Castleman, Robbie(2002). Parenting in the Pew: Guiding Your Children into the Joy of Worship (expanded edition). Illinois: InterVarsity Press.  139 pp.

Robbie offers a parenting course of a different kind. The book is on parenting children who are toddlers, primaries and teens to worship. She regards this calling as the “most important thing you [parents] can ever train your child to do” is to “worship” because “worship is the only thing we get to do forever” (p. 16).

Parenting children to worship is a relentless effort.  Readers who are parents and teachers of toddlers, primaries and teens will not deny that “kids can be distracting, aggravating and embarrassing” (p.15) in church pews! The author shares her diary of negative experiences in church worship as a child in the first chapter. She was guilty of “doodling in the bulletin, passing notes and gossiping” to survive the worship hour.  Eventually the young teen earned a place in the dropout record of the church attendance! Her analysis of the problem is worthy to note. Parents often send their children to church without training them to worship not realizing that there is a difference between “going to church” and “going to worship.”  Children need to be taught on what it means to keep the sabbath and keep it holy as “God had to train the nation of Israel” to worship Him (p.19).

Focused with a motivation to train her boys to know God and to love Him through worshipping with her, the book is the outcome of Robbie’s parenting experience in the pew. She is an author, assistant professor of biblical studies at John Brown University and the national director for the Religious and Theological Studies Fellowship with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. She is also a reputable consultant and seminar speaker in this spiritual aspect of parenting that may be desperately needed in the church today. Her beliefs that parents are the best people to train their children to worship, and children as young as toddlers are capable of acquiring the habit are defended in chapter 3,

 

Three-year olds, and some younger children, can be trained to participate in worship that includes the creed, Scripture readings, music and offering. . . . By about the fourth year of age, children can be in a service of worship for the entire time (p.59).

 

Principles to guide and skills to equip parents for leading their children to worship are  described in great details with illustrations and examples. Preparation for Sunday Worship should begin on Saturday night (chapter 4) and she strongly advocates parents sitting with their children in the sanctuary including teens. Using entertainment as standard of worship in the home and church is unacceptable to her,

 

Worship-as-entertainment will not accelerate the spiritual growth of our children. . . . Worship needs to be the one realm in our culture that refuses to accept the world’s addiction to be entertained in order to learn. This does not preclude creativity or change in worship, but it does mandate that worship liturgies be designed for God’s pleasure and not our entertainment (p.55).

 

She is confident that young children and teens can stay attentive and remain focused on worship during the reading of the Scripture, singing and praying. Her secret is to train them to participate in these activities of worship at a young age (chapters 5 to 8) and training them to master the art of prayer to intercede and to listen to God through silence is not an impossible task (chapter 7).  Parents who question the ability of younger children to comprehend sermons or struggle with their teenage children’s pronouncement of sermon time as boring will appreciate the author’s insights in chapter 8.

It is refreshing to be reminded that a sacrament is “a visible sign of invisible Grace” and the teaching of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper should be a part of  worship education according to Robbie. She believes in infant baptism but cautions parents [and god-parents] to honour their vows to “train the child in faith with utmost integrity” (p. 109).   Churches who allow children to participate in the Holy Communion may question the author’s view. She does not encourage young children and teens to participate, instead, to teach and prepare them for this sacrament when the time is ripe. That is, when they are able to give “their testimony of faith before the congregation” (p.113) because “setting this table [the Holy Communion] for us cost God the life of his only Son” (p.115). It is a sacrament not to be taken lightly.

Parents with hyperactive children or attention deficit hyperactive disorder may find her inputs and advice helpful (pp.133-135). The book may be written specifically for parents but teachers and leaders of children’s ministry can benefit from adapting the experiences of the author to teach children to worship. For example, her discussion on children’s worship for seeker churches (pp.137-139).

The book may disappoint parents who are looking for an instant recipe to transform children into worshippers but the author has this to confess and advise,

 

Parenting is much harder than I thought it would be. And parenting in the pew may be the hardest parenting of all. I have failed more than I thought I ever would. I have done some really stupid things as a mother, even at worship. . . . But always I could go to Jesus (p.123).

 

Parents who are relieved that the church has provided programmes for their children’s spiritual education, Robbie has this to share,

 

Parenting in the pew is a response to Jesus’ admonition not to hinder our children. (Mark 10:14). It is one way to take our children by the hand and guide them to the embrace and blessing of the Saviour” (p.125).

 

It is “entering the house of your heavenly Father and saying, “Daddy, I would like you to meet my children” (p.21).

 

(Reviewed by Dr Ng Peh Cheng)

NEWS BITS

  1. Admission. Mr. Chew Wee (Dip. CS) is a member and active lay leader of The Bible Church. He holds a chemical engineering degree from the National University of Singapore and is a Ph.D. candidate in similar field at the same university. He is now a Researcher with the Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences.

  2. Congratulations. We rejoice with Elder Loh Mun Fei and Elder Toh See Kiat on the occasion of their ordination as Elders of Mt Carmel Bible-Presbyterian Church last Saturday. May the Lord bless them with joy and fruitfulness as they serve Him.

  3. Wedding invitation.  Two BGST students, Mr Bernard Chaing and Miss Dorcas Chung are tying the knot on 8 Nov 2003. The couple would like to invite all BGST students to their wedding on 8 Nov 2003, 5:00pm, at the Sanctuary, Zion BP Church.

  4. A New Home for BGST. We want to thank all of you who have been faithfully praying and supporting us. The BGST members met at the EGM on 24 Oct 2003 and all approved of the purchase of 29-31 Tg Pagar Rd. Do continue to pray for us especially in the area of fund-raising.

A BLESSED BIRTHDAY TO ...

Ms Cheryl Chiang  27/10

Dr Suelyn Chew  28/10

Mr Matthias Chin  28/10

Mr Philip Chua  30/10

Ms Tracy Tang  30/10

Mr Daniel Wong  31/10

Rev Stephen Khong  31/10

Ms Serene Woon 1/11

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