Welcome to COVID-19 quarantine! So, the new coronavirus takes attending church off the table? No worries—believe it or not, throughout the ages followers of Jesus have still worshiped when there was no place to go.
Many churches are using streaming technology to beam a simulated service (band, sermon, no audience) to your home. Yet there are alternative ways to worship that do not rely on a broadcast. In fact, you might even like them better.
Here is how my family of five-at-home (kids ages 14, 12, and 9) worshiped and learned and prayed this past Sunday. Anyone can do this. It requires no education or training aside from what's right here.
Here are the basics; then I'll explain how my family fleshed it out this week with some tips for you to do the same.
Worship at home
Each person in the home picks one song for the group to sing.
Pick two or three psalms (from the Bible's Book of Psalms) for the group to pray.
Pick a passage from the Bible for the group to learn from.
Read one psalm. Take turns reading one verse at a time until you get through it.
Sing two songs.
Read another psalm as with the one before.
Sing the rest of the songs. If you have a third psalm, fit it in this group.
First explain the rules:
None of us is the teacher. The Holy Spirit is the teacher. We are all learners. We listen to one another.
None of us is the leader. The process and the text are the leaders.
We speak about the text we read together. We do not refer to other Scripture passages, notes in our Bibles, other books, things we’ve heard, or personal opinions. (Exception: If we are working our way through a book of the Bible, we may refer back to earlier parts of that book.)
We take turns facilitating the process. All of us help the facilitator keep us on task and keep our discussion on the text. If someone gives an opinion that doesn't appear to be from the text, ask, "Would you show me where that is in this passage?"
Then follow the process:
Ask for three volunteers: two readers and a reteller.
The first reader reads the passage aloud.
The second reader reads the passage aloud.
Everyone closes their Bibles. The reteller retells what was read as well as he or she can remember.
Everyone else fills in whatever the reteller may have missed as well as they can remember. Then open the Bibles again and check.
Going around the room one at a time, each person answers this question: "What is one thing this passage says about God?" (Meaning God the Father. But substitute "Jesus" instead if the passage focuses on him.)
Likewise, each person answers "What is one thing this passage says about people?"
The whole group together answers "What instructions, if any, are in this passage?" Then each person answers "What will you do about it?"
In the same way, each person answers "Who that you know needs to hear about something in this passage? Will you tell them?"
Invite each person to ask the rest of the group to pray for a specific issue they have.
If anyone brings up a problem the group can help with, make a plan to help.
Take turns praying aloud for each other, concluded by the facilitator.
An example and tips
Here's how this looked for us last Sunday:
Psalms 42-43 (read continuously as one psalm; if you look at them you'll see why)
"Rejoice, the Lord Is King" (picked by me)
"Amazing Grace" (picked by the 12-year-old)
"God of Wonders" (picked by the 14-year-old)
"Holy Spirit" (picked by the 9-year-old)
"Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting" (picked by my wife)
I picked Psalms 41 and 116 because they both mention sickness (which seemed appropriate). I picked Psalms 42-43 because they describe longing to worship with a big crowd when you're far away and you can't, and it makes you sad.
If you don't know which psalms speak to which topics, that's what Google is for. Just type "psalm about ________," and you'll be on your way.
We have some hymnals that helped with lyrics to the old songs. The newer songs we did from memory. But if we needed lyrics for either, our phones would have given us what we needed.
My wife and I both play the piano, so we took turns while the rest gathered around. But if none of us played, we'd have had no problem singing without accompaniment, or we could have found a recording on YouTube and sung along if we wanted to.
The passage we learned from was Revelation 2:12-17. This is the passage our pastor prepared to preach this week, so it seemed like the logical one for us to read.
Pick just about any passage in the Bible and you'll be fine. A "passage" is a section that seems to have a more-or-less complete thought or story. Again, you can Google "scripture about ________" to find something. But since we're likely to be holed up for a while, how about you work through an entire short book? Philippians would be a nice choice; it will take about eight weeks.
This Bible study process is called Discovery Bible Study. You can find it in various forms from various sources (for example, Final Command Ministries).
The most interesting question for us was "Who do you know who needs to hear about something in this passage?" It was amazing to me how negative people went. They fixed on the verse about sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols and got all nervous about confronting somebody about the former. (I don't think they know anyone doing the latter.) But there's all kinds of positive, uplifting stuff in the passage that people need to hear too. I called a friend of mine (a God-fearer but not a Christ-follower) and told him about the beautiful symbol of receiving a white pebble with a new name known only to the one who receives it, and we had a great talk.
When we asked for prayer from each other, my wife asked that she not be stressed by the possibility of a loss of income during this isolation period. When we talked about how we could help her practically, she talked about how to minimize other things that cause stress that are in the kids' direct control. Happily, we had a really good rest of the day in the house together.
We had a good time. It felt like doing church, not watching church. Our oldest is coming home this week, and we'll be doing the same thing as a family of six.