Lockdown Q & A: Facebook Live
This content is also available as a podcast.
For us parents, one of the core parts of church is being loved and loving others, so we want to be able to stay connected even when we’re apart. But our kids may not be so bothered and unless they are lonely or sad about this, that’s fine, because this is a temporary season. In a few months time, we’ll pick up our real relationships.
Find other ways to stay connected to your church family. This might be by:
- Sharing stories about what people in church are doing, their news, what you’ve seen. This helps them stay connected through knowledge and keeps their world full of their church family.
- Finding creative ways to do face to face contact: for example, as you pass homes on your daily exercise, wave to your church friends; get children to play with each other through online board games.
- Children may be more inclined to stay connected through serving others, for example, baking a cake and leaving it on their doorstep.
This isn’t uncommon! Online church can be hard to engage with, no matter how polished it is. But there is stuff you can do.
Before you work out what you want your child to do, work out WHY you want your child to engage with online church. For example, I want her to get the bible teaching / connect with her church family / do what we do every Sunday - go to church. Once you have that clear in your head, you can explain the reason to your child as you make decisions about how you want them to engage so they get what you want them to get.
Use the six stage circle to help you disciple your child in this:
- Model it: let them see you appreciating and engaging with online church.
- Frame it: I know it feels weird, but the reason we’re doing it is this …
- Equip them to engage: they may not like being seen on the screen or hate singing along or there’s nothing for them to engage with. So find ways that will help them engage.
- Create opportunities for them to engage: facilitate their engagement by giving them choices about how they worship / listen out for something the preacher said, etc.
- Set specific boundaries: decide what is manageable for your child: for example, staying here for two songs / you can draw while you listen. Include the freedom that they have within those boundaries.
- Feedback: ask questions or make statements to help your child reflect on their experience.
It’s a tough season and we can feel the pressure to be the perfect Christian in front of our kids. So when we feel dry and empty, we can feel the stress of that. But creating windows into your journey of not feeling close to God is really powerful. You can show them how to persevere through struggling with God. Explain to them why you are struggling and share with them your journey of trying new things, not giving up even when you’re in a rut. It means that later on, when they get into a similar situation they recognise what it is and realise they know what to do.
But grab moments with God too. An extra minute in the loo, 30 seconds in the garden, put on worship music when you don’t normally. You might not be able to have your 45 minutes with God but you can grab moments.
Develop a habit of chatting to God all time in your head, inviting him into every bit of your day, not just your prayer time.
When children ask this question, they are often looking to see what your view is: just as we check out the air steward’s face when the plane hits a bump, they want to know if it’s something that they should be afraid of.
The question underlying this is ‘how do I manage my heart about this?’ Rachel’s answer is no, this isn’t something we should be nervous about, because God didn’t design our hearts to be fearful (2 Timothy 1:7). We might get the virus, we might not. If we do, this is what we might see or feel, and if we get sick there will be doctors and nurses working hard to get us better, and scientists looking for a cure, and there’s God who’ll be there and will walk through it with us. So we don’t need to be nervous, but we need to be watchful and take care of other people and be wise.
Some kids really need the security of structure and timings and they may be struggling in this season of uncertainty. So they respond by developing coping strategies. Parents know their kids best so will see what that is for their child.
One tool is to go very structured: day structures, weekly structures, so there are more patterns to their every day.
With regard to the coronavirus, where so much is unknown (when will lockdown end / will they find a cure / when can I go back to school), one idea is to give them the timings and structure that we do know. For example, on this day, the government will review our strategy and then we’ll know the next steps; they’ve said that when all five conditions are met, lockdown can end, etc.
A lot of people are reporting that their children’s behaviour is deteriorating and we can be afraid they are being damaged by the situation. They may have regressed or become more controlling or finding security in things. But these are coping strategies - we’re all finding ways to manage ourselves in these times - and we can talk about what makes you safe and peaceful to support them as they cope.
One of the things that can be really helpful is to develop a wide vocabulary around our emotions, which may include different words for feelings like sad or anxious, but also word pictures: I feel like I’m stranded on a river with no paddles.
You can also chat and catch to process things with God, asking him to give you the words to articulate your feelings to your children. Scripture says the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth (John 16:13), so do ask him.
The book Rachel talked about is The Emotionary.
Where is God? What's he doing?
This is the big question, that we may be afraid we don’t know how to answer. We might think they need the definitive theological answer, but it’s more helpful to put the theology in the context of your relationship with God. Ways to do that include:
- Creating windows into your feelings, your response to the same question. Share how you're talking to God and what your heart is feeling.
- Giving them a Biblical framework: use the Bible to help teach them about evil and how God has overcome it, how he’s working all things together for good, what he’s doing. I
- It’s also helpful to give them a framework to understand that God’s doing things we can’t see as we move their eyes from what they can’t see God doing to what they can see him doing.
- Making them feel powerful - ask children, 'what can we do in response to this?' and help them figure out how they partner with God in the pain.
For more on how to deal with this question, see here.
When teaching children about healing, you can say sometimes God heals people miraculously or instantly, sometimes he uses medicine and doctors and people. But however he does it, God is in it all. Did our prayers make a difference? We can’t know, but we do know that God’s heart is powerful and he hears our prayers. What do you think?
There’s truth in this view of God: he is our protector (see for example Psalm 91 and Psalm 145), and so we can pray for protection for ourselves and for others.
But we know that Jesus also said that we’ll have troubles in this world (John 16:33), and that his disciples didn’t have easy lives. They experienced shipwrecks, prison, beatings, death. Sometimes God miraculously rescued them and sometimes he didn’t. And whether he rescued them or not, he worked through them to bring great good (Romans 8:28).
Being a Christian doesn’t mean bad things won’t ever happen to us. It means that when bad things do happen, God is with us. Yes sometimes he is the rescuer; sometimes he’s the God who walks through the bad stuff with us, comforting, providing, bringing his power to us. Frame that theology - that we will have ups and downs in life, and God is both rescuer and the God who walks through bad stuff - by sharing stories of when God didn’t rescue you and it was hard but God was there with you as well as stories of when he rescued you.