Up and down the country and across the world, life has suddenly shifted gear for all of us. Families are thrown into the unknown situation of being together every day, with no clubs, activities or outings to break up the days and weeks. And not only do parents and carers now need to be the warm, loving and emotionally available adults that their children need, but we also need to act as pastors at a time when youth and children’s work is halted in most churches.
Whether you are a parent, a youth or children’s worker or a church leader, you will be looking for ways in which families can not just survive but grow and thrive during this season. We want to offer some thoughts and ideas based on more than a decade of creating resources and working with churches.
We want to encourage you to grasp what is an opportunity coming out of a horrible situation. Take this time to slow down, to seek God together as a family, to explore faith together. It won’t look like Sunday School or youth group - nor should it - but as parents and carers, you are your children’s first role models when it comes to faith and discipleship. You don’t need to have all the answers. Be open to questions, admit when you’re unsure, and centre your worship around Jesus. He is enough.
To aid you with this, from Monday the 23rd of March (the first day in the UK when all the schools are required to stay closed), we will put out a daily devotional resource for families called Engage At Home. It will have a simple prayer or worship activity which families can engage with together, using movement, interaction, craft, play and more. We will be varying the themes and types of engagement with God, and we are sure that you’ll be able to adapt the ideas to suit your family. Visit our website or search #EngageAtHome on social media.
Honesty and Hope
It is important in these times that we create space for the full range of our emotions. In the midst of prayer and worship, allow your family to talk about how they feel. When events are cancelled or frustrations rise, talk about your disappointments, fears, anger and so on. Suppressing those difficult feelings also suppresses our desired emotions of joy and excitement and often leads to depression and anxiety. Bring these things to God in honesty by speaking them out, writing letters to God, reading psalms or listening to songs which help name our struggles.
Equally, remind one another that our hope is in Jesus, not our circumstances or feelings. Read bits of the Bible which help you to “lift your eyes” and see the world through God’s perspective. Listen to music which grounds you in God’s truth, and encourage one another. Regularly count your blessings and be specify about thanking God for things you are grateful for.
Praying for the World
Times when we feel helpless are a good reminder to lift the needs of the world to God. Each Engage At Home session will have a daily reminder of one situation, person or institution you can pray for. Be specific and active prayer warriors for the situations you are aware of - perhaps create a poster with the names of neighbours, family members and local institutions which you are going to pray for regularly as a family.
Our current situation means that schedules and routine have gone out the window, so re-establishing some set timings will probably help ground your family. Think about when might be good moments to pause in your day and intentionally turn to God. Perhaps for some families it might be after breakfast, or after lunch? If you don’t already, would a Bible story and space for prayer help just before bedtime? Work out a daily habit and stick to it.
Take it Outdoors
Although we are encouraged to not gather in groups right now, there are currently no rules in the UK about going for walks or enjoying nature (or at least going into your garden). At engageworship we are strong believers in creation being “the second book of God”, able to reveal the creator and his ways to us if we pay attention. We also know from psychological research that engagement with nature helps our mental health, something we should all take seriously right now. So, do make use of all of our outdoor worship ideas at this time. Here you will find outdoor prayer stations and various other ideas for connecting with God outside.
Videos and Podcasts
We will probably all be trying to limit screen time for our kids in this season, but short song or Bible-story videos might be helpful for your kids. This is also a good time to discover or revisit our family prayer resources for Thy Kingdom Come. The free Family Prayer Adventure podcasts are fun 10-minute audio recordings which includes songs, Bible stories and prayer activities.
We pray that you will have eyes of faith in this season to see God at work in the midst of difficulty. When we can’t access church buildings or professional spiritual leaders, lets re-discover family worship. Play, pray, cry, laugh and learn together, whatever your circumstances. You may even find habits that last a lifetime.
Sam Hargreaves is co-leader of Engage Worship. To find out more about their resources, visit https://engageworship.org/.