Dr. Jake Tovissi  Pastor Care Canton Baptist Temple

It has been a challenge to minister to people during this coronavirus lock down. Most of my ministry has consisted of Zoom Sunday School, phone calls, texts and an occasional FaceTime. Nothing in person, no handshakes or hugs, just social distancing. As a pastor I’ve felt incomplete in my ministry.

When I communicated with people three topics were most prevalent. Family issues, loneliness and death. These issues are relevant for the whole church family!

I want to take the time to give you help, comfort and peace for each of these real and challenging issues.

First of all let’s look at families. The issues of the family fall into two categories, too much separation and too much togetherness.

Let’s look first at too much separation. The coronavirus lock down has resulted in generational separation. In multigenerational families grandparents, their children, grandchildren and possibly great grandchildren have been forced into separational lockdown. In American society today we have created a strong generational dependency. Now it has been put on hold. Grandparents have been affected most by the isolation. Ages 65+ have been deemed vulnerable during the pandemic. The younger generations though not effected by the virus may be carriers that can pass the illness onto the elderly and immune deficient. Therefore, grandparents are in isolation, especially if they are living alone. Although they feel very alone the rest of the family tree suffers as well. So what can we do to help? First use technology to its fullest extent whenever you can. Modern inventions such as FaceTime, video, phone calls, and texts should be utilized whenever possible. A picture really is worth a thousand words. May I also suggest the archaic handwritten letter or note? Your family will value your time and effort, not to mention that they will live in posterity. Finally keep your loved ones close by lifting them up in prayer.

Secondly, let’s look at too much time together. You may think I’ve lost my counseling mind on this but hear me out. In our previously busy, rushed and over achieving life style, many of us pleaded for more time to be with our loved ones. Now that we have it we want to get rid of it. First, let me consider the husband and wife dynamic. It is vital the spouses spend time together, we all need to love, care and support our spouses. We also need our space. Whenever I’m off for an extended time with my wife, I tend to let’s say, “get in her way”, you could call it a harmless form of harassment! When this happens she has a common phrase that she uses, “This is why men go to work every day”. Guess what, she’s right.

So, how do we combat too much time together? We must find proper ways of separation. I have a home library to which I retire. Although I’m not working from my church office, I am responsible to be working from home. I’ve found the best way to accomplish this is through maintaining my ordinary ministry habits as much as I can. Establish a consistent wake up time, exercise, and pre work preparation. This means get cleaned up, showered and dressed, then go to work, even though it’s just down the hall. My wife has been busy keeping the house clean, laundry done, meals prepared. Important safety tip guys; help in those areas when you can. It’s not just her job.

On a more serious note, disagreements, squabbles, fights and worst of all abuse do take place during lockdown situations. Just like a boxing match we have to sometimes go to our separate corners. While you are in your separate corners be productive. Examine your relationship with your spouse. Consider what initially attracted you to them. List their positive attributes. Write them a handwritten note and then you need to establish normal communications.

Now, let’s look at the family dynamic. The same cause and effect principles apply to the children as they did to the spouse. Although they would most times disagree; children thrive in a controlled family environment. Let me give you a view of what this looks like. The day starts with a regular wake up time, a good breakfast and then age appropriate chores. Everyone participates and pitches in. Next, get your daily school work done. Again same time every day, Monday through Friday. Do your best to make it fun and interesting but do it. Kids then need daily exercise and activity, make the most of what is available. I also want to recommend family game time, movies and home videos.

Finally during this time when God has seemed to put the brakes on, slow down! Parents need to have time with God; individually and separately. Family devotions can and must be taken advantage of during this lockdown. Dads lead but everyone participates. Parents also get your children to do age appropriate personal devotions. This is finally completed by prayer; spousal, family and individually. Give lots of hugs too!