2/26/13

Pew parenting

Have you ever heard of this book called Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman? I've just about finished reading it and let me just give you a hearty recommendation for this book, if you're a church-goer. It is excellent.

The book is about teaching children how to worship. As most of my readers know, I somewhat recently (2 years ago) graduated from seminary with a degree in educational ministries. My personal interest was- and is- for children's ministry, but actually might be more appropriately categorized parent-and-toddler-ministry. I'm very interested in faith formation from birth to age 5, which mostly happens in context of the parent-child relationship.

Over the two years I spent working on that degree, one idea in particular kept being taught and reinforced and-well- pounded- into me: the idea that children are members of our covenant communities today. They aren't "members in training" or potential worshipers; they fully belong right now because- from infants to teenagers- God wants the worship of our children. 


After spending those years exploring this idea, I could not wait to have a child of my own. Mostly because of the joy in showing Jesus to a child, but also because having a child gives you more authority to share on the subject. Understandably so. I remember once in a conversation with a number of women from my church, I mentioned the idea of keeping children in the pew (or chair aisle in our case) for the entire worship service and hearing crickets followed by comments like well that's an interesting idea. Like a scrolling marquee, I could read the look in their eyes as just wait until she has children. 


As you know, I did wait. And now the time has come to put my classroom learnings into practice to see how they actually function in real life. This is why I've been devouring that Parenting in the Pew book: because I'm convinced that God wants Arie's worship and it's my job to teach Arie how to worship.



Castleman's recommendation is that children stay in the worship service for the entire thing- sermon and all- from birth to about age one and then again from about age two-and-a-half or three, onward. Since Arie's already past the 2.5 mark, we've started parenting in the... chair aisle... already. The first couple Sundays weren't too hard because Arie was so overwhelmed by the experience he kept fairly quiet. Now, however, he's acting more like a typical two-year-old in a worship service and getting a little squirrely. Plus I have the added- somewhat humorous- challenge of getting him not to yell out, "PAPA!" every time John goes forward to speak!


A few of the goals I've set for our family as we begin this amazing journey of teaching our son how to worship are:

Participate in the singing: I want to encourage Arie to make a joyful noise when we sing! He can't read the lyrics and in our church we don't sing the same songs often enough for him to learn them by heart, but he loves to sing even when he doesn't know the words! I love this about him and want him to know that his "singing" is lovely to the Lord's ears.
Differentiate between"being quiet" vs. worshiping: While these are not mutually exclusive, they are not the same thing. A child can be quiet without learning how to worship. I anticipate teaching him this will be my personal biggest challenge!
Create a sermon activity: I want to create a type of children's program/coloring page for him to use during the sermon. I don't expect him to listen to the whole sermon at his age, but I want to give him something sermon-related to do during that time. Right now he usually plays with a lift-the-flap book or little cars, which works, but I think we can (eventually) do better.
Learn the liturgy: I want to get Arie to the point where he knows the liturgical elements (the worship elements that happen every Sunday) of our service. We do not use high liturgy in our church, but we have some recurring elements like the pastor's greeting, mutual greeting, Lord's prayer recitation, and the blessing/benediction.
Develop a love for church: Perhaps above all, I want Arie to know in his head and his heart that we are so blessed to be able to worship God. I want church to be a good place for him; a place where he comes to know himself most fully in the light of God's glory and grace.


At our church we also have a children's program which most young children participate in during the second half of the worship service. Since we have two identical morning worship services at our church, logistically we have the potential to attend one service and send Arie to this program for the second service. While I like the idea of having him learn about God from loving members in our congregation, I'm not sure if we would be able to make it through that long of a morning at church. I've done it before myself and am exhausted for the remainder of the day. I had a college professor who, when addressing the topic of honoring the sabbath, would always say we should never rest to the exclusion of worship nor should we worship to the exclusion of rest. So, I'm still trying to figure out if a four hour morning at church would be worshiping to the exclusion of rest.

(Duck prints on a frozen lake.)
Lastly I just want to share three things I've learned both in the last few weeks and few years that challenged the way I view children in church. First, I've learned that a little noise in the sanctuary doesn't ruin God's experience of our worship. It might be annoying for me- or humiliating for me if it's my child who had a sudden outburst- but it doesn't ruin God's experience. He wants the worship of young children (let the little children come to me, anyone?) and it's okay if my worship experience suffers a little as a result.  If I have to leave the sanctuary for a moment with my child, it's okay. It's all part of the learning process and it's not about me, right?


