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Family Discipleship During a Pandemic

Written by Mark Schuitema on

In March of this year, everything changed. A birthday party was postponed and has indefinitely remained so. Spring break plans were altered and then canceled altogether. Work became “temporarily remote” and continues that way eleven weeks later. Grocery runs, date nights, music lessons, school days, Small Group, discipleship dates with kids—all upended, postponed, altered, canceled indefinitely, moved to virtual events, social distanced, and thoroughly disinfected. Masks have been exchanged for handshakes, and Zoom has become the new meet-up location for everything. 

Routines have been impacted, altered, and adjusted—first daily, then weekly, and now for the unknown future. We are doing things as individuals and as a family that we once would have never even considered. Family plans have been turned upside down and the word “unprecedented” has become the word of the year—for everyone.

I had big “plans” for family discipleship this year: weekly meetings, summer events, prayer times, Bible studies, and intentional conversations. I had purposefully laid out my thoughts for the year, and all of that has changed. Now, I’m faced with family discipleship during a pandemic, and that changes my plans quite a bit.

Changed Plans but Unchanged Vision

Let me say that again. I had big “plans” for family discipleship during this year: weekly meetings, summer events, prayer times, Bible studies, and intentional conversations. I had purposefully laid out my thoughts for the year, and none of that has changed. 

That’s right. Everything has changed around us, yet nothing has changed in regard to discipling our children. While institutions are closed down, events are canceled or postponed and questions about the future are still unanswered, our call to disciple our children remains the same and the vision that God has given to us has not waivered.   

The Ultimate Vision

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

God commands us, as parents, to teach our children the things of God in everything we do—when we sit in our house, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise. If there’s anything we’ve done over the past three months, we’ve done a lot of sitting in the house, walking in the way, lying down, and rising. This is my life. This is your life too. 

The coronavirus has changed everything we once knew except the very thing that never changes—the Word of God and his sovereign plans. 

As I’ve thought about family discipleship during a pandemic and what remains true of my call, I’ve realized that the opportunities to shepherd my children’s hearts are more prevalent and consistent now than they’ve ever been.   

Practical Opportunities in an Unpractical Season of Life

As I’ve had to reconsider my “plans” for the year, God has helped me to see that every day now provides opportunities to disciple my kids when we sit, when we walk, and everywhere in between. I can invite them into the very things that I have been telling them and the very lessons I want them to learn as they grow in their relationship with Christ. It’s not “do as I say” but a practical and applicable “do as I say and do as I do.”

Three Practical Applications

1. A life of imitation – I want my kids to walk with Jesus for all the days of their lives. I want them to suffer well, to wait on God when their prayers aren’t answered quickly, to fight sin in the daily events of life, and to know how to apply the promises of Scripture when life doesn’t go as planned.

If the coronavirus has provided us anything, it’s the opportunity to wait on God, to rehearse his promises, and to cling to the truth that never changes. Our home is filled with daily conversations about “unanswered” prayers, waiting on God, promises that will not fail, and how to lean into God through good times and global pandemics. Our children will remember this season of life long after we’re gone. Will we model for them how to walk well and how to practically and tangibly rehearse the promises of God, or will they see impatient and frustrated fathers and mothers?  Will they imitate humility and patience or restlessness and a striving to find control.

2. Daily repentance – I am a sinner. So are you. So are our kids. As my children see me throughout the day—working, resting, eating, fighting sin, and responding to “life”—they see my sin very clearly and, to my shame, very often. They also see me walk in repentance. I want my kids to know what to do when they sin and how to confess and repent that they would find joy and freedom and forgiveness in Jesus.

My kids need to see a man who isn’t striving for perfection but rather striving to walk with a perfect Savior. I don’t have my life all together, nor do they. If sin doesn’t satisfy, which it doesn’t, and if there are consequences to every sin we commit, which there are, I want my kids to know how to repent and what that looks like on a daily basis. 

I have asked for forgiveness more times in the past eleven weeks than I’d like to admit, but not as many times as I’ve needed to. I want my kids to see my shortcomings and my failures so that they ultimately see the greater beauty and glory in the One who died to set us free. It’s not about perfection on our part, but the perfection that Jesus provides through his death and resurrection.

3. Committing God’s Word to memory – I have memories from childhood and you probably do too—songs, limericks, and other nonsensical things I committed to memory. Unfortunately, God’s Word was not hidden in the recesses of my heart. I’ve come to understand the power of hiding God’s Word in my heart, and I want my children to understand and experience that too. 

Time is on my side right now. I have lots of it. I have been memorizing Hebrews 12 and rehearsing it with my family. They are seeing me memorize God’s Word, and they are rehearsing their verses with me too. Together, we’re memorizing, rehearsing, and applying God’s Word to our lives. It’s impacting us now, but my prayer is that it impacts us in the days, weeks, and decades to come. 

Now Is the Time

Now is the time to fill our hearts with God’s Word. Now is the time to walk in repentance and live lives worthy of imitation. Now is the time to disciple our kids and do what does not change even when everything else around us has. Everything has changed; family discipleship has not. Family discipleship during a pandemic looks different, but it hasn’t fundamentally changed.

If you’re reading this article and you feel like you’ve dropped the ball on discipleship during the coronavirus or you’re out of the game, join the club. Every parent drops the ball. We all opt-out some days. Today is a new day. Pick up the ball, lace up your shoes, and jump back in the game. Time is wasting… and your kids are waiting.

Mark Schuitema

Mark joined staff at College Park in 2011, where he served for over ten years before joining the staff at Pennington Park Church—a church plant of College Park located in Fishers, Indiana.

Mark has been married to his wife Emily for twenty-two years. They have four children: Will, Eleanor, Owen, and Henry. They love to be outdoors and spend time as a family—often watching their kids compete in golf events. Mark and Emily have a passion for discipleship and equipping Christ-followers to walk with Jesus for a lifetime.  They love coming alongside young couples and families as they strive to build a gospel-centered foundation that will endure and bear fruit for the generations to come.

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