson for parents to do at home with their children. Each week, more than a thousand families have been accessing this simple tool meant to facilitate discussions, study, and prayer as a family.
Now, as excited as I am to return to my pew, and worship corporately with my brothers and sisters, I also want to make sure that I don’t lose the priority that family worship has become in my own home.
As we begin coming back stronger in our churches, might we pause and consider ways to both validate and support this recommissioning of families and encourage our families to keep stoking the fires of the altars that have been rebuilt during this time?
What God’s Word Says
As we consider this recommissioning of the family, I want to remind us of a few basics concerning the parent’s role and our role in the church.
First, the Bible never indicates that the church should be the primary discipler of children. Instead, parents are to disciple their children, and the church should come along side of them and support them. In both Deuteronomy and Ephesians, we find that God expects parents to disciple their kids.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8, NIV).
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NIV).
Yes, God’s design is for parents to nurture the spiritual growth of their kids, in their homes, But, this training and instruction is to be done in the context of a loving faith community—the local church.
In the Old Testament, Scriptural truths parents taught their children were reaffirmed by members of the community. Children had opportunities to live out the instruction they had received in the home as they participated in the life and worship of the community.
The local church embraces, influences, and equips all families to disciple their children while valuing, including, and preparing children to do the works of service God has purposed for them to do.
A Few Ideas…
With this basic acknowledgement and understanding, how can we as leaders in the church validate and support the family? I believe there are several ways we can do so.
First, make sure that you and your congregation have a biblical vision for the families in your church. This vision should be shared with your congregation regularly, using scriptures that tell of God’s heart for families. Pastors share sermons about the importance of the family altar and consider providing classes for parents and grandparents about how to engage children in worship, prayer, and devotion in the home.
Secondly, provide opportunities for families to share in worship experiences in the church. While I believe that age-level ministries such as children’s church and bible clubs have a very valid place in our churches, it is also important that families have opportunities to worship together.
As we come back together, there’s no better time for pastors, youth and children’s ministers to reevaluate their worship experiences, asking not only if families have opportunities to worship together throughout your year but also if services are being designed in way for children and youth to be participants with their parents and not just spectators.
We must also acknowledge that the church only has a few hours each week to introduce children and teens to Jesus and disciple them. We cannot ignore the majority of hours they are away from church.
Family members have many more hours to teach and live out a biblical worldview with their children. So, there are a couple of simple ways we can resource and equip families:
For many families, leading their children in at-home worship and devotion is something new. One of the best ways we can tech and encourage them in this skill is to model it for them. How can we model spiritual training?
Consider offering classes for families where you model how to lead a family devotion. Get a couple of willing kids together and lead them in a devotion while family members observe. Then, give them the same devotion to lead with their own children at home.
Provide FREE resources for parents that make it easy for them to start faith conversations at home. For example, give parents a scripture or scripture passage to read to their children and one question to ask about it before bed.
Consider opening a small resource library in your church, available for families to borrow from, if possible.
Send out text messages periodically to families with a discussion question. For example, “Hi everyone! Let’s do some talking at home. What is the best part about being a Christian? Discuss this with your kids and send me a reply. I’ll share some of the answers in church this Sunday.”
And encourage families to begin serving together. Pick a project like working in the church nursery, cleaning the church, visiting the nursing home, or taking food to a homeless shelter, and do it together.
Next, encourage parents to prioritize. While some activities like work and school are not optional, ask parents to look closely at their schedules. Is overcommitment causing them to lose sight of their responsibility?
Once parents have considered their priorities, they also need ideas to make the most of the moments they do have with their children. They may overlook moments such as time spent in the car, mealtimes (even if eaten in a restaurant), and bedtime, as moments to disciple their children. We can provide resources and ideas to help them in their task, such as conversation starters for the car, around the dinner table, or at bedtime when tucking their children to sleep.
These are just a few ideas to help you start thinking of how your church can affirm, support, and equip families in their quest to fulfill their biblical assignment of nurturing their child’s spirituality. For more ideas, I invite you to visit the International Children’s Ministry website at www.cogop.org/children.
Pastor, leader, or children’s minister let us not allow this incredible moment to pass. In the urgency of reopening our congregations and returning to “business as normal,” let’s not allow our community to return to a dependency on the church for their spiritual sustenance.
Let us encourage our church families to fan into the flame the sparks that are burning in their homes so that the family altar my remain alive, enriching their faith and giving them the ability to proclaim the words of Joshua, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).
The above commentary is from a video recorded for Leadership Development and Discipleship Ministries of the Church of God of Prophecy as part of their “Come Back Stronger” campaign for local churches. The ideas listed above are just a few of those shared in the Influencing the Influencers one-day training, available for churches through International Children’s Ministries.