As we progress into this season of Covid-19 I for one sometimes forget that the biblical period did not consist of a uniform set of situations. The gospel of Christ is for all time and for all people. In this Christian community are people of every socioeconomic status, culture, nationality, ability, gender, and age.
Our task in Children Ministry is to translate and demonstrate messages of faith to children for their particular time and place. The tension is to respect the truth and timelessness of the scriptural message while at the same time being sensitive to the diversity of children’s circumstances.
Family provides a child’s immediate environment. The child’s family may consist of mother and father, several or no siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents. Stepparents and half-sisters and -brothers may be grafted into the family. Or the child may live alone with his or her mother. Resources may be plentiful or meager. Faith may have a pivotal place in the life of the family – or not. Many parents are separated from their children for long hours or even days because of the demands of their work. On the other hand, some parents work from home. In this season many more parents are working from home which is causing the family to develop new ways of celebrating important occasions. Families develop their own ways of celebrating important occasions. The family shapes children’s lives, but each child also helps to shape the family. When a new baby comes into a family, it is never the same again. This current pandemic will result in many families never being the same again.
Besides the family, other highly influential primary environments for a child may be the school, the church, and the daycare center. School in its many forms provided the social space that brings together the greatest numbers of people engaged in a similar purpose. This has been disrupted with more families attempting home school or an altered form of contact with their previous school educators. Those families previously requiring or utilizing daycare centers are now forced to care for their children at home. The family dynamic has been considerably altered during this time; possibly forever.
If a family is enthusiastic about its church involvement, its children are more likely to enjoy being part of the church. Churches that recognize the challenges of parenting and provide support for parents will be inviting places for families. In conjunction with our Capital Kids programs we desire to provide support for parents and families; especially during this time of societal change.
There are also secondary levels of environmental layers that impact a child’s life. For example, a child may never visit a parent’s workplace, but the hours the parent works and the time it takes to get to work affect the time the family has together. The children may never meet relatives who live far away, but the parents’ experiences growing up with these people influence how they parent their own children. During this time the family has an opportunity to modify many of these environmental layers . In the previous normalacy time was a critical component of each family with commuting and maintaining a busy schedule. During this time we have an opportunity as families and parents to modify these past behaviors and with the advance in technology family members now have more time to interact with the family due to no commute times, they can now have family time with distant relatives utilizing new technologies and forever positively impact the lives of your and other children.
In our culture today the media have a powerful influence on the life of the child. Even though some parents are diligent in controlling the on/off button of the television, exposure to television is almost universal in our society. Added to this is the advancement of electronic devices for games and social media and there is the possibility of profound impact on the lives of children.
The influence of the larger society’s laws, values, history and economic circumstances and policies cannot be understated. But the macrosystem reaches into every person’s life, even into the experience of faith. The place of faith within a society, along with the presence or absence of freedom of worship, has a powerful impact on children’s religious experience.
In evaluating the place of Children’s Ministry in the overall community at large, I am reminded of the way the apostle Paul spent his initial time in Athens as recorded in Acts 17. Here he models the value of getting to know the broader community as a precursor to context-sensitive ministry. As I now live in the dynamic of the family under the Coronavirus slow the spread timeframe this seems to me a very powerful foundational element for family ministry to our children.
What can we learn from this about getting to know this new family dynamic of being at home together with our families for the foreseeable future. This seems like a great time to explore the broader context of family and children as we adapt to a new normal. As we come to know our family and children better, we will discover distinct opportunities and challenges that give us an enlarged vision of ministry opportunities to the family.
I am reminded of the Greatest Command as referenced in Deuteronomy 6:4-7: “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
As we worship this Holy Week, this is a great season in our lives to begin a new dedication to the Lord beginning from within the family. For most of us we have never had an opportunity such as this to focus our attention on the Lord in such a way. As we experience this new Holy Week adventure isolated in our homes for the first time we have a unique opportunity. But, as different as it looks, I am comforted and awestruck by a God Who keeps a watch over His people as He prepares a way for them. His love is a wonder! That on the very night He would repay our debt with Himself, He would keep a watch over us.
Our Passover Lamb is also our Watchman, and His love endures forever. May you rest in this beautiful truth on this night of Passover – the same night He kept vigil and the clock began to count down to the cross and an empty tomb.
If you are experiencing a need during this time please call our church office at (703) 560-3109. I would also like to hear from you of any programs or ministry that could benefit your family as we move forward during this time; please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with requests or ideas for enhancing our children ministry to better serve parents and their families.
Citation: Children Matter, Catherine Stonehouse, Scottie May, Beth Posterski, and Linda Cannell, 2005, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan