COVID-19 and Family Discipleship

by Jonas Larkin April 6, 2020

Let’s get right to it: there’s enough people talking about the COV-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, so I do not wish to focus on that. Instead, what I want to draw your attention to is the opportunity that exists for your family in this season of uncertainty.

Consider this from Deuteronomy 6:4-7:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 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 when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when your rise.”

In short, you, dad and mom, are God’s primary plan for the spiritual growth of your child. Even sociological research confirms that, when it comes to the spiritual growth of children, there is no individual or organization that has more power to influence than parents.

However, research also shows that many parents are failing to live up to our God-ordained role as the primary spiritual influence in the lives of our children. I’ll spare you the statistics, but there is an abundance of research to suggest that the majority of parents are not engaged in the spiritual formation of their children in any significant or consistent manner. The truth is that many parents have outsourced the spiritual development of their children to the church—children’s ministries, youth groups, and other weekly programs.

But here’s the problem in our current circumstances: if we’re relying on church groups and programs as the place where our children receive spiritual nurture, what happens when these groups and programs aren’t gathering?

I’m not anti-groups and programs for children. Quite the opposite—I would argue that they are good and even necessary stewardship of the people and resources that God has given to His church for the spiritual growth of the next generation. I am very much pro-children’s ministry, pro-youth ministry, etc.

But I’m also pro-family ministry—because I believe that when it comes to the spiritual formation of a child, family matters most.

So then—what’s the point? Perhaps at least one opportunity in this season is the opportunity for parents to resume their role as the primary spiritual influence in the lives of their children! What if we, as dads and moms, took seriously our responsibility to “teach [God’s Word] diligently to [our] children?” What if we leveraged this season of minimized distractions (youth sports, anyone?) to engage more consistently and intentionally in the spiritual formation of our children?

If you don’t know where to start, try contacting your pastor or children/youth leaders to see if they can point you to some helpful resources to begin engaging in family discipleship. If that doesn’t work, purchase a book on family discipleship or family worship (I recommend Family Worship by Donald Whitney which is both brief and practical).

It might be as simple as choosing a time when your family can be together (probably mornings or evenings), read a passage of Scripture together, and have a conversation about it. Family discipleship doesn’t have to be an extensive, thoroughly planned, meticulously executed worship service (in fact, if you have young children I assure you it will not be).

Maybe all of this is overwhelming or intimidating to you. If so, that’s ok. There’s no condemnation or shame—we all have to start somewhere. God has a way of using troubling circumstances to remind us of what’s important. I don’t know the mind of God, but it’s at least conceivable that He might use this season to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). It’s at least plausible that this disruption in so many of our homes is actually an invitation for families to return to His intended design and function.

Editor's Note: This article was adapted from original post at jonaslarkin.com