Who Will Teach the Children?
The world flipped on its side when the Pandemic shut it down. Families scrambled to figure out school, work schedules, and how to fill the hours. Not surprisingly, the use of electronic devices went up. School classes were taught on a tablet; entertainment was provided through streaming and friendships continued through social media. Especially significant was the amount of use of devices for children. Did the COVID years set a precedent for how the children would continue to learn and entertain themselves when the world normalized? What, if any, is the impact on Christian education in the home?
According to a survey taken by a nonprofit research organization Common Sense Media, overall screen use among teens and tweens increased by 17% from 2019-2021. The average, daily screen uses up from 4 hours and 44 minutes to 5 hours and 33 minutes for ages 8 to 12.[i] This is not surprising considering many in this age group were being schooled in full or part online. Families were not out and about as much and were spending more hours at home.
An encouraging note during the Pandemic years was that family time changed for the better. Wary of health concerns, families stayed at home more often. During this newfound time together, they read stories aloud, ate more meals together and, played games more often. This was especially true in homes where parents had a higher level of education and were able to work from home.[ii]
For many churches, children’s ministry became a burden. Volunteers left and programs were canceled. If ministry to children was to survive, it would take creativity, prayer, and a reset of how things are done. Leaders looked at creating community through online means.[iii]
Ministry to children post-COVID must return with a new look. Strategies to bring families back together into a building must be examined if parents are relying on Christian training in the church. 1,200 children’s ministry leaders responded to a survey at the beginning of 2022. Results found that only 52.2% of Children’s ministries were back to their pre-COVID schedule. Most churches were offering some form of children’s ministry again, but 36% at a reduced level and, 11.8% were still not in person.[iv]
In the book of Deuteronomy, we are charged with keeping God’s words in our hearts and minds (Deuteronomy 11:18) and passing this knowledge on to the children. “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you like down and when you get up.”[v]
The Christian family often falls short when it comes to the training of the scriptures in the home. When children spend 4-5 hours of screen time, is it balanced with any time in the scriptures and teaching of the Christian life? Are we walking and talking of God’s word while we do the mundane things of life together? The demands of sports and school and work leave little time left to offer to God without purposefully planning for it. If not the church and not the parents, who will teach the children? Foundations of Truth hereby waives all claim of copyright (economic and moral) in this work and immediately places it in the public domain; it may be used, published, edited, and distributed in any manner whatsoever without any attribution or notice to Foundations of Truth.
[i] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/24/well/family/child-social-media-use.html [ii] https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2022/01/parents-and-children-interacted-more-during-covid-19.html [iii] https://childrensministrybasics.com/2022/01/11/how-childrens-ministry-can-thrive-after-covid-19/ [iv] https://sundayschool.works/encouragement/childrens-ministry-statistics-2022/ [v] Deuteronomy 11:19