Second, I've learned that I have to be concerned about bringing my family before God in worship, not before others. Like most people, I don't like to cause a disturbance in a quiet room or deal with nasty looks being shot in my direction. However, I can't forgo the privilege and responsibility I have to teach Arie how to worship just because someone else might not be happy with having a young child in the room. God gives parents the job of impressing his law onto the hearts of our children and I'm the one who will have to answer for the job I did, not that other family across the row.



Third, the fact that I get to teach my son how to worship is a great privilege and a great joy. Just like parenting, it will be awful at times. I'm sure he will infuriate me at least a handful of times in the worship service before he even turns five, but that's just sort of how parenting goes, isn't it? You love a lot, you laugh a lot, you get proud, you get frustrated, you feel like you failed, you try again, you feel better, and then one day you child is a grown up and you pray that God's grace overrode your failures. Pew parenting and everyday parenting are going to have a lot in common.


I only know one other family who are attempting anything like this in their parenting journey, so I've decided to return to this subject on my blog from time to time to share successes and failures. My guess is that most families do church the "traditional" kids-out way just because that's how it's always done and they- like me- never really considered doing it another way. This will be my small attempt to get the word out there about this counter-cultural move. If you're doing any sort of pew-parenting in your family I'd love to hear more about it! Please leave me a comment of encouragement (or warning I suppose!).


xo

37 comments:

  1. Anonymous2/26/2013

    Love this. I totally want my kids in church worshiping along side of me. My kids are older, and now I'm facing pressure from THEM because they want to go to one of those big mega churches their friends go to with the glitzy youth programs that look like mini rock concerts. I want my kids to stay in a multi-generational worship setting that is a story, not a show.
    Stick with your convictions. The pressures will always be there at every age and every stage.

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    1. I would just repeat that same last line to you. Stick with your convictions! I love multigenerational worship.

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  2. I'm the director of children's music at my church and have been on staff with the children's ministry for 4 years now. We encourage family worship (as opposed to a "children's church" lesson or sending the children to "Sunday School" for both hours while the parents attend worship and then their Adult Bible Fellowship group), and I think it works great! It's a new concept to some, but it's really cool to watch families worship together! My son is just getting to the age of staying in with us, but we volunteer in nursery 2 Sundays a month so we ourselves don't make it to worship enough! :) I am definitely going to check out that book! I love that your church as a whole is promoting family worship - I would think it's easier to do that when the congregation is behind you (not as many side-eye looks as you walk out when needed and more understanding parents around you). Can't wait to see what works for y'all!

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    1. "family worship" is just as it should be. So glad you church embraces it!

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  3. Like this post...I've never used the nursery for my kids. It doesn't mesh well with my theology and thoughts on worship not to be with them during worship. But we get a lot of looks as if we're nuts, enough to make me want to find a new place of worship. I'll have to check out that book!

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    1. Please do and I hope you enjoy it!

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  4. Anonymous2/26/2013

    My three brothers and I NEVER left my parents side ever at church. In fact cry rooms didn't exist. We are Roman Catholic and there is no, ok we will now excuse the children.... We believe the Entire Mass is for all. I remember a nun telling me once , when a child is crying in church, they are talking to the angels. Keep your child by your side !!

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    1. LOVE this. Just love it. Yes the Roman Catholic church practices worship like worship was practiced for centuries. It is only in the last 100 years since the industrial revolution and the advent of Sunday Schools that we have excused children from worship. One of my professors in seminary used to say, "It's a new idea to think that worship services are teaching services for adults. We didn't think this way for the majority of Church history!"

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  5. This is a great post Jillian - lots of great points. My opinion on this subject has changed over the years - of course it's easier now that my kids are older. I will say one thing. I think most people don't realize how LITTLE noise it takes to distract the people immediately surrounding you. And this isn't just about little kids. I'm amazed sometimes at the adults who talk to the person next to them during the entire service :-( I always had a hard time balancing the needs of my child (and my goals for them) with not wanting to keep others from experiencing worship and fully grasping the message God has for them that morning. (I'm talking sermon time, more than worship time.)

