6 things to give our children while the coronavirus keeps us at home

April 9, 2020

At the end of each spring, my husband and I spend some time considering what our children need for the next school year and how we’ll help give it to them. We talk about classes, lessons, sports teams, and activities and our limited budget of both money and time. We had a good plan for this year, just like any other, except right now, even the best laid plans have gone awry. 

Parents all across the world are wondering what to do with their children’s abundance of time as COVID-19 has most of us at home. Many families normally outsource in several ways to give children what they need, but in an unprecedented time like this, we’re finding ourselves without our usual scaffolding and support. We don’t need to have special licenses or training to care for our children well in this time, but we do need to know what to give them. 

1. The gospel: We always need the gospel more than anything else, but a scary time like this has reminded me of how desperate we are for it. Our kids are feeling the effects of their daily schedules changing suddenly, and they need to know that God is steadfast and immutable. We all need Hebrews 13:8 as a banner over us: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. The cross is sufficient for our needs right now, and our children need to be reminded of this. 

More time at home may mean more quality time as a family, but it can also mean more sinning against each other. The grace that Christ has given us needs to be overflowing from Christian parents. We need to practice confession and repentance in front of our children and show them that everyone should be both a giver and receiver of forgiveness.

2. Structure: When I came home with my first child 14 years ago, I quickly learned that some structure to our days helps both parents and child. Giving children parameters for their day can help eliminate frustration and disappointment. And the built-in routine also allows parents some needed mental breaks. Some families work best with a schedule, but ours thrives more with a rhythm or pattern for each day. My children know when to complete their chores and schoolwork. They know when they can play outside and have snacks. I don’t have to nag them, and they don’t have to ask what needs to be done. Structure also helps us make sure we are spending our time well. 

3. Ways to serve: Children can play a vital part in keeping a home running. They are not only capable of helping out, it is good for them. Children need to recognize that their work is valuable and that others are depending on them. Work in the home and for neighbors helps children learn to lay aside their desires and to think about the needs of others. They learn that servanthood is noble and necessary work. Growing up means slowly gaining more responsibilities, and now is a great time to teach our children how to manage new tasks for the good of others. 

4. Food for their minds: Many of my friends whose children are in traditional schools have been asking me how to continue their children’s education at home. I’ve heard of varying levels of school work being given out. Regardless of how much your child’s teachers are sending home, you don’t need to recreate school at home. Help your children complete their work with excellence. Use the leftover time to dive into resources that will encourage your children to think deeply.

Just as our bodies need sustenance, so do our minds. Children don’t need to be crammed with information, but they do need a feast of truth, beauty, and goodness that will cultivate their imagination and kindle their desire to learn. Give them books, music, art, and ideas that are worth coming back to again and again because of the value to our hearts and minds, not because of what we may accomplish by having read, studied, or listened to them. But that’s not to say that they won’t teach us. They will instruct us in the hidden-most parts of our heart—where we consider virtue and morality. 

Maybe your family will want to study the works and discoveries of a particular time period. Don’t just seek facts; find ideas that lead to wonder. Read stories with noble characters who fight evil and are willing to sacrifice their lives for good. Memorize Scripture, hymns, poetry, and speeches that they can recall later when they are scared, hurting, or needing inspiration.     

However your family spends the days at home, remember these children we’re raising are a blessing. They are never a burden, even in the midst of hardship that no one was prepared for.

5. Exercise for their bodies: One of the hardest blows for my children was when they found out their soccer season was canceled for a month. They love playing the game with their teams. We can’t recreate that at home for them, but we can give them opportunities for using energy and getting exercise. 

Our children will feel and learn better if they are moving their bodies and maintaining good fitness. It’s easy for my children to get outside and exercise at our house, but some families may need to be more creative. The digital age has given us all sorts of workout videos and programs online, some of which can be completed with limited room. For our family, it works best to build exercise of different types into several parts of our day. 

6. Skills to practice: After a summer break from school, I realized that one of my children had forgotten long division. It had been a struggle to teach her long division the first time, and I had to tackle it all over. I learned the hard way that some skills need to be practiced regularly, so we don’t regress in them. Math and some other subjects will need to be reviewed. If your child was learning to type at school, he could use an online program to maintain or improve that skill. For the emerging readers among my children, we have a schedule for short periods of practice several times a day to help them progress forward. 

What skills are your children learning? How can you help them practice? What other skills do you want them to learn with this extra time? Skills don’t have to be academic to be worth their time. And if your child doesn’t practice a particular skill and regresses, it’s not the end of the world. Like my daughter who forgot long division, if they learned it once, they can learn it again. 

However your family spends the days at home, remember these children we’re raising are a blessing. They are never a burden, even in the midst of hardship that no one was prepared for. This is a great opportunity for us to love our children and to point them to the cross as we spend our days at home. We’re all going to make mistakes as we try to figure out how to use our time, but grace is abundant.  

Jessica Burke

Jessica Burke is married to her high school sweetheart, and they have four children. The Burkes lived in Skopje, Macedonia, as missionaries for three years before moving to North Carolina where Jessica’s husband is a chaplain at a local jail and a pastor. A former public school teacher, Jessica home educates her … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24