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Shepherding Your Family During a Global Pandemic

Joel McDonald

Ellie

Pastor Joel McDonald (Family Church West, West Palm Beach, Florida), is this month’s guest blog writer. We appreciate his encouragement for all of us navigating the ongoing challenges of COVID-19. As a father of three young children, Joel provides practical ideas, perspective—and hope to keep on keeping on.

"Just this week my five-year old daughter Hannah was pretending to talk on the phone to one of her classmates from school. I asked her what they were talking about, and she said, “we are talking about all this Corona-craziness.” I’m not exactly sure where she learned the term, as I don’t remember my wife or I saying it, but my daughter summed up this season pretty well: Corona-craziness. This is indeed a crazy time to be alive, and as a young father of three, it certainly feels like a crazy time to lead my family. If you are a parent with kids in the home, you are also no doubt feeling the stress of the Corona-craziness as your family adjusts to new schedules and new rhythms in the midst of so much uncertainty. Yet, even in the midst of Corona-craziness, God has tasked us as parents with leading our families to love Him and love others (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). So, as parents, how can we shepherd our families well during this global pandemic? While I won’t pretend to imply that we have this all figured out, here are a few ideas that my wife, Tamara, and I are working on to help us shepherd our family:

Keep God Priority #1: When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was in all the Jewish Law, He said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37, ESV). Even in the time of Corona-craziness, this is still priority number one for us as followers of Jesus. Before we try to lead our families to love God and others, we must start with cultivating a love for Him ourselves. As we look at our schedules, we need to ask ourselves: Are we prioritizing our relationship with God? Have we created any space for us to spend time with Him? I find that with three kids under the age of six, early mornings are the best time for me to spend a few uninterrupted minutes reading the Bible and praying. My wife works hard to find a few moments throughout the day to meditate on Scripture and pray. As we spend this time with God, we find that He so often calms our souls and helps us gain the right perspective for another day of work and parenting. Prioritizing God in this season is not easy, but it is more important than ever.

Communicate Well with Your Spouse: If you are married, then you probably have already realized that good communication is critical for a happy marriage. In the season of Corona-craziness, this is just as important if not more so. Just because our families might be spending more time together doesn’t mean that we are communicating well. As a married couple, we need to do everything we can to “stay on the same page.” We need to communicate regularly about how our children are doing, what our schedule looks like, what each spouse needs from the other. We want to be on the same team in everything we do as parents and communicating well and often with our spouse helps us do that.

Create a Schedule: I remember when we took our daughter Hannah to the doctor for her one-month check-up right after she was born. As new parents, we were exhausted and almost in tears as we explained to the doctor that parenting was harder than we thought. Instead of taking the baby back, as I feared he might do, he encouraged us that what we were experiencing was very normal. He also kindly suggested that we create a schedule and look to find daily rhythms for our young family. I’m happy to say we took his advice, and things immediately began to improve. If you are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted during this season let me offer you similar encouragement. What you are experiencing is very normal, and it’s going to be ok. If you haven’t already, consider creating a regular schedule for your family. Find a time for school, for play. Create a bedtime routine. Schedule the day for your family so you can make sure you accomplish the things you want to accomplish. And while you are scheduling, make sure you schedule for what is really important. That leads to our next idea.

Have Fun as a Family: Don’t forget to schedule time to have fun as a family! Take advantage of this season to spend more time together. Go for walks as a family, play boardgames (we are currently enjoying Candyland). One of the most fun things we have done as a family during Corona-craziness season is to go to Disneyworld. Yes, I know Disneyworld is closed, but videos of all the rides are available on YouTube. We took the idea from some friends and scheduled a night where our family ate ice cream and “rode” our favorite Disney rides, all from the comfort of our living room. We had so much fun, and I especially liked it because it was cheaper than actually going to Disney. Find whatever your family likes doing and do it together. The key is to have fun and enjoy your kids!

This season of Corona-craziness is definitely different, but by prioritizing our relationship with God and being intentional about shepherding our families I believe God can cause our families not only to survive, but actually to thrive during this pandemic. May God give us grace to lead our families well."

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