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    1. One of the points Castleman makes in her book is that the worship service is not meant to be a reprieve from life or a time to "relax and enjoy." Worship is an extension of our lives and children are a part of our lives, whether they are our children or not. I am the same way with not wanting to distract others, but at the same time I don't think a whisper from a child is going to prevent God from getting his message across to the person in the pew. Sometimes I've talked to my husband about creating spaces in the sanctuary that are especially kid-friendly (easy exits, space for kids to sit on the floor, access to crayons and papers) which would be good for parents and also for others who want to sit away from the young children. Not sure if that would help or hurt the ultimate cause of intergenerational worship though!

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  6. Jillian,
    It was so wonderful to read this post. I feel like on outcast in my desire to bring my 2.5 year old twins INTO church and not into nursery. It is very important to me that they begin to witness the Body of Christ. Afterall, they BELONG, no less than the "bigger people," to the Body of Christ. Anyway, I had a very negative experience that literally reduced me to tears, even unable to respond. I have twins...and I am a single mom...so I have no choice but to bring our long train-like stroller into the sanctuary. I am overly conscientious about never being in the way and maintaining a prayerful presence. An usher came over to me and literally insisted that I need to wait outside in the Narthex because he perceived me as being "in the way." After I gathered myself and wiped away those initial tears in the Narthex, I re-entered the church and again he approached me and instructed me to wait outside. This story is not an exaggeration. And the very confusing part about it is that my children did not even make a single peep. Exclusion and marginalization has no place in God's house. My heart was broken by this experience, both because I desire nothing more than to have my children know Christ, but because this is their church too. Had I not been taken so off guard by this incident, I would have cited the second half of Jesus' words in Matthew 14:19: "Let the little children come to me, and DO NOT STOP THEM." I would love to meet other moms like you at my church who can be supportive of us who choose to bring our littlest ones into God's house for the service. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts in this post.

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    1. Lisa thank you so much for your wonderful post; my heart was crying as I read your story. I am so, so sorry you experienced such marginalization. One of my friends had a very similar experience and she rightly exclaimed to me afterwards that if Jesus himself would have been preaching that Sunday he would have scooped up her children and finished the service with her babies in his arms. Major ((hugs)) to you and you are NOT alone!

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    2. Lisa,
      I'm so sorry to hear this happened to you and your little ones. I had a similar experience. My little baby was looking over my shoulder and smiling at the people behind us (silently!) and I was asked to remove her because she was a 'distraction'. I too was heartbroken and rejected (two things I think Jesus doesn't want people to feel, in fact I think he has a special place in his heart for them). I immediately returned for my other daughter (sitting with her grandparents), packed up my little busy bag to keep her quiet, and promptly walked out to my car and had a good cry. I drove around thinking, "Where can I go? If not into the church, where else do I have to go?"

      Thankfully we currently attend a family friendly church with a designated kids carpet with books and quiet toys for children to play with. There are chairs set up around the carpet so parents can supervise.

      There ARE churches out there. I encourage you to keep looking. We have to bring our 'long train-like stroller' into the sanctuary too. Truthfully, would they rather quiet kids in a huge stroller, or loud unruly ones running around? (Not to say your kids are like that, just my littlest guy needs to be in his stroller to sleep otherwise he will just wander around and we don't hear a word. Just a phase he's in right now)

      You are doing a great job! Hang in there! I totally admire your willingness to keep your kids in service with you, despite the challenges. You're a great mom, don't forget it!

      Blessings to you and your sweet babies, mama!

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    3. Thank you for the support, encouragement, and recommendations. It means a lot!

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  7. I remember always sitting with my parents in church and my girls now sit with my husband and myself. There are days that their wiggles are a bit much but we just step out for a minute and then rejoin if able.
    Our church actually has little cards in the backs of the pews that explains that children are always welcome in service and that their little moments of wiggles or noise are always a joyful expression to the Lord. This is one thing I love about our church and a large reason why we drive 45 minutes each way to attend.
    Thanks for sharing this, I will have to look into that book. I am always happy to see other families bring their children into worship! How else can we pass down the traditions of church?

