My heart hopes this finds you well & rested, but my head knows that you’re probably trying to help one kid with a school packet while making sure the other doesn’t try to grab the ceiling fan during your 3rd Zoom meeting of the day while at the same time the thought crosses your head that it’d be good to eat lunch at some point since it’s already 1pm. While I don’t exactly share your struggle, I see you & am sincerely praying for you all.
I’m sure that at some point you’ve logged on to some social media and have seen couples & singles without kids talking about what they’re doing with all their quarantine time, which promptly tempted you to throw rotten fruit at them (from a 6ft distance, of course). So I hope this doesn’t come across as a “look, you have all this time! DO MORE STUFF!” kind of thing. However, in spite of the many many negatives of this quarantine, we belong to a God that loves to part waters when enemies rush in, make mustard seeds move mountains, and breathe life into the dustiest, dryest of bones. I believe some amazing things will be done and Kingdom movement will happen in this season.
Specifically for our kids, my prayer is that years down the road they say, “Looking back, I know mom & dad were full of worry & stress, and had a thousand reasons to be. But all I remember is that this was a special time when I felt closer to God and my crazy family than ever before.” I hope this is your prayer, too.
To that end, I’d like to encourage you in your family devotions. Some of you do this already, some of you don’t; either way, now’s prime time for it. The primary discipler in your kids’ lives should not be me (or Mike, or Tim for that matter). The Biblical direction (supported by numerous studies on kids who keep the faith into adulthood) is that parents should be primarily responsible for the discipleship of their kids. I don’t say this to shame anyone - there’s a fountain of grace for our failures, and all of us will fall short in one way or another in this area. Grace gives us the power to get up and, in the power of the Spirit, get moving. And family devotions are a great way to get moving.
The best way to start is to, well, start. A good word on doing family devos comes from Dwight Schrute in The Office: “Michael always says to me, K-I-S-S, ‘Keep it simple, stupid.’ Great advice, hurts my feelings every time.” If you’re just getting started, don’t make this an elaborate, complicated thing. Keep it stupid simple (I don’t want to hurt your feelings). Read a passage of scripture and pray together. Or, read a passage of scripture and talk about it, ask a few questions, and pray. If you want to do more after getting that rhythm down, go for it. Get creative and fun with it. Break out the sheets and pillow forts and reenact the Bible story. But do stuff in a way that you can stick with doing these for the long haul.
Whether you’ve been doing this (or something like this) for awhile or not, I’ve included a bunch of resources to help you out below, divided between stuff for you, stuff you can use for devotionals, and stuff for kids that have some down time. Please note that some of these are extensive resources that I haven’t fully used - as always, use discernment. If I can be of any help to you in this, or any other area, please let me know.
Resources for Parents
- “6 Ways to Lead Your Family in Isolation” - The Gospel Coalition.
- “Let it Break Your Heart” - Noah Rinehart. A timely spiritual reflection on our current moment by a gifted guy in our church.
- “Why We Fail At Family Devotions” - Challies. Some good, practical advice born out of looking at the big reasons why we struggle with this.
- Liturgy for a Pandemic - Greg Meyer. A refreshing scriptural liturgy from the Youth Pastor at Covenant Pres.
- 4 (Good) Ways Your Hard Kid is Changing You - Chris Gordon. This is a good word from Chris, and I think that even if your kid(s) aren’t normally the ones described by her in this article, after a couple weeks of quarantine this may apply more and more to you.
- Carver Connections. Some good reflections from the Carver Project on our current moment. This includes pieces by Abram Van Engen & John Hendrix.
Resources for Family / Kids Devos
- Aside from reading the Bible itself of course, here are some of the best books you can use.
- Long Story Short: 10 Minute Devotionals to Draw Your Family to God by Marty Machowski (and pretty much anything else he’s put out). This one is targeted around K-2 I believe.
- The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible. We read this to Kuyper. He says the pages taste good. This is for toddler - preschool age kids - for elementary you could do The Gospel Story Bible.
- Jesus Storybook Bible. Classic.
- John Hendrix. I get kickbacks for this, right?
- Sophie and the Heidelberg Cat. This is a super creative book based on the first Q&A to the reformed Heidelberg Catechism. Highly recommended.
- Little Francis Falls Asleep. A book (good for bedtime) for kids ages 4-10 on the deeper search for rest.
- Bible Infographics for Kids: Giants, Ninja Skills, a Talking Donkey, and What's the Deal with the Tabernacle? This is a fun one, especially for inquisitive elementary kids (which we have several of :) )
- The One O'Clock Miracle. Sarah Essen passed this one along - looks good!
- Golly's Folly: The Prince Who Wanted it All
- Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing. For grades 1-4.
- The Moon is Always Round. I’ve never heard of a kid’s book that tackled God & suffering until this, and so beautifully. I’m not crying, my eyes are just sweating.
- "Christian-y stuff" recommended by John Hendrix:
- Emblems of the Infinite King. "Devotional narratives for teens."
- The Biggest Story. Creative overview of the Bible by KDY.
- Every Moment Holy, Liturgies for Everyday Moments.
- DWELL Digital Curriculum. This is the curriculum (by the publisher of the Christian Reformed denomination) we use for Kid’s Club, and because of that, we have access to all of their lessons (age divided into preschool, K-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-8). They have given us permission to give access to as many parents at our church that wish to use it. These lessons come with read-able Bible stories & lessons with discussion questions as well as games, crafts, and other activities. If you’re looking for an easy / fun way to do family devos, this is a great place to start, especially for the younger ones. Let me know if you’re interested & I’ll give you access.
- “Helping Students Redeem the Time During Quarantine” - Rooted. This is from a Youth Ministry site I follow, but it’s very applicable to kids.
- Adventures in Odyssey Club. This is a subscription based site for kids that provides well-produced audio dramas for kids, with devotions, crafts, and more with each episode. Probably best for elementary aged kids. They’re offering a month long free trial!
Resources for Kids + Free Time
- Paula and the Pandemic. This is a kids book that Gail Havens passed along explaining the coronavirus pandemic: "it gives a simple explanation for young children, mostly addressing the way that the pandemic is effecting their own daily life, and could be a useful tool for some."
- Books recommended by John Hendrix:
- March by John Lewis. "A series of graphic novels about the Civil Rights Movement."
- Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier. "A tear jerker about a chimney sweep's magical soot golem."
- Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales. "Non-fiction history comics."
Audible Stories. Audible has put a lot of children’s stories (as well as classics!) out for free. You can categorize by age level.
Upbeat Songs for Quarantined Kids - Spotify Playlist. Dance parties cover a multitude of sins.
“30 Edifying Things to Watch While Stuck at Home” - The Gospel Coalition. Of course, quarantining (is that a word?) shouldn’t mean unlimited screen time, but a little can be good. Not everything on this list is kid-friendly, but many are - there’s a good description of each & where they’re streaming.
125 Things to Do During the Pandemic. A list to spark some creativity.