Church at Home: What to do With Your Family if You’re Quarantined
As COVID-19 continues to rock our world, the CDC has advised that if you’re showing any signs of sickness that you stay home to prevent the accidental spread of the disease. If you actually have tested positive for the disease, you may be quarantined. Many are anxious about going out in public, and perhaps you’ve asked the question of whether Christians should even attend church services. As long as you and your family are healthy, you keep your distance from others, and your church is taking adequate preparations, then it seems reasonable to still go.
In response to the Coronavirus, our church has taken the following precautions, among others:
- fist-bumps or elbow-bumps instead of handshakes
- sealed communion packets instead of our usual loaf of bread and cup of wine
- gloved volunteers serving coffee instead of a self-serve carafe
This is not an exhaustive list of what you could do, but it highlights the fact that there are certain preventive measures you can take that are simple and easy and that don’t need to be permanent. But what if you are sick? What if you do need to stay home from church? Is this an example of "neglecting to meet together" with other believers (Hebrews 10:25) or is it warranted? Short answer: you can and you should stay home.
In context, Hebrews is encouraging Christians who are being persecuted to keep meeting, even though they might feel ready to throw in the towel. So don’t stay home because "it’s like so much work to get up and go to church" or because "I was going to go but something more interesting came up." But if you are sick and you go, that’s not loving or encouraging, but is instead a sort of reckless disregard for the wellbeing of your brothers and sisters.
Now that we’ve got that aside, what should you do if you have to stay home on a Sunday?
Worship at Home
Because I have three little children under the age of five who despite my warnings manage to lick everything, we are well acquainted with sicknesses; they roll through our house with a frustrating regularity. We’ve spent plenty of Sundays at home tending to sick children. Here are a few strategies we’ve developed to deal with that.
Tag-team Worship Services
Our church has three services, so sometimes my wife and I will tag team them and she’ll go in the morning and I’ll go in the evening. The upside to this strategy is that it allows us each a reprieve from taking care of sick kids and a chance to go a worship service with undivided attention. It feels kind of luxurious to be able to go to church and not have to herd children! Sometimes we will bring along the children who are well, and sometimes the parent staying home will keep them all and read a short passage and sing a song or two. The downside to this approach is that it splits our family up on our day of rest, and it individualizes the worship service rather than letting it be something that we enter into together. Admittedly, it is nice sometimes, but it’s not our favorite.
This is the strategy that we do most often when a kid is sick or there’s so much snow on the ground that we’re not going anywhere: host a mini worship service with just ourselves and our kids. We don’t try to recreate the service or anything, but I’ll play some simple songs like "Jesus Loves Me" or "Amazing Grace" on the piano or guitar and then we’ll read through the passage that we would’ve heard preached. Finally, we’ll try to draw out some simple implications with our kids, pray together, and then we’ll let them go play (if they’re well) or watch a movie (if they’re sick). My wife and I will take some time to continue talking about the passage together once they’re off doing whatever it is that they’re doing.
It can be a fun and memorable experience! If it’s a cold day, we’ll light a fire and drink tea while we sing and talk. My goal is not to try to recreate everything a gathered church service would be, but to show to my children that church is a priority in our lives, even when we’re sick or otherwise unable to go, and secondly to show them that a church service is a blessing and something that even they as children can appreciate. You can even try introducing other elements of the service into your family worship like confession of sin and assurance of pardon. It’s less intimidating than it sounds—you can ask your kids things like, "Is there anything you need to say sorry to God about?" and then, "God tells us that if we say sorry about our sins, he forgives us!" Again, the point isn’t to try to recreate everything your church does, but to recognize that the elements of your church’s service have a purpose and to try to walk your kids through it yourself.
Mostly I’m kidding about this one, but there was one time when all 5 of us were sick at the same time, and it was the worst. We obviously weren’t going to church, my wife and I had been up a majority of the night tending to each other and to our sick kids, and it was all we could do to feed them food. Our ambitions for the day were low, and we mostly all napped, drank fluids, and napped some more.
I’m not saying "doing nothing" is a serious option for the family that wants to disciple their children well, but I am saying that sometimes, despite your best intentions and your greatest desires, life can hit you hard and that’s okay. Parenting is a long game, and while you want to aim for consistency and faithfulness, days like these happen sometimes and you should just take it in stride. If you’re tempted to feel guilty because you’ve had a lemon of a day like the one I described… don’t. It’s water under the bridge, and Lord willing you’ll have tomorrow. Even on days like these you could throw on a sermon from your church’s podcast, listen to an album like Hebrews by Psallos or something from Streetlights, or press play on an audio Bible app when your eyes are too bleary to read or comprehend text. For your kids, you could throw on Ellie Holcomb’s Sing albums (which is kids worship music that doesn’t make me want to rip out my eyes) or the new album from Immanuel Worship Romans 8 Live.
God forbid that you find your family in quarantine due to COVID-19, but if you do, I hope you feel empowered to lead your family in worship at home. It sends an important message to your children that the worship of the living God is a priority in your family’s life, and that you care about them learning to love worship. There are plenty of resources on the web and on the app store that can help you out too. Lastly, don’t worry if leading your family in worship is awkward or faltering at first—it takes practice to do anything well, so no worries! Just keep trying to lead your family well.
The image at the top is a painting by Jean-Baptiste Greuze from the late 18th century of a peasant family practicing family worship. Source: Wikimedia Commons.