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  8. I love, love, love this! Thank you for writing about this. Just in the last year and a half or so, I have become aware of "family-integrated" churches and have felt the personal struggle since having my daughter while attending a church that does "children's ministry" as opposed to "family integrated." It is amazingly difficult to process that our children are not wanted in the sanctuary!

    My husband and I are still fleshing this out. I grew up in such a very small church that I wasn't dismissed from the sanctuary, and I feel strongly about the same for Noelle, even if it's not the "norm."

    I look forward to everything you have to say on this topic! Oh, and I wanted to mention that I follow a few other bloggers who have discussed this topic. I'd be happy to share. But also, I've learned from them the idea of sermon sheets where, even while quite young, children can begin to listen for words in the sermon and mark them on the sheet. For example, a paper may have pictures of the cross, children, etc., and a child can circle the picture when he hears the word. Love that idea!

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    1. P.S., I'd love any post you'd like to share about faith development in young kiddos! Blessings, Kami

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  9. Love this! At our church, it is understood that the children are welcome, all the time. If bubby is unsettled, there is a quiet room that is available. If bubby is babbling during the sermon, that's totally fine. Babies do that. There is a childrens program and a toddler room that all parents are encouraged to assist in, not just dump their kids in and collect from later. Most of the month the kids are brought in for communion, or for baptisms or for special prayers for missionaries being commissioned, etc. They're all led to the front and sit right in front of the pulpit or with their parents. It is understood that worship is for all and that includes children. Usually the parents of little ones sit in the back row, closest to the doors in case of needing a quick exit. Little ones have their "church bags", including some snacks, a drink, a book or some coloring pages. In fact, we provide paper and crayons for littlies to use during services if need be! I think it is fantastic.

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  10. To be honest with you I have never even thought of things from this perspective and it's one that is intriguing to me. I will go ahead and admit that I do things the exact opposite of your family and most of the commenters. My church happens to have an intense focus on children's ministry with themed rooms and passionate teachers for all ages. We recently opened a new annex building that has a worship area for children as well, they have worship and a message that is tailored to their age group.

    One the one hand, I love the idea of teaching my child as they are sitting next to me in worship, although I am fairly certain that I would miss out on much of the teaching myself being so busy working with them, and so often by the time I get to worship I am dry and in need of that nourishment. I've taken Noelle to weddings and my brother's army graduation and I essentially missed out on the experience because I was very preoccupied with my mothering.

    My second question is, I agree that God wants our children's worship, but is "big church" or the formal "worship service" his only shot at getting it? Is my child's worship more valuable to God in one form over another? Or does my child worship him best at play while singing Jesus loves me?

    All that being said I absolutely adore this idea and it makes me want to take Noelle to church with me a bit over the summer to see how she engages with it. We will have a great opportunity this weekend as our church hosts an Orphan's Choir!


    Okay. I love you. Thank you for sharing this!

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    1. Leanne your questions are the same ones I had when I first encountered the idea. It took me a long time to wrap my head around it.

      First to your question about worshiping in the formal service vs. at play: to me that is the same question people ask when they say, "Why do I have to go to church? Why can't I worship God on the ski slopes or singing praise music in my home?" God absolutely takes pleasure in our individual moments of informal worship, but one does not preclude the other. Both are needed; both are biblical. I could use the metaphor of an infant's sleep: if someone were to ask whether it necessary or more important for an infant to sleep at night or nap during the day, we would quickly answer BOTH! Both are vital to the child's health and growth and taking away one would only be to the detriment of the other. God calls the Church to communal worship. Children are part of the church. Therefore, God calls children to communal worship. (Wonder if Maddox would approve of that syllogism?!)

      Also, the elements of worship like corporate singing, prayer, and readings, baptisms, Lord's supper, and the benediction blessing are designed to unite us not only with God, but with one another. (That's why we call Lord's supper COMMUNION and take it together.) If not all the members of the body are present (children), the elements are not actually uniting us to the entire body, only the adult portion of the body.

      I hear you on the issue of your mothering causing you to miss out on the experience of worship, but I have also been challenged to change my thinking on that idea via the "Parenting in the Pew" book. Here's a sample from her section on this issue:

      "Worship can be one of the times when we parents would like to pay attention to something other than our children.... Training children to pay attention to God, however, is one rare way to have your cake and eat it too. Parenting in the pew can help children and parents pay attention to what is really important. Learning to pay attention to my children has helped me pay attention to my heavenly father in worship.... I was with then when they first understood a gospel illustration.... I was next to [my son] the first time he held the symbols of Christ's body and blood... I paid attention. These moments of grace and worship are remembered. And treasured."

