Kim at Life in a Shoe did a great series recently on how to keep your kids in the worship service with you. She and her husband have eight kids, so yeah, they have some experience. In the course of her posts and the resulting comments, I learned a lot and also saw a recommendation for this book, “Parenting in the Pew” by Robbie Castleman.
One of the things that first impressed me about our denomination was the fact that families usually worship together, and that even the littles pay attention and are engaged in the service. The first time I witnessed this phenomenon was when Josh and I visited the Olivettis in Pittsburgh when we were engaged. At the time, I taught 3-4 year old Sunday School at our church in DC, and it was like pulling teeth for me to even get the kids to sit still for 37 seconds, so the sight of toddlers sitting in an entire service was shocking.
When Hannah was born, we were excited to worship together as a family. It helped that she slept through most of the service. As she got older and more vocal and less interested in sleeping during church, things got difficult. We tried to be sensitive to the people around us by taking her out of the sanctuary at the first sign of disruptiveness, so as not to distract other worshippers. Eventually, I found myself in the nursing mother’s room during most of the service, or Josh would spend most of the sermon pacing in the entryway with Hannah. We both got frustrated that our efforts to worship as a family actually resulted in LESS WORSHIP AS A FAMILY. Finally this summer we started putting Hannah in the nursery. We keep her with us until she gets loud (always during the Psalm explanation: for some reason this strikes her as a perfect time to yell, “DADA!!!!!!!” or puke all over somebody or blow bubbles loudly.
I used one of my free gift cards from Barnes and Noble to get “Parenting in the Pew” hoping for some really gritty practical suggestions for how to train Hannah to worship. I was looking for a chapter titled “What to do when your almost 9 month old yells “DADA!” and pukes at inopportune moments in the service” and other specifics. So when the book arrived this afternoon, I immediately read it from cover to cover. I finished it a few minutes ago.
Castleman certainly DOES give specific suggestions in the book, but what I found even MORE helpful, and unexpected, was the encouragement she gave that teaching our children to worship is important and worthwhile, because worship is for GOD, not for us, and not for what people think of us. The book deals with challenges of keeping children in the worship service, but also does an excellent job of giving the whys and hows of teaching children about prayer, singing praise to God, listening to Scripture, and showing reverence for sacraments (even if they aren’t participating). I thought the book did an excellent job of discussing the reasons we teach our children to worship, not just giving suggestions for how to keep the kiddos quiet for an hour. Of particular usefulness, I thought, were sections talking about how important it is to prepare for Sunday before Sunday – for things from making prayer and praise parts of your family worship to finding matching socks on Saturday night.
I would absolutely recommend this book to any parents! And if anyone has suggestions they have used/are using for training kids in worship, we’d love to hear them!