Raise your hand if church at home on Sunday mornings feels very off. I know my hand is raised! As believers, attending church on Sunday mornings is arguably the most important thing we do. We are a people who gather, pass the peace, worship, hear God’s Word, and share the Lord’s Supper: together. It’s who we are. And when we can’t do these things, something feels broken. Something is broken. Forcing ourselves to ignore how God created us is beyond simply annoying.
A worldwide pandemic doesn’t change our identity in Christ, but it does painfully and palpably stifle the ways in which we are able to embody it. Most of us have probably never even considered having the Lord’s Day worship gathering stripped away and it’s dangerous to pretend that live-streaming from our homes for a time is anywhere near a replacement for doing it in person. I’m not here to convince you that doing church by yourself in your home is desirable. I am, however, here to encourage you that being faithful in this season is both possible and crucial.
I’m not here to convince you that this is desirable. I am, however, here to encourage you that being faithful in this season is both possible and crucial.
Because I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering what the heck they’re doing at home on a Sunday morning, I’d like to share with you a few things I’ve wrestled with these last weeks, and what I’ve learned.
Disclaimer: Please don’t get the impression that my family is over here knocking it out of the park! I am definitely pausing the live-stream occasionally to chase a toddler down the hall or breaking up the occasional pillow fight. I’m new at this too!
1. Get ready for the day as if you were physically attending church.
Our church is pretty casual, so you can leave the suit and tie in the closet! But if you normally wear a nice shirt or a dress to church, treat worship at home the same way and dress accordingly.
Studies show that most folks who work from home feel much more productive when they put on real clothes and start their day like normal. I think church-at-home is no different! When you prepare your body, your heart is affected too. Putting on lipstick and shoes feels a little silly when I’m not actually leaving the house, but it trains my heart and brain to feel like I’m showing up to something that matters. (Because I am.)
When you prepare your body, your heart is affected too.
For those of us with kids, our posture towards church serves as a model for them. When we prepare ourselves, we are telling them that what we are doing is important.
2. Be on time and come prepared.
Make sure your technology is set up beforehand so you’re not scrambling to get things connected as worship is starting. Have your Bible and your coffee ready to go so you don’t miss the first few songs. This means getting ready to worship well before our 10 am start time!
When at all possible, tune in to the service live as it’s happening, not later. Knowing that we’re all participating at the same time is the closest we can get to being together! Thankfully, if you need to take a moment to help your child, you can always come back to listen to it again to catch what you might have missed.
Knowing that we’re all participating at the same time is the closest we can get to being together!
If you have young children like mine, you’ll need to coach them before the service starts. For our family, we allow the same things that we would at church on any regular Sunday morning: note-taking, coloring, playing with small quiet toys, and allowing them to be dismissed only for potty breaks or getting water. This might look a little different for each family. A great resource on this topic is the book Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman which was written with in-person services in mind, but much of which applies to worship at home as well. Regardless of what your expectations are for your children during the service, plan to remind them of the rules well before the service starts.
3. Participate and be present. All of you.
This is not a time for multi-tasking. Don’t let “church” be on in the background as you’re loading the dishwasher or on the dining table over a loud messy breakfast. Make sure that everything about the way you lead church-at-home tells the rest of your family that this is the most important thing you’re doing all week. Because it’s true!
Make sure that everything about the way you lead church-at-home tells the rest of your family that this is the most important thing you’re doing all week. Because it’s true!
Stand during worship, stand for the reading of God’s word, sing with the worship pastor, read aloud when directed. This might feel a little awkward at first to do these things in your living room, but by doing so, you are leading your children. As Joel R. Beeke says in his book Family Worship, “family worship without parental example is futile.” Please don’t send your kids out to play so you can have a quiet moment to listen to the sermon! Jesus knew that kids are loud and messy and distracting when he said, “let the children come to me.” (Matthew 19:14) They are not only invited but expected to take part!
I pray that creating a rhythm for worship at home never takes the place of a Sunday morning service, but does instill a lifelong habit of you leading your children in worship in your home. (Proverbs 22:6)
Waging war from the couch
We aren’t trying to recreate a Sunday morning church service in our homes, and I hope we’re all being careful to not use language that would tell our kids that this is “okay,” or the “exact same.” It’s not the same, and it’s not okay.
That feeling you have - the pull, the this-is-not-right-ness, the longing, the ache to be together with God’s people: that’s grief. I’d argue that it’s even good to feel this way because it means that you want what God wants: for His people to be together. And it’s okay to feel it, to lean into it, and to have your kids see you feel it. Pretending like this is all fine and okay is a disservice to our families.
Normal isn’t what we’re going for during this season. But we can strive to honor God and prioritize being together, even digitally. I pray that God would use this time to help us treasure being together all the more. And when we can finally worship together once again, that we would delight in it with fresh eyes and thankful hearts.
Take heart, friends. Family worship is spiritual warfare.
Take heart, friends. Family worship is spiritual warfare. Even if from our couches for a time, gathering our households for worship in the face of death is our battle cry. Despite being surrounded and engulfed by separation and pain, the church striving toward faithfulness will bear fruit and is the way we actively resist the works of the devil. This is a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and we still can and ought to hold the Lord’s Day worship with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).