One of our Values at the Church is Home+ (a home centered on Jesus becomes the epicenter of an active faith life). While the Coronavirus pandemic is altering almost everything we knew as normal life, I am also seeing how it is perfectly equipping us, as families, to embrace this value.
One of the biggest upheavals that we are seeing in our Christian lives is a change in our Sunday morning routines, from in-person gatherings to in-home online services. However, gathering as the Body and coming together for teaching, encouragement, and equipping remains just as important. And it is still just as important for our children to be included in these gatherings and to see it as a priority in our lives.
So how do we do that well? How do we continue to prioritize corporate worship within our family units?
In our home we have a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. There is a strong temptation to use these online worship experiences as a much-needed break, to let them play in a different room so I can curl up with a cup of coffee and finally hear an entire sermon! To give in to that temptation, however, is to neglect a powerful and important moment that God is giving us in our home.
Moms and dads, grandparents, caregivers - I hear you. You are tired. You are playing multiple roles in your home that weren’t there three weeks ago. The idea of re-teaching your children how to do “church” can feel burdensome. With a little intentionality, however, I do believe that God can make these new Sunday morning routines something that blesses our families and jumpstarts a new focus on Jesus in our homes. Here are a few things we have been trying in our home.
Prepare for Worship
Take the 30 minutes prior to the online service to get yourselves in the proper mindset. Rushing everyone to the computer just as the service is starting will make it feel like an interruption in the day versus a planned, welcome activity.
Get dressed. Encourage your kids to put on their nicer clothes, brush their hair, and prepare to enter a time of worship as if they were going to church.
Get the wiggles out. Turn on some songs on youtube (we love Lifetree Kids and Listener Kids) and dance and jump for a few minutes.
Eat breakfast first. Full bellies will help everyone feel comfortable and settled.
Pray. Five minutes before the service starts, take some deep breaths together and pray. Ask God to help you be present, to put aside distractions, and to engage in a time of worship. Pray for the pastor and musicians and anyone helping to lead the service.
Prepare your Environment
Taking a few minutes to think through HOW you will worship online will help mitigate distractions during the experience.
Technology Placement is key. Put the computer where your toddler can’t reach it. Put AWAY your other devices as well. Have one, central, piece of technology that entire family is gathered around together.
Keep little hands busy. In our home we put our computer on the coffee table, the kids sit in little chairs at the coffee table, and we have adult coloring books available for them to use during the service. Have your children pick out the items they want to use BEFORE church starts so they don’t have to get up during the service.
Snacks. Some things stay true no matter the environment. A bowl of Cheerios is a lifesaver whether in a pew or on your couch.
Take Advantage of the Unique Opportunities
There are some really fabulous benefits to worshipping in your home with an online service. For one, you don’t have to remind your children to be quiet every two minutes. Here are a few ideas on how to take advantage of this new style of worship:
Encourage dialogue. Ask your children questions during the sermon. Talk about the words in a song. You now have freedom to engage with each other during worship.
Teach Discipleship Skills. Help your child find the passage of the day in their own Bibles. Have the Lord’s Prayer written out so they can pray with you. Talk about the sermon when the service is done. Have your children watch you as you give online so they can continue to connect our offerings as a part of our worship.
Teach the rhythm of your particular worship experience. I can now encourage my 6-year-old to pause and pray during the service without worrying about disturbing the people next to me. I can walk over to my 4-year-old and put my hands over hers. Consider the habits that you want your child to continue when you are able to worship together in person again.
Worship Freely. Do you sing off key? Who cares! (God doesn’t). Does a song make you want to dance? Go ahead! Do you want to shout Amen during a powerful message? Shout it loud! Your children are watching your emotion and engagement during the service.
This is new for everyone. It won’t feel natural at first. It won’t feel easy at first. But we will adjust. Your children will adjust. Ride out the tough moments and soak in the joyful ones. Be patient with each other, yourselves, and keep your expectations realistic.
Whatever online worship looks like in your home, my prayer is that it can become a time of growth and anticipation in your home. What tips and tricks do you have for engaging your children in online worship? What blessings have you been experiencing together? Share them with me here or at firstname.lastname@example.org.