What do Covid19 restrictions mean for the church–family connection at this time? We spoke to Caroline Bradley, the national representative for Care for the Family in Northern Ireland, about supporting parents to nurture faith at home.
When ‘Something Other than a Building’– A report on Churches on the Island of Ireland during the Covid–19 pandemic was published earlier this year, the Co–Chairs of the Irish Inter–Church Meeting (IICM), in their response, highlighted the importance of the family as the place where faith is shaped and nurtured, particularly as we continue living with social distancing restrictions.
Caroline highlighted that the normal interaction between churches and families has been very much interrupted. Families are reporting that it is a struggle to engage with online services, particularly with younger children. There is a real inability for the church to plan ahead due to changing restrictions.
The key is not about churches creating more appealing online engagement, it is about making those intentional connections with families as they walk alongside parents and journey with them in discipling their children.
The Kitchen Table Project was created by Care for the Familyto inspire a faith that lasts. The project has become even more relevantas churches and families navigate nurturing faith from the home. It is a movement of mums, dads, carers and churches sharing ideas and supporting one another in this journey of growing faith at home. It is there to help parents navigate some of the challenges of the pandemic and help churches to shift their focus to become parent discipling churches. Part of this project provides training events for church leaders and children and family workers. It reminds those in such roles that their job is to support the parents to nurture faith at this time.
Modelled on Deuteronomy 6:5–7 the Project aims to help parents see that they are positioned by God to nurture faith while at the same time reminding them not to feel a pressure to reproduce church in their living room. There are five areas which can help parents nurture faith at home. These include a warm home life, parents being real, being intentional, creating a sense of belonging within the church family and prayer.
Nurturing faith is not about parents adding more to their already busy to do list but instead it is about helping their children know God through the simple everyday moments of life.
Every family is different and will connect with God differently, it isn’t prescriptive but creative. Here are 10 simple ideas from the project, for parents to help their children start to see who God is. Parents are reminded that they don’t have to have it altogether because God uses our mistakes as well as our victories.
To keep up to date on The Kitchen Table Project you can sign up to the Kitchen Table Newsletter.
While families nurture faith at home, it is a real moment for churches to reflect on the church being more than a building. This is the scattered church where Jesus tells us to go into the world and make disciples. For many of us, the world right now is in our homes. So this is a pivotal time for churches to come alongside parents to build relationships and support them as they grow in this ministry of nurturing faith at home. There is a great opportunity for churches to refocus on relationships over programmes, particularly, intergenerational relationships and continue on this journey of becoming parent discipling churches.
Care for the Family have adapted their work to provide free online events and training. Of particular relevance at this time is a training event on bereavement care awareness. This is specifically for church leadership to help people understand the journey of bereavement and grief from Covid–19 and other reasons. There are various sessions up to June available to book now. The charity has also created new events such as the Mum Show, focusing on parenting in the pandemic, and Mind of Their Own which is to help parents build emotional resilience and mental wellbeing in their children.
Becoming a Parent Discipling Church is now available to download. Leaders booklets can be accessed here: https://kitchentable.org.uk/church/covid-19-resources-for-leaders/
Throughout March, Care for the Family are running an free event Re–imagining children’s work in this season and beyond for churches. You can find more information on dates and how to sign up here.