Sunday, April 27, 2008

BOOK RECOMMENDATION (And Can of Worms ;o)

Have you ever wondered, "What IS he THINKING?" Well, here it is, ladies!

Shaunti Feldhahn's book For Women Only held me on the edge of my seat. I finished it way too quickly~ Nathan even caught me sitting on the bathroom floor reading it. Hey~ there are only so many quiet places in a house with children. Right, moms? I'm not really bringing it up as a discussion point; more of a recommendation to check it out for yourselves. It's worth your time. It's not a very big book, so go for it!

I do have a question on my mind. I'd love to hear from some of you how you approach church services with small children. Some, I know, are proponents of nursery for infants. Some aren't. What are your goals for your children in main service? Please be specific. "I want them to sense the presence of God from an early age" may sound good, but what does this mean to you? My curiosity is going somewhere. I'm going to be posting on this topic soon. By the way, feel free to comment even if you don't have children. There are those who discredit opinions of childless and single people. Well, if you DON'T have any views before you have those kids, they'll be in a world of hurt. And for those lurkers, feel free to e-mail me your views. I'd like to get as many thoughts as possible.

22 comments:

Misty said...

I am reading that book right now too! I found it for a dollar. Wesley read the "For Men Only" and said it was great.

Uh, my goal for my children in church, right now my one year old goes to the nursery (Thank you God!) my 3 yo, and 4 yo go to church with us, they are expected to sit fairly well and hopefully participate in the singing. We do take coloring books that they are allowed to use during the sermon. We have found that if they pull books or crayons out before the sermon, they lose interest and are driving me crazy before the end of service. It has taken a little work to get to this point but they are pretty good about it now.

And the baby, well my goal is to get her to nurse good enough that I can do it quietly in church and still enjoy the service....not so good for the first time today! :-)

Liz said...

Oh, I want to read that book! :>)

On church . . . I struggle here, b/c it's just me dealing with all three of the little creatures. I'm presently working diligently with Darrell Lee to sit on the seat instead of driving trains on the floor . . . Gracie does sit on the seat and behaves fairly well. I'm really looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Sorry I don't have more specifics - if I think of any more I'll let you know - brain is tired.

Tara said...

Hmmm......this should be interesting Charity, as you stated that you are "going somewhere" and planning to post on the topic! Do you already have your mind settled and just want to have us show our hands first?!!! :)

Well....you know me. I'm the weirdo mother of the bunch. I have never sent my kids to nursery, especially when they're babies. I just can't do it. I want my babies with me. Now, you know that's a dilemma, since I've been on a piano bench for the last 10 years! So, here's my deal....when I have baby babies, I have someone specific who comes to my pew and holds said baby until my "duties" are done. As the children grow older, they are expected to sit on our pew and participate in the singing. They may draw or read for the other portions of the service, as long as their activity is not distracting to others. My goal in this is not necessarily that "they will feel God's presence" though that's a lofty goal. My goal is that we want to attend church and worship with the body of Christ as a family. And in doing so, we are to be respectful of the fact that other people are there to worship as well. So proper behavior is as much out of respect for other believers as it is for our own benefit.

Now, lest you think I sound like I've got it all together....believe me, I have been known on more than one occasion to "fly" up off that piano bench to deal with discipline issues. My church family has come to expect, respect, and understand that training my children is my number one priority. This morning, we ended the service with the song, "Morning Has Broken"...if you know it's beautiful floating melody, you may not find it strange that I looked up while playing to see Sophie doing pirouettes up and down our pew! I was mortified!! :)

That stated, I think the toddler stage is the most difficult to navigate. I want to be careful not to place unrealistic expectations on them. Consistency is the big key here. And you can't expect a 2 yr old to behave like a 10 year old. But they can learn! :)

I, like you, know there are different ways that parents handle these issues. As in all topics concerning parenting, I think it's important to assign a generous amount of "benefit of the doubt" to other parents on the journey. We all have a hard enough job doing what we think is right, and we tend to beat up ourselves enough without doing it to each other! I'm just doing the best I can to do what I believe is right for our children. And it's a constant work in progress.....

Taylors said...

That is such a good book. I heard her on the radio several years ago and thought what she said was so good. The book is very eye-opening!

I'm not going to elaborate too much on the nursery topic. However, I will say this....
We don't expect 5 year olds to attend college. So, why do some people have a problem with kids being in nursery or junior church?

I don't have all the answers, but I am so thankful that our church provides a staffed nursery, as well as a wonderful, Christ-centered junior church....on the kids level! PRAISE THE LORD!!!!!!!!
I think you can probably guess my opinion on the subject.