      She has much more to say on the topic! I wish I could type the whole book out for you but there's a little teaser to whet your appetite. ;-) xo

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  11. very neat post!

    Our church does something similar (yes, our entire church!). we only have 2 "kids church" classes. a nursery (which is typically the 1 year olds, maybe a bit younger) and then the 2+ class. By age 4 the kids are expected to sit in service with their parents. One thing that I love about the 2+ class is the teaching program. The curriculum (written by our pastor & his wife) is all about teaching the child about worship, and why we do certain things during church. It's a really great program, but I also appreciate that all the older kids (From 3 or 4 up) are in worship with the adults, even the "youth". I think it's great. Several families at our church opt out of the children's programs all together and keep their kids in service from birth and all through the toddler years, but we decided that's not for us.

    I admire you for doing what's right for your family, and for gracefully handling the nay-sayers that wrote off your ideas because you didn't have kids yet <3

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  12. Anonymous2/27/2013

    When my brothers and I were growing up, my mother made each of us a special church book out of old window shades. She cut the shades to the size she wanted for the pages using pinking shears. There was a page for each part of the worship service. She glued pictures to the page and wrote a simple sentence or two about that part of the service. She also put a stick figure in the corner of each page to indicate whether we should be sitting, standing or kneeling. (We were Episcopalians so there was a lot of movement!) Also, as Episcopalians, the adults were using the Book of Common Prayer and so we viewed these books as our prayer books. We loved them and they helped to teach us about the parts of the service and about worship, as well as keep as quiet and involved in the service. The church I worship at now has coloring and activity sheets as well as crayons on a table at the back of the church, along with books of Bible stories. One Sunday a month the children remain in the sanctuary for the entire service. The other Sundays there is a children's sermon (related to the adult sermon - and often better!) before the children go to Sunday School. However, special things like baptisms, confirmation, ordination/installation of deacons/elders usually take place while the children are still in the sanctuary. And different classes are occasionally asked to remain in the sanctuary for the entire service. Two Sundays a year (Children's Sunday and Youth Sunday) the entire worship service is led by the children and they do an amazing job. Children and youth are encouraged to participate as greeters and ushers, passing the peace, singing in the children's choir (or adult choir as high school students) or being in the bell choir. Our choir director's foster daughter is right up with the choir in her infant carrier and helps to "sing" during the anthems to the delight and amusement of the congregation. And if she gets fussy during the anthem, our pastor has stepped over to distract her. Children are an integral part of our church family and our church worship. In terms of the calling out "Papa" (perfectly understandable and probably delighting many in the congregation), maybe Arie and Papa can figure out a special discreet silent sign so Arie knows his Papa sees him and he can say hi to his Papa in a less vocal way. I so enjoy your blog and the way you live and express your faith. You constantly inspire and challenge me. Thank you!

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  13. As a future adoptive parent, I look forward to facing these "problems". While our congragation is a great deal of the older generation, it does does a pretty good job catering to families with children. We do have educational hour between the two services where there is both Sunday School and Adult bible studies, but the nursery is also open during that time for children who are too young to deal with the 2 hours that is Sunday School and Worship. We also have what we call "Quiet Bags" at the back of the church which have coloring pages about the service that day as well as a Children's Bulletin (like our bulletin but geared towards children), and after singing, our pastor invites any of the children forward for a "Children's Message", pretty much a 5 minute condenced version of the day's sermon talked to at the children's level. And there is ALWAYS the backround noise of small children, mostly coming from the back of the sancuary, and our pastor has been known to make it part of the sermon "I KNOW! I FEEL THE SAME WAY, CHILD!" Or "NO! IT'S A GOOD THING!" It makes me a little less anxious to bring our child(ren) to church with us some day.

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  14. I think it is great to give thoughts to topics such as this.

    At our church we have Bible classes and then our multi-generational worship service. For Bible class (or Sunday School) parents drop off their children in their appropriately aged class and then attend class themselves. We really dig into the Word and have great discussions during this time. And our children's Bible classes have Scripture based lessons, singing, prayer, etc. Very good for everyone.

