COVID-19 has disrupted the normal rhythms and social life of many children and families around the country. With the cancellations of school, recreational events, and in-person church gatherings, in addition to the shift of working remotely, our family (like many) are spending a little more time (or maybe a lot more time) together.
Parents, we all want to lead our children well during this unprecedented time. But I have to say, for my wife and I, it has been a challenging couple of days. The truth is, our kids (ages 13, 11, and 8) are struggling with being relegated to the house and the daily schedule we’ve implemented. They simply want things to be normal.
Given what they want and what is, Joannie and I know these will be challenging days and weeks. However, we are committed to stewarding the hearts of our children well and leading them to press into Jesus and his love for them and the world.
I understand how intimidating and overwhelming it may be to lead your children to press into Jesus. For some parents, they may have never had Christ-centered parenting (leadership) modeled for them when they were a child. Or parents may feel ill-equipped to teach their children to press into Jesus through prayer or reading (and understanding) the Bible. In such cases, it is easy to see how discipleship for the family has been sub-contracted to the church and her leaders.
However, during this season of COVID-19, while many churches are doing the best they can to move their gatherings and discipleship mechanisms online, the parents will need to be the ones that step up. In the coming days, there will need to be a recovery of family discipleship to be initiated and led by parents.
What I want to do in this post is walk you through a simple process of how you can lead your children in a time of family worship as the family unit presses into Jesus.
The Why, When, and How Long of Family Worship
If your children aren’t accustomed to gathering together at the dinner table or in the living room, this might be the most difficult step. But it is the first step, nonetheless. You have to gather them together for a corporate time with no distractions. You’ll need to make sure the TV is off, and the phones are out of hands and out of sight.
Here’s what you should aim for during this corporate family time: to draw your family, as a unit, to focus upon the glory and centrality of Jesus—reminding everyone that Jesus is the hero of the family (and the world).
Regardless of whether you have a 3-year old or a 17-year old, this (or something similar) should be the purpose of your time of family worship. And I would also add that in times of crisis, it’s important that we fixate our children’s eyes and hearts on Jesus as our ultimate HOPE.
For many, just the simple step of gathering will be a huge win.
What happens after you get everyone together? Before moving to the next step too quickly, let me address a question many of you—particularly the ones who have never done this as well as your kids—will ask: When and how long should family worship be?
The issue of time may be one of the biggest questions or even obstacles that [busy, distracted, and fidgety] families have. You can go ahead and relax. It’s not so much as quantity of time but quality of time.
Family worship can be weekly or daily—or anything in between. It can last 30 minutes, 15 minutes, or even 5 minutes. The timing is up to you.
In short, family worship does not have to be a long drawn out ordeal. Sure, it may feel like a long, drawn-out ordeal as you settle down your younger children. But once they are settled, it doesn’t have to be long.
What Do You Do During Family Worship?
There are at least three things Donald Whitney, in his book Family Worship, notes families can do during that time. They can sing, pray, read. Sing a song, pray a prayer, and read a passage in the Bible.
What I want to do is concentrate on the Bible reading element. If you have younger kids, you may want to purchase the Storybook Bible and read a chapter at a time. Maybe you want to download the YouVersion App and start a daily devotional plan that comes with a portion of Bible reading.
The key is to read the Bible together. Once again, it’s not quantity but quality. And after reading the passage you can methodically walk through some, or all, of the follow acronym F.A.M.I.L.Y.
Faith, Adoration, Mission, Intimacy, Lost condition, and You. As you walk through this acronym, you can ask the following questions:
Faith—What does this passage teach us about the Christian faith? Remember, faith simply means trust, belief, or confidence in God—who he is, what he says, and what he promises.
Adoration—Is there anything in this passage that teaches us why we should adore God? Is there something that God does in this passage which should lead us to respond to him in worship, praise, or adoration?
Mission—What does this passage teach regarding the mission of God? For me, I’ve communicated to my children that God is on mission to create (or save) a people for himself from all peoples on planet earth.
While God’s mission involves evangelism—telling other people about Jesus—it also consists of much more. God’s mission also includes how we live—how we relate to our parents, do our school-work, treat our siblings, how we love others, etc. Being God’s people means we allow Jesus to live out his life through us (Gal. 2:20).
Intimacy—Does this passage tell us anything about a relationship with God? The Christian life isn’t about a bunch of dos and don’t’s. While it may consist of dos and don’ts, that’s not the essence. The essence of the Christian life is a relationship with God via Christ. Therefore, is there any key(s) in this passage that gives us information about relating to (walking with) Christ?
Lost Condition—Does this passage give us any insight into the fallen nature (or sinfulness) of mankind? In asking this question, my goal is for them to see how man—whether a person knows God or not—struggles with sin and how sin is demonstrated and manifested in a person’s life. What is clear—especially in observing Jesus’ disciples—is that man not only needs Jesus for salvation, but also for sanctification.
You—What, in this passage, stands out to you? What is God teaching you in this passage? Here I want them to personalize what the passage means to them. Or, do you have any questions about this passage?
Some may be wondering if every story or passage of Scripture has every element that I listed? Some do, some don’t. Again, it isn’t the quantity, but the quality. There are some passages and stories where it may be more advantageous to concentrate on the mission of God, and others where it might be more advantageous to discuss adoration or the lost condition (sinfulness) of man.
My encouragement would be to let the Spirit of God lead you in those moments.
Families in the coming days and weeks (and possibly months) will be spending a lot of time together. In addition, with the cancellations of large in-person church gatherings, many children will not have the aged-appropriate worship environments they are accustomed to.
While some churches will work on sending helpful material to assists parents, the onus will fall on the parents to discipline themselves (and their children) to have those corporate times of family worship.
Just remember, times of family worship do not have to be overwhelming or intimidating. They can be short, simple, and sweet as we anchor our family in the centrality of Jesus—making him the hero of our family. And if done consistently, during this time, we might find family worship becoming a spiritual discipline of our life after COVID-19.
Josh Laxton currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Billy Graham Center, Lausanne North American Coordinator at Wheaton College, and a co-host of the podcast Living in the Land of Oz. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.