The subtitle of this book is “Guiding your Children into the Joy of Worship”. While Castleman certainly wrote on this very compellingly, she also taught me far more than that. Over a year ago now, I wrote a blog post titled, “Why go to Church? (With a Little Bit of: Is a Local Church Body a Family?)”. I received very thoughtful and helpful comments on the blog post and in conversations in life. Nevertheless, I have been very unsettled about this for quite some time. Knowing we would be moving several months ahead of time left me preparing to choose a new church and brought all these questions to the surface. How would I pick a church in a town where I knew no one? What is/are the important thing(s) about which church you attend? This book has helped me to resolve these questions better than any other resource or conversation. Funny enough, immediately after finishing the book, I went back and read my old blog post and all the comments on it. A lot of the comments expressed the same thoughts as I’d found so helpful in the book! Why is it that sometimes when we finally understand something, we know full well we’ve been told it in the past? Maybe we didn’t want to accept it back then. Maybe we just didn’t get it. Is it possible that God makes us wait for answers sometimes just to remind us that we cannot rely on our own wisdom? I desperately wanted to figure this out a year ago. I’ve been praying about this for a year.
Although this turned out to be deeply personal for me, I would easily recommend it to any parent wanting to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Even if you don’t agree with all her techniques, there is so much helpful guidance, and if nothing else at all, the reminder and exhortation to take worship seriously is a great reminder for any parent.
UPDATE: Week 1 of My Attempt to Put This into Action
I am writing about my first week of learning to “parent in the pew” for several reasons. First of all, I am fairly certain this is going to be a long journey, so on those weeks when it seems I have made little to no progress, I’ll have week one to look back on and compare (and hopefully see progress!!). Second of all, writing always helps me sort out my thoughts, and this isn’t an entirely straightforward venture. As in, this isn’t a case where the best thing to do is always clear and it’s simply my task to be consistent to carry it out. I’m hoping this will help me sort out what’s working and what’s not, etc.
My first step was to prep my 6 and 5 year old boys for what was coming. (The two-year-old gets crayons and stuffed animals as usual.) I told my 6-year-old that he was ready to learn more about worship and that I was excited to start teaching him. We talked about ways he already knows how to worship, then talked about how Sunday mornings are a special time of worship. I told him we’d be following along in our bulletin each week at church and I’d be teaching him about each part of the liturgy. Then I told my 5-year-old what I’d be teaching his brother, and told him he was welcome to listen in on anything he wanted, but that I would finish teaching his brother, and then I would teach him next.
The first thing we did was to have him follow along in the bulletin. I had him cross off each thing as we completed it. He did fairly well with that, though I did have to confiscate the writing utensil after the line was drawn or people started appearing on the bulletin.
I had him hold the hymn book. I followed the words with my finger. Him holding it did seem to keep his attention, though a few times the attention was on whether or not he could make the book balance on the pew in front of us.
The sermon was on “Blessed are the peacemakers”, so I told him to squeeze my hand every time he heard the word “peace”. Many, many times he completely missed it and I squeezed his hand (maybe/hopefully bringing his attention back to the sermon??), several times he squeezed my hand, but I was shocked how many times he squeezed my hand and I had missed it. It did indeed draw my attention back to the sermon.
When I explained things (“Now people are going to say if they have any prayer requests, and the pastor will prayer about them later on during prayer time), he did listen very graciously.
Every time I tried to draw his attention to what was going on by asking a question, “Wow, do you think that sounds hard?” or “How do you think that made him feel?”, I received a solid and immediate “I don’t know” or “About what?”
At the end of the sermon, as my children were gathering their things, I was unaware of the way I was exhaling (one very long slow exhale) until the woman sitting in front of me turned around and smiled at me and told me I was doing a great job. Her comment blessed me as much as anything else during the service that day, to be sure.