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Prioritizing Children’s Faith Formation During COVID-19 and Beyond

Posted: 5/13/20 at 7:00pm. Written by Dee Whitten.

Dee Whitten

The COVID–19 crisis has probably been the most significant challenge to our churches during my lifetime. Of course, that is definitely a “first world” perspective, because more Christians have been persecuted for their faith in the past 100 years than in the previous 2,000 years combined. Many Christians around the world are facing daily persecution and the threat of death because of their faith. We are very fortunate to live in a country that provides freedom of religion. However, there is no doubt that the recent pandemic has been a serious challenge to churches, because our buildings have been closed.

For the last two months NorthStar has been providing Zoom conferences for pastors and church leaders. One such meeting was focused on children’s ministers/leaders, and it took place just a couple of weeks prior to Easter. I was impressed with the fact that so many of the children’s leaders were preparing to send out Easter packages to families with training materials for parents to use with their children over the Easter weekend. This was so successful that many churches continued to provide parents with weekly spiritual training materials. Of course, the truth is that this is what needs to be happening on a regular basis within our churches. Instead of Sunday morning “at church” serving as the main spiritual training time for children, parents need to take back this primary responsibility.

One of the most powerful passages in the Bible is Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 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. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

In 2003 George Barna wrote an excellent book for church leaders entitled “Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions: Why Children Should Be Your #1 Priority.” The Bible emphasizes that parents need to teach God’s word to their children. They need to repeat these truths to them again and again and talk about God’s word continually throughout the day. Parents need to provide for themselves constant reminders to carry out this vital spiritual mission to their children.

One of the major results of the COVID-19 crisis for our churches is that parents might once again become the primary spiritual trainers for their children. That should be the main focus of our church’s ministry: equipping parents to carry out their God-given responsibility. I am encouraged that so many churches are already beginning to facilitate this ministry in a variety of ways.

Dee Whitten is Executive Director of NorthStar, a network of more than 180 churches in the Northern Virginia area.