by Sarah Smyth* IMB Missionary to East Asia (Name changed for security)
“Unprecedented.” Are we growing weary of this word yet? It has been a year like no one expected, and as the COVID-19 challenge lingers, we inevitably grow weary.
Like you, our family did not expect this. We were hoping to visit America with trips to museums, libraries, t-ball games, and lots of eating in our favorite restaurants. We were also looking forward to attending and being a part of church services and kids Bible activities that we don’t have while living in Asia.
Instead, we’ve had multiple quarantine seasons, lengthy stay-at-home orders, carry-out food, and order ahead pick-up groceries.
At first glance, you might think we would be disappointed, but instead, we have been blessed by the sweetest season of rest and God’s presence in our family. I firmly believe that the key is that we have learned how to worship together.
Some of you might be overwhelmed by that idea — worship? As a family? I don’t mean a full-blown rehearsed service at home. I just mean a simple, but habitual time together to worship the Lord.
For us, it’s usually immediately after dinner. Most often, we find it easiest if everyone stays in their seats and don’t even worry about clearing dishes away. My husband starts with a short devotional. This doesn’t need to be prepared ahead of time and could be as simple as reading a few verses each day through a book of the Bible. One of our favorite family devotionals is Long Story Short by Marty Machowski. Our kids are currently 2, 5, 9, and 11. Generally, we start with the 5-year-old and ask him to retell the story that Dad read. Then we move up to the older kids and have them fill in or correct anything he missed. Finally, we ask and do our best to answer any questions we have. It’s nothing fancy and generally less than 10 minutes.
Then we take turns praying. We found that many times kids tend to get stuck on certain types of prayer, so we came up with a schedule to encourage different thoughts. On Mondays, we pray for ministries, which includes churches and other organizations. Tuesday is for family members, Wednesdays are for overseas workers, Thursdays are for unsaved people, and Friday, we pray for friends. Saturdays are a free day, and Sundays, we pray for prayer requests from our church. The point is not what categories you use; the point is to make it a bit easier for your kids to choose a prayer need and broaden their perspective. We’ve also been using the IMB pray app for prayer requests from around the world.
We do this most days of the week. We miss a day or two, and sometimes we do it after breakfast if something is happening in the evening. Then at least one night a week, we move outside and do some musical worship. Again, this is not a beautiful four-part harmony. Our two-year-old wanders around making up lyrics of his own throwing in “Jesus” every few words for good measure. Some of us know the words, and others hum along or just listen. You can use a CD, or streaming music service or the maracas and drum that your favorite uncle gifted the kids last year. It’s not about being perfect, but about sharing the joy in the Lord, and letting your children see you worship. We often take requests from the kids and sing the songs they know. Sometimes we’ve watched and sung along with Keith and Kristyn Getty. Their family hymn sing is an inspiration to us.
Unprecedented. The word of the year, and yet, could we make it a positive force in our families? Could it be unprecedented how our families grow in faith this year? I encourage you to start small and establish family worship as a habit. Then watch how the Lord will abundantly bless.