Parents aren’t faulting teachers or school boards with this concern. We know that everyone is doing the absolute best job they can do in the face of a serious situation. We’ve all had to make choices. Homeschool? Virtual school? Hold your child back a grade? Proceed with in-person instruction? For many of us, these educational decisions are ones we never thought we would have to consider.
The area we are united on is love for our kids and concern for their education. Each parent has weighed the pros and cons and made the best decision they could make for their child. We don’t want our kids to struggle academically or be behind in skills that their age and grade level would normally have mastered. Perhaps, we’ve put in extra hours studying with them, reading to them, managing their assignments given during distance learning.
We are willing to go the extra mile for our kids in regards to their education. It is important. These academic skills matter. No more school days can be wasted. Whether you chose virtual school, in-person, or homeschooling, it’s go-time. We are ready to conquer the school year, whatever that looks like.
But, there is another area I’ve been reflecting on my children falling behind in--their faith. Just as school at home last spring was hard….so was church. We started out strong. My husband and I would sit and watch church together. Worship along with the band, take notes during the messages and then call the kids in to view kids’ church online. We tried to create a daily rhythm of starting most mornings with a devotional reading and prayer. This Sunday routine became our norm for a few months. The kids even grew accustomed to “church” at home.
As weeks dragged into months, it became more challenging. We were able to travel a couple of times over the summer and even managed to squeeze in some pool days. The Sunday morning routine became a bit of discipline. At first, church online seemed like an incredible resource, that we were so thankful for, but getting the kids to take part in their church felt a little like “homework.”
So, I wonder how are our kids affected by the absence of church in their lives? How does it impact them to not talk about faith and God's Word with their peers? Does missing months of church affect them long-term? Are my kids falling behind in their faith? These are tricky questions because each child’s faith journey is unique. There isn’t a list of spiritual benchmarks to gauge where your child ranks in their spiritual development. There aren’t grades to master or end of year achievement testing in their relationship with God.
A year ago - you know…life before COVID-19, many of our rhythms were very different. They may have included weekly habits of church attendance and worship with others, as well as daily rituals of prayer, Scripture reading, and other ways of pointing our children and ourselves toward Jesus. In the months since, how many of us have seen our resolve wane, or fail altogether in these areas?
For many believers, myself included, church attendance is the cornerstone of my connection to God. We often depend on Sunday to “jump-start” our connection to God. The live teaching and worship are the refreshment we need spiritually to start another week. Our Sunday morning experience is what can drive our daily rhythms at home to spend time with God through his Word and prayer.
As adults, we can still find that refreshment and connection through church online. It may still be a discipline, but it is a choice we can make for ourselves. For kids, they often can’t navigate that path on their own. They need to be led. They need us as parents to show them how to keep growing in their faith. Without their Sunday morning experience, they too wane in their faith and in their connection with God. Sunday morning teaching, connection with peers, applicable activities help them to connect with God all week long.
So without Sundays, I fear our kids will far behind…really behind. How is the absence of church affecting their faith right now? How could taking a year off of church now affect my child later---like when they are 10? 15? 20?
Your pediatrician won’t check on their spiritual milestones at their next well visit and the end of year testing won’t reveal areas of struggle in their faith. Discerning how your child is affected by taking 6 months, 8 months, or even a year off of church is something you as a parent will have to evaluate.
So whether you choose in-person church, church online, or your own way of connecting your child to God through the pandemic, Just make sure you ask yourself…how is my child falling behind…with God?