Being a parent can be hard work sometimes. Add to that a global pandemic and there are so many more things that can get thrown in the mix of life, some good and some more challenging.

I have always worked full time and life can get busy, juggling work, life, friends, involvement in church! In March 2020 that all changed and suddenly I was a full-time mum. It was both a joy and at times a pressure to have the whole routine of life change in what felt like an instant. But it also provided an amazing opportunity. I had my daughter 24/7 to teach her, not just what she needed to know to end her nursery school year, but to help her learn more about what it means to follow Jesus every day. Little did I know then that that increased time I would have with her would last in some form for over a year!

Deuteronomy 6

Deuteronomy 6 is the go-to passage when we think about what discipleship as a family might look like. It gives an outline that helps us to think about how and when we can share our faith with our kids, without being too prescriptive about how to do it. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Family discipleship has become more important in practice over the last months than ever before. Perhaps one of the positives about the pandemic and lockdown is that family discipleship has regained the place that it is meant to have. This does not mean that it is easy though!

Love the Lord your God

The first thing that we see in this passage though is that family discipleship does not start with talking to your children about faith. It starts with loving God for ourselves. During the pandemic, you may have had more time as a parent with less running around as a taxi service. Or you may have felt like you have had less time with homeschooling and working from home. Whatever the case, it is still important that we take time to develop our relationship with God. That may be a walk with time to pray, listen to a podcast, play worship music or it may be a focused regular time to read and study God’s Word. Whatever it is that you use, our own faith is important to continue to grow and develop. 

Impress them on your children

To impress means to imprint or to highlight and I love that idea of imprinting who God is in the lives of our children. They already bear the image of God in who they are but to also carry the imprint of his commands in their hearts is incredible. How can we help create that imprint on our children’s lives? Perhaps it is more in the everyday of life than the extraordinary.

When you sit at home

When you sit at home watching television, playing games or reading books, you may have the opportunity to make comment from a faith perspective about what you are doing. Sitting at the table eating dinner is sometimes the only time that you may have to all be as a family. What opportunities are there in that time to speak of God or share together? Maybe praying to say thank you for your food is a common practice or an achievable aim. Perhaps there is space to talk about where you have seen God working in your day or read a passage of Scripture together and talk about it. It doesn’t have to be a long in-depth Bible study; it might simply be a 5minute chat!

When you walk along the road

Like many, you have probably done more walking over the last year than before. Or maybe you have just been more intentional about it. Walking slows us down and allows more time to look around us. Whether for pleasure or to get to school, it is a great opportunity to notice creation or to ponder questions about God and faith. Walking side by side is a less intense way of discussing faith and your children may be more open to conversations in that stance. Perhaps our increased focus on walking is allowing positive family faith experiences to develop. 

When you lie down 

When our daughter was born, someone very kindly bought a children’s bible for her. Although she was still just a few weeks old, we started reading it to her each evening. Our daughter at just a handful of weeks old didn’t understand the stories but we didn’t initially do it for her. We did it for us because we knew we needed to create a habit. After 5 years, that habit is well-established. It’s not easy to remember unless we have created a habit. How can you create a habit of reading the Bible to or with you child? Perhaps that is a habit that would benefit your family discipleship.

When you get up

Mornings can be busy with getting everyone out of bed and ready for school and work. There can be a lot of rushing around and not a lot of time. Maybe you take a moment though as a family to ask God to be with you in the day. As you tie up your shoes or get your coats on is there one thing that you could all pray for in the day ahead? Maybe it’s a meeting or a test or simply to ask God to help all display characteristics of him to others around you like kindness or forgiveness.

And remember, there is enough as parents to feel guilty or hassled about. This isn’t a checklist for every day. If you miss an opportunity, there will always be another day. What this passage reminds us is to take the everyday opportunities as we can and to create rhythms of faith in the everyday routines of life. To make God a part of the ordinary and not simply the extraordinary. God wants to be a part of our family. Maybe we just need to create the habits to let him in.

Ruth Bromley is the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Children’s Development Officer