In these unprecedented times, with a massive number of churches opting to live stream their worship services in order to protect the public’s health and love our neighbors, families with young children might find themselves wondering, “That sounds nice… But how can I actually engage my kids in worship when we’re at home?”
As a parent of two young children, here are 11 tips for live-streaming worship with your kids that my own family will be utilizing in the upcoming weeks:
1. Make church an unusual, but fun event. Consider watching church together in your pajamas. Or eating breakfast as you watch.
2. Give your kids (and yourself!) permission to worship freely during the music. If your family isn’t used to singing together on a regular basis, it’s going to feel AWKWARD to suddenly force everyone to sing together during live-streamed music. So, make it OK to simply sit and listen to the music; Or to dance to the music; Or perhaps copy the lyrics down or illustrate them.
3. Look up the day’s scripture reading. While Scripture is read, have your child look up the passage in THEIR Bible and read along. After worship, compare: What was similar and different between what they heard and what they read?
4. Add your own prayers to the day’s prayers. Even if your congregation doesn’t provide you with much silence, take time to pray together as a family after the service ends.
5. During the offering, talk about your family’s giving practices. What does it mean for your family to be generous – especially during these uncertain times? Talk about why your church still needs your offerings – perhaps now more than ever. Then, together, as a family text a contribution to your church and then wrestle with one other tangible thing you can do during the week to give generously to someone around you.
6. Participate in communion in whatever way feels comfortable. We made the decision in our congregation that we’re going to actually do communion. We’re asking people to get bread and a drink before the service. Then the pastor will bless them and we’ll partake together. If your child normally participates in communion during worship, by all means, let them do so now. If they don’t, give them a blessing. Make a sign of the cross on their forehead and say something like, “Jesus says, ‘You are the Light of the World” so go, be the light.” Or “May the love of God keep you and hold you.”
7. Participate when you’re asked to. I did the children’s message for our church tomorrow and I leave space for kids to answer a question with their parents and then to repeat-a-prayer after me. Actually do this with your family.
8. Don’t expect your kids to sit still for the whole service. Give them the freedom to move around or set up a “prayground” on the floor with blocks, play-doh, legos, and coloring sheets so that kids can keep their hands busy as they listen. Often, kids listen best when their hands are busy.
9. Take advantage of the privacy of your own home to let your kids talk. Remember, questions and observations are a sign of engagement, not disrespect. So, if your child interrupts to ask you a question, let them do so.
10. Continue the conversation afterwards. Remember, worship is not just an hour long service; It’s a way of life. After worship, check-in with your child about what they’re seeing and hearing. Ask questions like,
a. What did you just notice about X?
b. What words did you notice during the music, children’s sermon, or sermon? Why do you think those jumped out to you?
c. What tone did the pastor use when they were talking? Why do you think that is?
d. What questions do you have about what you just saw or heard?
11. Talk with your family about how you can continue worshiping together throughout the week. Do daily family devotions about the Scripture passage that served as the text for your service.
Like so many of you, I wholeheartedly value community and look forward to returning to it soon.
Yet, I also think we’re faced with a real opportunity here. As parents, we are the primary disciplers of our children’s faith. So, take advantage of this unprecedented moment in history to prioritize worshiping with your family at home… And then continue the conversation throughout the week.
Doing so might just enable you and your kids to grow in your faith in new and unexpected ways.