There we were, our little family of two parents and two college kids back home because of the pandemic, sitting around our TV on Easter morning. We were streaming the service from our home congregation, and we were all thinking the same thing: “This is awkward.”
That squirmy feeling had nothing to do with the planned service, which was wonderful. We generally get along well, so the atmosphere in the room wasn’t strained. But the fact that it was just us four, rather than our church family gathered together, felt so weird.
The weirdness took me a bit by surprise. After all, the four of us worshiped together regularly at church for 18 years, and we sometimes crank up the tunes and belt out our favorite songs (you haven’t lived until you’ve heard my husband try to hit some of Elton John’s high notes.) But I’m not gonna lie—trying to sing along with recorded worship music in our living room was painful.
If you can relate, here are some things to try before, during, and after worship at home with kids of varying ages.
Before You Gather
- Say “Hi” to the elephant in the room. Acknowledge that this kind of worship service feels different and might even be kind of uncomfortable at first. But remember together that Jesus said he is with us even when there are just two or three of us in a room.
- Have some fun with your “littles.” Find out your pastor’s text ahead of time. If the text is a narrative story, invite family members to dress up as one of the characters using things they find around the house (and if it’s not OK for them to cut up your new bath towels, be sure to let them know). Or invite little kids to act out the day’s story with Lego or Playmobil people as the Scripture passage is being read.
- Respect your “elders.” Tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings feel awkwardness keenly. Ask them to set up the technology, to choose the music, to pick flowers to put in a vase, whatever matches their skills and interests. And give them the freedom to participate in the worship as they wish—rather than as you wish.
- Sit comfortably. Parents of teens know that we often have our best conversations with our offspring when we’re riding in the car or taking a walk. For some reason (can’t imagine why) they feel more at ease when parents aren’t staring deep into their souls. Invite kids of any age to rearrange the furniture as they wish.
- Turn up the volume. Nothing is more awkward than whisper-singing a praise song. When you sing along with recorded worship songs, turn the volume up high so people feel more free to sing at their normal volume.
- Do something with your hands. Keeping our hands busy helps us focus. During the sermon, illustrate the passage, take notes, knit, pet your cat. Really—it’s OK not to just sit there with your hands folded in your lap.
- Hit pause occasionally. Recorded sermons provide a perfect opportunity to hit the pause button and talk about something new you learned, something that spoke to you, or something you have a question about. Or just get up and stretch for a minute if your attention is wandering.
- For the introverts: Allow everyone some “alone time” to sit with their own thoughts and transition back to the rest of the day.
- For the extroverts: Invite another church family that your family is friends with to a virtual coffee time. Talk about the highs and lows of your week while you have a snack. Ask how you can pray for each other.
Other ideas for making family worship at home feel more normal? Share them in the comments below!