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Book: Parenting in the Pew: Guiding Your Children into the Joy of Worship

Robbie Castleman. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993. 125 pp., $7.99.

I know about the difference between worship B.C. and worship a.d. As Robbie Castleman explains it, that's worship "before children" and worship "after diapers." For parents and their children the church experience can be a seemingly endless hour of whispered commands and coloring books. Or it can be the most intimate moments of sharing an awareness of God's presence.

Some congregations try to accommodate the range of worshipers by offering age-appropriate worship sessions or church school classes for young members. Castleman suggests that these alternatives are unattractive solutions developed by churches "because parents are not equipped or willing to train their children in the things of faith." Drawing on her experience rearing two sons and working with youth groups, Castleman aims "to help parents train children in the only 'proper behavior' for church: worship!

According to Parenting in the Pew, worship is not a weekly refueling, a mental vacation, a system of comfortable traditions, Christian entertainment, or what makes us good people. Worship is standing in God's presence and surrendering our souls to him. That's a tall order for small people as young as age four—the age Castleman recommends having children begin participating in the entire worship service.

The reader will find advice on dressing for church (plan and prepare on Saturday evening, but allow youngsters to choose the clothes), tithing (expect children to give from their own pocket), eliminating distractions (candy and gum get the axe), and being attentive (even prohibiting all trips to the bathroom). The author also gives her opinions regarding prayer and the sacraments.

While Ms. Castleman offers some good insights into what worship A.D. can be and some practical ideas on how to achieve that state of worship, not all of her recommendations will fit every family—including some who are actively and successfully training their children in the faith. Parenting in the Pew is one starting point for discussing suitable ways to include children in the church community.