© 2020 Sarah Woods / Harvest City Church

It’s Sunday. Church is at 10.30am and you’re waiting for the reminder from YouTube to pop up on your phone to let you know that the service is about to begin. When it appears, you click and worship starts streaming into your home. Amazing! But you also get a notification on a Saturday morning about a new upload from Junior Church (JC). It’s easy to just swipe it away, but before you do, please take a moment to consider what your children will be doing on Sunday while you’re listening to the message.

But Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.’ (Matthew 19:14, NLT)

When we meet in person we all worship together and then drop our children off in JC, secure in the knowledge that they will be well taken care of (both physically and spiritually) and leaving us free to focus on our own spiritual needs without distraction—until the kids reappear an hour later covered in glitter and waving pieces of paper in our faces!

The lockdown has changed a lot of things, and one is that we no longer have the option of entrusting our children to trained workers who can fulfil their needs on our behalf. As parents, we’ve all been forced to become teachers, homeschooling our children and following the lessons that their schools have provided. Similarly, we now have to find a way to support and develop their walk with the Lord. You may feel that your child is ready to listen to the message with you, but what if they find it too challenging, or it becomes too deep for them? How can we provide for our children’s faith journey in a purposeful and productive way?

What can we do?

Obviously, we can’t recreate the whole Junior Church experience—they can’t play group games with their friends, they can’t use all the resources we have at church, and we may not have ever tried teaching—but we know them, we love them, and we want the best for them. We are perfectly placed to help them. We may just need a little help!

The JC team are still working hard to provide you with a toolkit to make Junior Church at home a positive and valuable experience for you and your children. Each week we record and upload a new video on a biblical theme and produce downloadable lesson plans with ideas, activities and links to additional resources and videos for you to explore. We provide plans for each of the age groups in JC, but the activities can all be adapted up or down so you can use the same activity for different-aged children together, and we make sure that everything you need can be quickly made up with things you have lying around (no art skills required!).

Everything you need each week is available on the church website under the purple Junior Church tab, as well as an archive of all the previous sessions. When that YouTube reminder pops up on Saturday, head over to the website, download the plans and have a read. It only takes a minute to skim through and get an idea of the session and the activities we have suggested, and to consider what will work best for your family.

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. (Proverbs 22:6, NLT)

How do we do it?

I have two children, Emily (7) and James (5). Although they have different needs, when it’s time for JC at home we require that they join in, conform to the expectations we have set for them and behave properly—just like if they were at school or church.

At breakfast I show them what I’ve prepared and explain what they’ll be doing later. They watch the videos (usually at least twice!), and whenever possible I try to watch with them. The videos are only around 5 minutes long and mainly contain the story the lesson is about. The children love to see their JC teachers telling the stories. They get excited and usually want to start the activities straight away but I make them wait.

We ask them questions about the story (What happened? What does that mean? What should we do?) and do the family activity together. It’s also a great time to go through the memory verse.

Together we join the main service for worship. We encourage them to sing and dance along and whenever we see someone on screen we shout out their name (and their kids’ names) to help us remember all the people we haven’t seen for a while, and at night we encourage them to pray for the people they saw.

During the offering song they head over to the dining table which is all set up for them. As we’ve already talked about what they’re going to do they are able to get on without too much support. I try to have one paper-based activity, one online activity or video, and one practical play activity (sometimes outside), and while they work they listen to one of the JC worship playlists. Every 10 minutes or so we pop over to encourage them, which means that we can listen to the message without too much interruption. (A snack also helps!)

Over lunch we ask them what they learned, answer any questions they might have about the lesson, and encourage them in their faith. I usually post a couple of pictures of their work on Instagram and tag in the church, not to show off, but to demonstrate the activities and encourage people to have a go.

That may be the end of the session, but JC at home doesn’t stop there. Kate’s article, Church in the Home and Home in the Church, is an excellent reminder about how our homes are our own churches and why we should remember to share the Bible with the next generation. I encourage you to re-read it and remind yourself of the opportunity we have at this time to share our faith with our children.

You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:15, NLT)

As you go about your day, actively drop connections to the Bible, church and Christian living into whatever you’re doing: talk about creation when you’re out on a walk; healing when they fall over; peace when they have bad dreams; rest when they can’t sleep; God being in control when they talk about the virus; giving; helping; friendship; love; joy… These things help to build their understanding of how we live our lives and the basis for our (and then their) actions.

And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, NLT)

I hope and pray that you will be encouraged to consider your children’s spiritual growth and development and your own role in it, both now and throughout their lives. And I pray that their testimonies will begin with, ‘Mum/Dad always taught me about the Bible…’