Pastoral Perspectives

Guiding Children into the Joy of Worship

In the sermon “Guarding the Faith of the Next Generation” on 8 Jan 17, our Senior Pastor Rev Lee Kien Seng exhorted parents to read an excellent book, Parenting in the Pew – Guiding Your Children into the Joy of Worship by Robbie Castleman.* To continue to equip parents, I shall share in this perspective some big ideas from Robbie’s book.

Right Motivation

We cannot help our children worship God in spirit and truth if we do not have the right motivation for worship. Here are some gems from Robbie on worship:

Home Preparation

To help her children understand that Sundays are special, Robbie talked to them about the difference between a “birthday cake” and an “any-day-cake.” Yes, we love the Lord every day, but Sunday is God’s special day. In the same light, parenting in the pew begins with an attitude check – Do your children sense that, just as they look forward to birthdays, you can hardly wait for Sunday to get here?

Other practical ideas include review memory verses on Saturday; get ready the clothes, bags and shoes for Sunday by Saturday evening; sleep early on Saturday night; keep Sunday breakfast simple; and watch our conversations on the way to church (e.g., sing praises rather than be filled with complaints and discontent.)

Pew Guidance

Training children to worship God means that they are asked to pay attention to the Lord and they are helped to do so. Toys, story books, colouring books and gadgets are distractions if we want to train children in worshipping God. Candy or the like to “keep them quiet” is not helpful either. Children will be quiet as they learn to listen and worship. We should not “keep them quiet” with entertainment or candy.

To help children participate in worship, they need to feel physically involved (e.g., they need to be able to hold a hymnbook or see the overhead screen.) This usually means that young children stand on the pew next to their parent. And the parent stands with one arm around the child, the other arm either holding the hymnbook or helping to draw attention to projected lyrics on the screen. During songs or hymns, parents can encourage very young children to sing “la, la, la” with the tune if the words are totally unknown to them. Parents can also ask young children to listen for a particular word or phrase in a song, and give them a cue to join in – a nod of head or a loudly whispered “Now!”

To help older children understand that integrity of heart and voice is important in worship (i.e., we believe what is being sung), we need to be able to talk about our struggles with God when we sing songs that may highlight hypocrisy or shortcomings in our lives (e.g., “I Surrender All.”) To help children live out the words sung, we can whisper simple expressions that would help a child or teen know what we are thinking after a hymn is sung. For example, telling children “Jesus was sure my friend this week when I was worried about grandpa” can enhance the meaningfulness of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Such remarks also help children get the idea that what is sung really matters – it really counts in everyday life as well as Sunday worship!

During Scripture reading, if the reading is narrative or story, we can ask children to pretend that they were really there when the action took place. Parents can also help draw attention to the content of Scripture as it is read with questions: “How do you think Jesus looked or sounded when He said this?” “How would you feel if you had been there?” These questions are asked to get the child thinking. The child may respond with a whispered word or phrase, or parents may want to wait and pick up on the question again after leaving the sanctuary. As children are trained, they get the idea of how and when to respond.

To help children tune in to parts of a sermon that are illustrative, parents can whisper “Listen to this story” to encourage children to listen when stories are being told. To help children know that sermon is an important way to learn and be challenged by God’s Word, parents can review the sermon highlights after the service by asking questions. For example, “That was a good story today in the sermon. What did you learn about God in the story about the lighthouse?” As children get older, parents can ask questions that will push them to listen for details. For example, “That was a neat story about how the famous Mr Moody came to believe in Jesus. What did the man who shared the gospel with Mr Moody do for a living?”

May this perspective spur you to read Robbie’s book and to practise parenting in the pew whenever we gather for intergenerational worship.

* Robbie Castleman, a pastor’s wife and a mother of two boys, is also professor of biblical studies and theology at John Brown University.  Parenting in the Pew – Guiding Your Children into the Joy of Worship is available in our Resource Library.

Ms Chan Suet Fong

April 30, 2017