    We have attended nurseries (up to age 3) available during worship, but nearly every family at our church (of about 550) brings their children to the sanctuary with them. We do have a children's service that meets for the last 20-30 minutes of worship (during the sermon) and that goes for ages 3 to Kindergarten. Once a child enters 1st grade they stay in the sanctuary the entire time. And even at that, many families choose to keep their children with them the entire time. What I really like about this set-up is that our children (we have 3 boys ages 8,4,2) are with us for the majority of worship. They are by our sides when we meet & greet, sing, pray, hear announcements. They are able to be a part of the "communion talk" which is usually about 3-5 minutes and is the perfect length for their short attention spans. They are with us when we take communion and they understand the importance of that. And after communion we take our little ones to the children's service (or nursery for our 2 year old) and they are able to sing more children's songs and hear a Bible lesson that is more on their level of understanding. This really works well for our family because they are learning the beauty and holiness of worshiping with our church family and are with us for well over half the time, but they also get to have time in the children's service where they learn new songs and Bible stories. And by the time they are 6, they are able to sit through an entire worship service with mom and dad without it being too difficult. Every family has to find what works for them, but this has been great for us.

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  15. I have been a pew parent for many years. My oldest is 22 and youngest is 7. I, honestly, just thought it was the conviction that God gave my husband me and didn't really research or analyze it much. We wanted our worship to be a family experience and our children never really wanted to go to the "childcare/sunday school" options. Here are some highlights of our experience. First, it seems that everyone wants my children out of the service. We have been approach by the Sunday school director, the pastor, well-meaning parents, etc. They all assure me what a wonderful program the church has, how much my children will enjoy it and how much better I will worship for having sent them. No one approaches my husband. Isn't that weird? He is right beside me, but they assume it is my preference and decision. In hindsight, I'm so pleased with our choice. Our children have learned to sit quietly, listen for items of interest to them and they bring a freedom to worship that often challenges me. We worship at home, also, and have more freedom there to dance and run and somersault as we feel led by the music. So, at church my 7 year old will sometimes tell me that this song won't let her stand and sing it. She has to dance!! So, we go to the back of church and are the only dancers, except for the occasional mom with a baby or preschooler who joins in. There was a time when I heard giggling behind me and realize the people are laughing at my husband making paper frogs on one end of the row and me confiscating them when the frogs got a little too wild and I'm afraid the people around us will think a plague has erupted! My children have learned to take notes on the sermon. We start this early....bringing colored pencils or crayons (crayons aren't as loud on a tile floor when they drop...just saying). The children draw pictures of what they are hearing and add word captions as they get older. As the children grow, they sometimes miss the opportunity to see friends at church, so we try to have someone over for lunch afterwards or stay for awhile to visit to give them the opportunity to connect with people their age. On the way home, we have lively discussions of the service and how God has convicted us or reminded us of His love, grace, power or whatever God is telling us in the moment. It has been a very unifying time for us and we can then ask each other during the week about what we have done with the revelation we received this week. It is so natural and encouraging, yet I feel very accountable to make sure I am acting on the words God speaks rather than just being a hearer because I know someone will check up on me!

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    1. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your perspective of making family worship more of a priority to playing with friends.

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  16. Growing up in a Byzantine Catholic church which is much like an Orthodox church than really a Roman Catholic (we share the similar beliefs with the Romans though!) my parents had all 5 of us kids in the pew with them. It was never a question about going into the designated "cry" room. Honestly I believe a lot of our discipline came from learning to stand next to our parents throughout the entire hour and a half liturgy. We are all well mannered adults now. My parents have since had a 6th child and she is now 8 years old, but I remember perfectly the wiggling and random songs and clapping that she would add to our liturgy. Not once did anyone raise eyebrow's or question why she was in their, we are a church community and it should be encouraged that children worship with their community, not be locked away in a sound proof "cry" room away from the congregation! Love what you are doing, my husband and I intend on doing exactly the same thing. We have no children right now but are going through infertility treatment now as well as becoming US foster/adoptive parents so hopefully soon on the horizon one way or another we will grow our family and take up a little bit more room in the pews of our Sunday liturgy!

