This is an article written by my wonderful wife, Catherine Camilleri.
Originally posted on the Bundoora Presbyterian Church website.
5 tips for “church at home” with kids
There have been so many changes over the past few weeks that it is hard to keep up! The learning curve for adults and kids alike has been huge, as we have adjusted all aspects of life to a new corona environment. Our family has had fun working out how to ‘do church’ at home and I thought I’d share a few of the things we’ve been doing in case they help your family also. So here are 5 tips for making the most of live streaming church with your kids.
1) Be Prepared
One of the key things we have tried to do each weekend is ‘set up’ for church. On Saturday night (or usually Sunday morning) we pack away the toys, place out bibles, set up a table of activities and have nametags ready for when the congregation of three ‘arrive’ at church. A set up space makes the room feel different to the rest of the week and communicates that we are doing something special. In the morning we prepare kids snacks for the service, we get the livestream ready and make sure we have had breakfast (and caffeine for the adults!). The basic goal is that when church begins you can all participate without having to come and go.
2) Involve the Kids
We have found that the more we involve our daughter with this preparation, the more she is engaged with the service. Helping to set up the room, making nametags and choosing musical instruments tell her that this is something we are doing as a family together. For young children especially ‘imaginative play’ can help them get excited about church and give a sense of ‘normality’ to these strange times. Some families ‘walk to church’ by walking around the block before the service begins, others do ‘welcoming’ and we often do ‘drop off’ for Little Sunday School complete with pick-up tags!
3) Explain the Service
Livestreaming has provided us a new and rich opportunity to engage our kids in the Sunday Service. When else can you have a conversation with your kids during the service about what the word repentance means? We have used a variety of things to help engage our daughter during the service. From having a kid’s bible open with the same passage, to acting out the bible story as it’s being read or having home-made musical instruments ready for the singing. God’s Word reminds us that he wants us to explain our religious practices to our children so let’s make the most of this unique opportunity!
And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ ” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.Exodus 12:26-27 NIV
4) Modelling Worship
“Church at home” gives us a great opportunity to model to our children our worship of God. More important than any creative tool you could use is the model we set as they watch us each Sunday. Making time and space in our home for church shows our kids how important God is in our lives. Our attention and participation in the service models how we listen to God in his word, talk to him in prayer and praise him in song. Never underestimate how significant a witness you are to your children simply to listening and responding to God. So make the livestream time on Sundays a priority and be aware of your own distractions. This may mean leaving your phone elsewhere if it is not needed!
As government restrictions are lifted we may also have the opportunity to model hospitality to our kids as we welcome other believers into our home to worship with us on Sundays. (A great opportunity to also model sacrificial love by cleaning and disinfecting in preparation!)
5) God’s Word for Everyone
The most challenging part of the livestream service is what to do during the sermon. We want our kids to engage with God’s Word but we need to hear it for ourselves also. For us, we send our daughter to “Little Sunday School” with activities she can do by herself and morning tea to eat. As a back-up we have our iPad with headphones ready so she can watch a kids’ talk whilst we listen to the sermon. For older kids, this could be a great opportunity to teach them how to listen to sermons. You could print off the sermon outline or transcript or give them a special notebook for their own notes or drawings as they listen. You could even think of one or two questions to ask them at the end.
I recognise that a lot of this is made easier for us having only one child, so if it is not possible to hear the sermon during this time either alternate which parent is ‘on duty’ or plan another time when children are sleeping to sit down and watch the sermon together. Whatever you decide, make it a priority to be able to hear from God’s Word for yourself. Remember, God’s Word is powerful so there is much for your children to learn even by hearing his word preached in the background whilst building a Lego tower.
Have grace for yourself and your kids
Even before coronavius, some Sundays are just difficult! Grumpiness abounds, kids are crazy, adults exhausted, the house is a mess and the list goes on. Your Heavenly Father loves to hear from you and provide for your needs so ASK for his help each Sunday. God has shown grace to us, so have an abundance of grace and patience for your kids and yourselves in this season. God doesn’t expect us to do things perfectly. In fact, our weakness exists so that we would trust his sufficient grace! (2 Cor 12:9-10)
So pray, prepare and try new things until you find what works for your family. We have been doing this for a number of weeks now and each Sunday we have seen more and more fruit from our efforts. Our daughter is participating in the singinging and children’s talks, we are able to hear more of the sermon and there are less meltdowns on Zoom after the service.
There has been lots of prayer, conversation and experimentation to get us to this point. But it is worth it to make the most of this and every opportunity to teach our daughter how amazing our God is and that he is worthy of all our praise and worship, both on Sunday and forevermore.