With the suspension of children’s programmes and even weekend services in some churches to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some parents may be wondering what to do with their children over the next couple of weekends.
After all, we are to keep the Lord’s Day holy, by ceasing from our labour and focusing on God as the source of all blessing (Exodus 20:8–11).
But how do we do that when we are neither experienced Sunday School teachers nor seminary-trained preachers?
If we look closely at Deuteronomy 6:5–7, we can see that the only qualifications needed to teach our children about God are a love for Him and a willingness to keep His commandments.
In addition, the practice of talking about God’s Word with our children should not happen only once a week in church, it should really be a daily and ongoing affair in the home.
So, let’s consider how we can make the “service” at home fun and meaningful for our kids—not only during this COVID-19 period, but each and every day:
1. Get Everyone Involved
Make family service engaging by involving everyone. For instance, let everyone have a go at suggesting the songs. Be open to singing worship songs in any style as it is not the music but our hearts that God ultimately looks at. With younger children, get them to play along on self-made or improvised percussion instruments, or they could lead us in doing the actions. Teens could play musical instruments or lead the singing too.
Everyone could take turns to read the Bible passages aloud.
Encourage the children to share their thanksgiving and prayer items.
When sharing from the Bible, invite the children to contribute their thoughts and responses. We may be struck by and even learn from the profundity of their insights, for no matter how young, they have the same Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth as we have (John 16:13).
Remember that from the mouths of children, God has ordained praise that will silence the enemy (Psalm 8:2). In fact, when Jesus quoted this verse in Matthew 21:16, the children were praising Him while some adults were angry with Jesus for driving out the merchants from the temple courts (Matthew 21:12–15).
2. Try New And Different Things
A family service does not have to follow the same format as a church service. We could spend time just singing and dancing before the Lord one week and focus on praying for each other’s needs the next. There is no standard formula, as long as we are coming together to seek the Lord as a family, be it through singing, studying the Word, or intercession.
Also, try different forms of expression that are not possible in a church setting but perfectly doable at home.
If the children are particularly keen on art, we could draw or paint, perhaps something from God’s wonderful creation as a form of praise for the Creator of heaven and earth.
The family’s understanding of a Bible passage could also be enhanced through charting out a mind map together or role-playing the biblical characters.
While praying for those in need, we could turn our intercession into action by writing notes of encouragement for others.
Think out of the box and allow God’s spirit of creativity to inspire us so that our children will never complain that family services are boring!
3. Use Technology Creatively
Make use of a variety of materials and resources, most of which are freely available online. We might want to create and share a playlist of the family’s favourite worship songs on Spotify or YouTube.
We could also get the children to help search for song lyrics or definitions of certain difficult words in the Bible. There are countless videos of Bible stories and sermons that can be found online, not to mention children and youth devotionals that we could refer to.
[Bonus tip: some websites or apps allow video playback to be sped up or slowed down, and of course we could always fast forward or skip the portions which may not be relevant for our family.]
4. Be Flexible And Adapt When Needed
Invite our children, never force them! If they are unwilling to join in the family service, find out why. Try to understand their point of view and make whatever adjustments necessary to accommodate them.
If we observe them losing interest, think of positive ways to capture their attention (i.e., no lecturing or nagging!). We may have to skim over some points in our sharing or even throw out our service plan and do something else altogether.
If we catch them falling asleep, consider shifting the family service to a different day of the week or time of day when they are less tired.
5. Encourage One Another
Encourage the children to share their thanksgiving and prayer items. Not only would that give us a peek into their faith journey and what they are experiencing in life, it would also send them the message that they are valued and that we (including God) care about them.
We could also share our personal struggles and victories, age-appropriately of course. All these would help the family to grow closer, and more importantly make the Christian faith relevant and authentic to our children.
And, together with our children, let’s consider the needs of the people around us, in our nation and other parts of the world.
Make use of a variety of materials and resources, most of which are freely available online.
Reflect on how God is actively at work in every situation and circumstance, and how we may be His agents of love and compassion in our communities or in the wider world. Even if there are concerns which we cannot do anything about, we could pray and look to our sovereign God to reveal His power and glory.
By being outward-looking, we would encourage our children to be the salt and light of the world that we are all meant to be (Matthew 5:13–16).
In my family, the weekly family time has given our children opportunities to lead, and it has become natural for them to go on to initiate and lead prayer and worship in their schools, army camps, and in church.
So, even if you receive a lukewarm response from the children when you first begin, persevere and keep trying until the entire family is hooked on worshipping God together at home.
Tips For Engaging Your Children During Family Service:
- Involve everyone in the family by giving them something to do during the family service.
- Think out of the box and try different forms of expression that are not possible in a church setting but perfectly doable at home.
- Use technology to enhance the learning of new songs and God’s Word.
- Make whatever adjustments necessary to capture your children’s attention, so that the family service is fun and meaningful.
- Consider how we may spur one another towards love and good deeds by praying for one another and for others (Hebrews 10:24).