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  17. I'm so glad you posted on this topic. I attend a church that has a very involved "children's ministry" program. They leave after communion and go hear a lesson and generally have a blast dancing and praising God. (We can even hear them in the auditorium!) We don't have children yet, but my husband and I have recently been spending a lot of time with the high school youth group at our church. It's been a huge blessing, and we are so impressed with their hearts and desire to serve God.

    Then I look at what happens to the kids after they graduate high school. Very few of them continue to attend our church (most of them leave and go to churches full of young people). They have been so catered to in making sure that worship was engaging them that when it is time to participate with the whole church body, they can't. Or won't. A multi-generational worship experience is such a BEAUTIFUL thing. I hope when the time comes, I'll have the courage to go against the stream, and let my children participate in it.

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  18. Anonymous2/28/2013

    I remember being very young and being encouraged to stay in the pew for the entire service, even if I was coloring. It definitely helps get a small child used to worshipping if they're not packed off to Sunday School for half the service. I think a child learns more in the church anyway.

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  19. Hey Jillian,
    I hope I am not out of line, but I guess my question is, does a child have to do what the adults do in order to worship God? I am not anti your stance at all, more power to you if that's what you want to do, but I guess I just feel that there are so many ways to worship and that actually learning about God in an age-appropriate manner is one of those ways. I think kids singing about God being a "great big God" and reading stories that they can understand is also worship. . .and as they get older they will build on that knowledge and come into a fuller understanding of what it means to be a believer. I know my son (age 3) would have absolutely ZERO idea what the pastor was talking about at this point, nor would he understand the words to the songs being sung or their significance (I'm not saying this is the case with your church but the service at mine is not simple enough for a child to grasp). Anyway. I just wanted to put it out there that kids can worship wherever they are and that just because they are with other kids singing Jesus Loves Me doesn't mean that they aren't worshiping. Again, I don't say this to discourage you from your decision, but just to point out that it's possible to be a thoughtful parent who wants their child to worship God and still send them to Sunday school :)

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  20. Hey Jillian,
    I hope I am not out of line, but I guess my question is, does a child have to do what the adults do in order to worship God? I am not anti your stance at all, more power to you if that's what you want to do, but I guess I just feel that there are so many ways to worship and that actually learning about God in an age-appropriate manner is one of those ways. I think kids singing about God being a "great big God" and reading stories that they can understand is also worship. . .and as they get older they will build on that knowledge and come into a fuller understanding of what it means to be a believer. I know my son (age 3) would have absolutely ZERO idea what the pastor was talking about at this point, nor would he understand the words to the songs being sung or their significance (I'm not saying this is the case with your church but the service at mine is not simple enough for a child to grasp). Anyway. I just wanted to put it out there that kids can worship wherever they are and that just because they are with other kids singing Jesus Loves Me doesn't mean that they aren't worshiping. Again, I don't say this to discourage you from your decision, but just to point out that it's possible to be a thoughtful parent who wants their child to worship God and still send them to Sunday school :)

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  21. Our church has a clipboard program for kids ages 3 to 10. Before the sermon starts the kids all go up front to get their clipboard - which has coloring sheets and fill in the blanks that corospond with the sermon - and then are involved in the sermon that way. Obviously 3 year olds can't do the fill-in-the-blanks, but they can color! There are attended nurseries from infant to 3, but we started slowly working with our oldest once she turned 2 and about 3 months before she turned 3 she just stopped asking to go to the nursery. She now stays in the service the entire time, and yes we do have to leave a couple times for her to use the bathroom or just have a change of scenery for a couple minutes, but I have been amazed to see her stay in the service.

    It is completely do-able and I would recommend it! Nothing like seeing your kid worship in their own way to the same God!

