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FIRST-PERSON: Discipleship for our new normal

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP) — My recent conversation with a student minister reminded me of a unique challenge brought on by all the virtual gatherings we’re having during the coronavirus pandemic. He had become aware of the need to plan guys-only and girls-only online meetings, so that leaders could ask students difficult accountability questions about their screen time.

In other words, he wanted to make sure students were fleeing the temptations so easily available online — now that much of their day is spent using a screen to do all the things they used to do at school and at church.

Even as in-person gatherings become more common this summer, that’s a question we all should answer, students and adults alike: Are we aware of online temptation, even if that temptation is simply to spend too much time online? How can you be constructive about your “virtual time” — now that it’s taking up an even larger part of your life?

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There are others too — unique discipleship issues that have risen out of the sudden need to change almost everything about how we do church and ministry.

Most small groups and Sunday school classes are still meeting virtually, even as weekly worship gatherings start again. Some community groups or Sunday school classes are comprised of several families or couples; other virtual meet-ups are only two or three people.

Whatever the online setting, now is a great time to ask some questions specific to this unprecedented time. How are you spending your time now that many commitments have been put on hold? Are you increasing your Bible reading? Spending more time in devotional-type activities?

For students, are you joining your youth group? Most student ministers are working hard to provide even more activities than usual — small group Bible studies, online movie nights, virtual scavenger hunts.

The bottom line is this: In this new normal, how much of what you’re doing is impacting your faith and spiritual growth positively? Or negatively?

For parents, these weeks of uninterrupted family time can be an excellent opportunity to grow as the chief disciplers of your children. And for churches, this is an ideal time to train parents how to do that. At a church I once served, we held a Sunday school teachers’ meeting every Wednesday night. I taught that week’s lesson to the teachers, who then taught it a few days later to their students.

There are a variety of ways to institute a teachers’ meeting for parents right now. We have the technology and the time, and an opportunity we couldn’t have anticipated.

Let’s not neglect discipleship now, even though our methods and our questions will be different. As Christians, let’s commit to steward our time for His glory. As leaders, let’s help the people we lead use this time to grow closer to Jesus.