I am a mum, a new youth, children's and families worker at a parish church in Doncaster, a worried daughter, concerned neighbour and out of my depth governor of a local school. Words cannot be used to express the number of thoughts whizzing around my head at any given second.
The last two weeks are now a blur of changes and moving goalposts. Two weeks ago I had a diary full of school visits to build relationships with the children there and share the joy of Easter. I set my objectives for my new job role and was full of excitement to start toddler groups, youth groups and children’s activities. Of course, that came crashing down when I realised Messy Church would have to be cancelled for Palm Sunday and all my ideas shelved.
I know I am not the worst affected – my thoughts are with all those involved in the NHS and what they will have to cope with. I know that my worries aren’t as life and death as theirs. But they are real. I have learnt to allow my emotions rather than saying they aren’t as important as other people’s. We all have our own stresses and struggles right now. That’s ok. Allow them, feel them, deal with them and accept the situation for what it is, and move on.
Let me share a picture of my life with you now! I am staying at home with my two children, aged six and four, whilst my husband works remotely in the dining room (we are trying to keep the noise down!) and I try to squeeze in half an hour of work here and there whilst the children are occupied. My main role now is to keep connecting with our Messy Church Families online: to share activities, videos and encouragements with them.
Despite it all, I do have a feeling a peace and excitement for this season. We have a chance to address things as families that we’ve always been “too busy” to address before. Who else wants God to be at the centre of their family and yet finds it hard in the midst of the school run and after school activities? Who else wants to connect with their neighbours but never finds the time? Who else wants to offer to pray for other mums when they call to organise a play date? Now is our chance.
Family ministry doesn't have to get left behind. Let me share a few things I’ve done since this all started that might inspire you with your family ministry:
Set up a daily routine that puts God at the start and the end of the day
You might not achieve it everyday (today we were running an hour behind due to brotherly fights that needed disciplining) but even just five minutes to pray together as a family and sing a favourite song will be helpful.
So many churches have gone online and are sharing sermons or children’s sessions. We are recapping the story from that each day and digging deeper into it. On Sunday our kids pastor spoke about Jesus calming the storm, so on Monday we made the story in playdough together. Maybe we’ll make it in lego another day, or role play another. I get to be the creative parent I always wanted to be!
Have a decamp time for yourself at the end of the day
We have been eating together as a family at 5pm (something that rarely happened before) so the adult cooking and eating time that we would have after the kids went to bed is now free. We have started putting worship music on and reading our Bibles together. It’s a great way to refresh after what might have been a stressful day of home schooling or even more changes.
Start a longer term challenge or tournament
Let’s face it, we’re going to be stuck in home for a while. So why not start a longer term challenge to focus on? Maybe you could colour in a box everyday you read the bible together, try to read one of the gospels together over the quarantine period, or do musical instrument practice everyday. Let’s use this time to help our children get better at their God given gifts.
Love your neighbours in new ways
We have loved the rainbow activity that is going around on Facebook - families have been creating rainbows in all sorts of ways, drawing, painting, crochet (just to name a few) and sticking them in their windows to symbolise we will make it through this. It’s lovely to do it for yourself and stick one up. But what about those who might not have seen it? We painted 12 extra rainbows and hand typed notes to go with them explaining.Every single house we posted them through now has them displayed, which is an amazing sight to see when we go out for our walk. They themselves feel part of something too, and are waving as we go past. These are people we’ve never spoken to and yet we now have a connection to.
Be a positive voice online and keep in contact with people virtually
Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up, unable to settle due to the thoughts rushing around my head. I’ve started to spend that time messaging other mums and asking how home school has gone, offering to pray for them and sending an encouraging bible verse. That way when they wake up they’ll have something nice to read rather than the news.
Online I’m making sure to share how we’re doing church and school at home to inspire and encourage others. Every time there is a new development, I am offering to pray with those affected and asking others to do the same. It is a really natural way to share your faith with people.
Rachel Ridler is the youth, children's and families Worker at St Lawrence Church, Hatfield, a mum of two and a blogger. Visit Rachel's blog at: https://rachelridlermumonamission.co.uk/.