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Media Matters: ‘Drive Time Devotionals’ make car a sacred space

Drive time is now devotional time for Susan Elswick (second from the left) and her children Abigail, 5, Charlotte, 10 and Liam, 7.
Drive time is now devotional time for Susan Elswick (second from the left) and her children Abigail, 5, Charlotte, 10 and Liam, 7.
COURTESY JAMIE ELSWICK

To Susan Elswick, driving time is sacred. It's the time when her three kids are stuck in one spot instead of running around her house, doing homework or playing sports. It's the time when she can talk to her children, and it's the time about which she has chosen to center her family devotional series.

A social worker with a master's degree in social work and a doctorate in special education, Elswick belongs to the children's ministry council and the family and parenting council at Covenant United Methodist Church in Cordova Tenn., and since March 3, she has posted a series of guided discussions called "Drive Time Devotionals" on the church's website, covenantumc.org/drivetimedevotionals.

Elswick designed the guided discussions for parents to use on the road as a means to talk with their children about concepts and issues of faith raised the past Sunday during worship.

"Parents were saying it was just so hard to find time to have a conversation with their children about not just daily life activities but biblical teaching," Elswick said. "So, I thought what better way to incorporate that into everybody's lives than to use the drive time that you have from activity to activity?"

When she proposed the idea of publishing the devotional material on the church's website to Covenant's senior pastor, the Rev. Jonathan Jeffords, he loved it.

"I was quick to encourage her to proceed," Jeffords said. "Susan's contributions to the families of our church have been and continue to be significant. Her skill and awareness of family dynamics and the complexities of rearing children today is informed by her role as a mother and as a woman of faith."

Elswick has created guided discussions so parents can talk to their children about sermon topics Monday through Saturday after the pastor's message on Sunday. In the few weeks since she began posting the material, Elswick said the response has surprised her.

"I had no idea parents were going to be so excited," she said. "After the first week ... I got two or three emails and a couple of phone contacts about how excited they were to have that information and that they were really going to try to use it during the week."

Veteran Christian educator Delia Halverson of Woodstock, Ga., calls the devotionals an "excellent idea."

Each weekly devotional contains the Scripture on which Jeffords based his sermon and paragraphs to use Monday through Saturday giving parents topics to talk about and games to play with their children. Elswick posts them before Sunday morning, so parents can prepare for the week. She intends to keep doing so until sometime around March 2014 to complete a liturgical year.

Elswick hopes the devotionals will bless people in her congregation but will also communicate Covenant UMC's concern for parental needs to local families looking for a new church home.

And whether or not other people continue to use the material, Elswick said she will have a good time talking about devotional topics with her own kids during the next year.

"It was very eye-opening to me to do this with my own children because I was really thinking, ‘Oh, wow, they are really engaged in the conversation when you approach it a certain way,'" she said.

Casey Northcutt is a freelance writer based in Calvert City, Ky. This story was originally published in the eNews of the Memphis Conference.

May is Christian Home Month

Share how you make time and space for family devotionals. Send your ideas to knoble@umcom.org for possible posting at www.interpretermagazine.org.