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Connecting in lockdown

How can we make the most of this time so that the children and young people in our church don’t just listen to the content we put out, but grow in their personal walk with God?

So, we are part way through our lockdown and it looks like it may be a while yet before we are able to gather together as church.

During this time, I have been so blessed to see the many creative ways that pastors, youth leaders and children’s leaders have been looking to minister and using many resources. I am sure the word unprecedented has never been used so often – indeed you could even say there has been an unprecedented use of the word unprecedented, but there is no better word to fit the bill for what families, churches, businesses and indeed all of society have been facing. This season has created many challenges for churches and leadership and in many places the church is rising to the challenge of this season to make the most of the opportunities available.

For many children and youth leaders we have different pressures on us. With no mothers and toddlers groups to prepare for, no Friday night club, no school assemblies and no organising of rotas, juice or DBS checks we have much more time on our hands – though this can easily be consumed by our home duties and preparation for online Sunday content. Maybe some of you are missing blowing up balloons, moving chairs regularly and running around on a Sunday morning looking for replacement leaders.

The question remains, how can we effectively minister to the children and young people God has placed under our care during this season?

The online content we can produce is of a great help, while apps like zoom allow us to interact with the children in groups. There is a real danger in this time that our programmes become even more focussed on encouraging people to come and listen to us. If you have ever tried a multiperson video call you will know the frustration caused by more than one person trying to talk at the same time.

While young people are very familiar with online communities, they do not allow for the individual discipleship that often happen before and after physical church meetings, in response to their moods that day. When we mentor someone we invite them to meet with us and talk about what is on their heart, but when we disciple someone we are inviting them to follow in our footsteps as we follow Christ. This means they need to see us not just when we are running a programme, but in everyday life and they need to have the opportunity to interact with us personally if we are going to be able to effectively disciple them.

To be effective in discipleship in this season we would do well to remember that God’s primary vessel for discipleship of children is their parents. When we speak to parents and encourage them as they navigate unchartered waters of home education, working from home and taking more responsibility for bringing God to the heart of the home. There are many resources out there to help parents, but the greatest resource is the parents themselves. Parents are amazing and will generally be grateful for lots of encouragement, prayer and a few creative ideas sent there way.

As we speak with parents, we can also take the time to chat with the children themselves. In a normal week, if you can remember them, we don’t get much time to talk with every family or indeed every child. Now we can intentionally make time for everyone. A couple of hours a day of phone calls and it would not be long before we could call round every family in the church. For many churches people would be receiving a phone call every 1-2 weeks.

Whilst many ministers make it a habit to routinely call their congregation over time, now is a perfect time to step up that part of our ministry. We may not be able to personally visit, but we can talk with everyone in person. Can you imagine the impact that a regular phone call will make, ministering to our children, even those who are young. Of course we should always speak with parents first, gaining their permission to speak with their child and explaining the purpose of your call.

1. They are reminded that they belong to the wider community.

2. They hear that they are important to us.

3. They receive personal discipleship – discovering where they are on their journey with Jesus and encouraging them to take the next step.

This is not something you have to do on your own. Some of your leaders will no doubt be facing withdrawal symptoms from ministry (while others will be grateful for a break). If others are keen to be involved then why not invite them to be a part of the phone around team, giving responsibility for different families to different leaders. Here are some great questions to consider when helping children and young people: 1. Are you struggling with anything at the moment? 2. What does your prayer life look like at the moment? 3. What is God speaking to you about?

Ephesians 5:15-18 - So be careful to live your life wisely, not foolishly. Take advantage of every opportunity because these are evil times. Because of this, don’t be ignorant, but understand the Lord’s will. Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit in the following ways …’ Whatever you choose to do in this time, let’s not lose the importance of individual relationships sharpening each other in our pursuit of Jesus together – one body meeting in different homes.

During this window of God’s grace, let’s make the most of this time apart so that when we come back together we will feel more like family than before the lockdown, not like distant strangers.


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