Where have all the families gone?

The UK is entering lockdown two.  Churches, which once had started to open, are now being asked to close again.  This time around it feels a lot more depressing.  It might be the weather and the dark mornings and evenings, but things definitely feel a lot more different.

In the first half of the year, we have read such exciting reports.  More and more people have been checking out our online church services.  There have been more people looking after the most vulnerable in their communities.  People who never knew who their neighbours were, are now regularly chatting over the garden fence and hosting socially distant street parties.

But we have also read some contrasting reports, not as widely published but known within church leadership.  More and more families are struggling with online church services.  Some families seem to be ‘lost’ and have not returned to face-to-face services.  Our young people are starting to feel disconnected with their peers.  Poor mental health is on the rise amongst all generations.  It seems that this period of lockdown might spiral things even further.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom.  There is always hope.  I have heard such encouraging reports of children and youth workers doing amazingly connected work in their own communities across the UK. 

God created humans for connection.  You were created to be in relation with other people.  That is no surprise.  So when we feel isolated and feel unable to deeply connect with others, it creates a disconnect in us.  How many times have you been in a Zoom room and purposefully took some time to just check-in with how people are feeling before you launched into your meeting or service?  If the only connecting we are doing with people is online, then we are not being all that God created us to be.  But what can we do when we cannot actually meet face-to-face?

Many churches have tried to combat this by doing a mixture of both online and offline work.  So for example, a church might decide to continue with their monthly Messy Church meet up.  They might drop off a pack of activity items on a family’s doorstep and then host an online Messy Church session so that the families can connect with each other to do the activities and have the celebration.  Or we might chose to host an online conference, but give out a gift box of activities beforehand that people can use during the conference; thereby connecting both our kinaesthetic and visual senses.  Doorstep check-ins are so important to our families and young people.

We have written a new JSP course called, Stay Alert to the Spirit.  Knowing that churches need families and families need church, we have created a brand new intergenerational worship stream.  This can be done both online and offline or using a mix of both.  We wanted to give time for you to hear what God might be saying to you as a church during these unsettling times.  The intergenerational material gives spaces for all voices in the church family to be heard.  Remember, God speaks to children as well as to adults, and sometimes even louder to children (1 Samuel 3:1-21). 

The course is 7 weeks long and consists of videos, interactive questions, space to lament and ask questions, worship notes and all the rest that you would expect from a JSP resource.  And they are all free for you to access and use.  If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact either myself or Brendan.  We would both happily guide you through the new material.

So as we go through this next season of lockdown, my prayer to you is that God lights your way, gives you strength and breathes new vision into you.