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  22. Kate MacLeod3/08/2013

    I was raised in the pew. I want to raise my kids in the pew. My girlfriend brings her all three of her kids to church without her husband and keeps them with her for the whole service. She wants to raise her kids in the pew too. My old Lutheran church followed the Lectionary readings and there are a few good children's bulletins that follow the same readings as well. It was great to hear the kids talking with the adults (and not just their parents) about the Scripture lessons that were read in the service.
    It made me a little sad to hear that your church doesn't repeat songs often enough for Arie to learn them. I often feel that our church too does a disservice to everyone (young, old, new Christians and mature Christians) by not re-using songs more frequently. It can prevent a song from being a 'heart song' for the church. Some churches always sing the same Gloria Patri, some always end the service on the same song for the length of a season, some always include the same doxology or a sending song. I am saddened by the churches where absolutely nothing is repeated week to week. And it saddens me further that Arie cannot learn the songs because of it.
    But I have an offer, which you can take or not. See if you can find 10 or 11 hymns/songs that you would define as 'heart songs' of your faith and church. Hymns and songs you would love for Arie to be able to learn and know. Send me the list and I will record them onto a CD. Simple recordings intended to help him learn these songs of his faith. I learned so many hymns and songs because my parents both played piano and sang with me at home all the time. And my mother also recorded tapes of herself singing them as well so I could listen to them more frequently. Think about it and let me know. :D

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  23. Anonymous3/11/2013

    I'm a little late but just found your blog as I was searching for adoption blogs (in the process myself). Anyways, I think it's crucial to have your little ones in service. Growing up, I did not get this...my parents were the only ones who kept us in service each Sunday morning/evening. Looking back, I'm so thankful we were in there from birth until now. My husband and I are the youth leaders at our church and it's so sad to see how teens don't 'get it' or know how to listen and worship in service ... I believe it's mostly because they were never taught. They were never taken in...they went from nursery to children's church and then to trying to find ways to avoid going in 'big church.' It's sad. We were discussing this just yesterday because of teens/parents lack of commitment to God. When parents don't teach their kids priorities like God...how do they learn...from their parents. My parents had me active in church...a lot of my church friends parents didn't encourage or teach them that...and where are they now? Not living for Christ. Parents are the adults who teach their children...what are they teaching verbally, through actions, etc.? For instance, would most kids faithfully go to school if given the chance to make those decisions...nope..but as parents you make/encorage them to do so because you're the adult and know it's what's best for them to learn, etc. - same with God/church...it's the parents job to make/encourage them to do so.
    Haha...hope that makes sense...my mind thinks faster than my fingers type on my phone. :)

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  24. I am trying to do Pew Parenting as much as possible, which is challenging at times and amazing at others. Some of the challenges include the fact that my husband doesn't attend church, and that I sing in our church choir. Because of what I call my Handy Heathen Husband ;) it's easy to just leave our daughter with him and go to church by myself. And at her age (she just turned 3), there's no way I can take her with me when I sing.

    When she was an infant, I regularly took her up to the choir loft with me and took care of her needs as I sang and participated in the liturgy. From about 18 months to about 2.5, taking her to church was very difficult. She couldn't sit still that long, the cry room was more distracting than sitting in church, and it was easier for her to stay home with Daddy.

    Now that she's gotten a little bit older, she's enjoying church more. I read some tips on Pinterest to make things go more smoothly. We sit at/near the front so she can see what's going on, we have a talk before Mass about how important and special it is to go to church, and I bring lots of snack and books!

    I'm still trying to finagle singing and bring her to church. As you mentioned, hitting back to back services can be exhausting, and for now we only reserve that for things like Christmas and Easter (I'm going to be SO tired after Easter Week this year!). I may only sing every other week so our daughter can go to church on a regular basis, and I'm actually looking forward to her being a little older so she can sit with some of her/our friends and not need me right next to her.

    I look forward to you writing more about this. i'll be keeping an eye out!

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  25. Anonymous5/27/2013

    Great thoughts! My kids are just about out of that stage (my baby is 6). It is a challenge but well worth the teachable moments. It also transfers over into other arenas: behavior at a restaurant, basketball game, concert, etc. Our kids get so many positive comments out in public and I truly believe it is from the exercises learning to sit through a worship service. We sit in the front of church and they understand (and it is expected) when the congregation is up singing the kids are standing and singing as best they can. Most of my kids enjoy filling out the sermon outline as the pastor preaches and it usually leads to a great discussion as we drive home from church or at the dinner table. Keep working at it parents. It is well worth it. I mourn to think of the families that quit going to church because they feel inconvenienced with restless kids. It is a learning process that is well worth the time. To God be the glory! Teach them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up.

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  26. I just wanted to say what an encouragement it was to find your post and to be able to read all these comments from families who are trying to do the same in keeping the children with them in church. Thank you for sharing!

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