I do have to hold at least one of my children on Sunday nights, but I usually have someone who helps me out with Megan (because I'm involved with Brian in Teen Service).

I think there is a point where kids need to come in to church with their families, but I'm not going to give an age....I'm still learning along the way. I think when Megan is 18 we will insist that she sits with us!!! :D
Just joking, of course!

I have more thoughts on the issue, but I won't post them on a public blog - Maybe I'll e-mail you, if you want me too!

Have fun! I can't wait to read what you have to say on the subject! I love your take on life!

The Canfield Family said...

I highly recommend keeping and training your children in church. I remember only a very few times that I had to take one of our children out of church to be disciplined. They learned very quickly that this was not something they wanted to do. Because of this, as well as their training at home, we never had a problem with them in church, after they were 3 or 4 years old.

We also have felt very strongly against sending our children to "kiddy church, junior church, teen worship" or whatever age and name it goes by. So many churches today are tearing families apart in all their various activities and programs and we are seeing the effects later in life. We as parents must take on the responsibilites of training and teaching our own children.

I highly recommend worshiping as a family....not in age segregated, peer oriented divisions. I will never forget when our youngest was about 3 years old, and the Lord's presence was felt so keenly in our service. She was just quietly weeping and the tears were running down her eyes. I have never seen anything like it before or since, but I cherish that memory or her tenderness.

My children have had the privilage of worshiping, over the years, with some wonderful Godly saints. Their love for these older people, though many have passed on, continues, and memory of their Godly influence lives on.

Julie Schultz said...

I enjoyed that book as well, just for the record.

As for your other question, I am one of the childless ones who still has opinions. (By the way, I'm relieved to see that you think my opinions might still be remotely valid.) I have not discussed these opinions in depth with my husband, so they may not all be put into practice when/if we have children. With those disclaimers ahead of me, I'll continue. :-)

I think it depends a lot upon the age. It frustrates me when I see a very young child in church with nothing to do. The parents try to get them to sit, the attention spans are too short to sit for the whole service, and both the children and parents end up frustrated. We always had a special bag set aside for our church things. In this bag were quiet things to do in church. We could bring a favorite toy, but I remember the bag having mostly things that we just played with in church. I agree with the idea of children participating in the singing as soon as possible. After this, I think young children should be allowed to play with the toys they brought along.

I think setting a certain age would be crazy because children are so different from one another, but there comes a point when you know your child can pay attention to a sermon. At this age, I think the child should be allowed paper and writing utensils and should be required to sit on the seat. My theory is: I doodle and listen. Why can't they? Okay, so that would depend on the child too. Seriously, one of my good friends was required to remember three points from the sermon. On the way home, the children would tell their Dad three points from the sermon that day. I thought this was a good way to hone listening skills and I think something like this could work. I learned to take notes at some point, probably by watching my mother do the same thing. This could also be good.

I think I have been rambling, but these are some of my thoughts. I know this: I do NOT want my teenage child sitting with a bunch of other teenagers in the back row goofing off. One solution that I have heard is that they have to sit in a pew that is in front of the parents if they're going to sit with a friend. I like that one, too.

I hope my random thoughts are helpful. I think I'll stop now. ;-)

Charity said...

I am going to de-lurk and add my two cents. :) I read that book shortly after we were married (almost three years). It's probably about time to reread it!

As for children in church... I am another one without children (thanks for encouraging us to share as well!) and like Julie, I also have opinions. However, I do have a lot of experience working with kids and we usually have some little friend sharing our pew. I am a believer in having quiet things for them to do. I don't think it's fair to the kids to expect them to sit quietly and be bored. Although I have been a visitor to a community, somewhat like Mennonite, and their children sat very quiet through the music and slide show. Anyway... as they get older, based on maturity, they should be able to sit still. One of the games I played in church was to tally the times the minister said certain words like "Jesus" or "Moses" depending on the message.

Our church, like many others, is fairly small and we don't have the "staffing" to have a separate children's church. I know for many others this isn't an option either. It is, of course, up to the parents as to what their children can handle. But I think even very young ones can understand that there is a time to be quiet.

Anyway, there's a couple of my thoughts! :) I am looking forward to your post. I have enjoyed your blog!

Toots said...

For what it's worth, I'll share a few thoughts.
I read the book too and found it reinforced much of what I had read in other good books. From my experience, there is just no way to realize how different men and women truly are until you're married to one or the other! Books like this help.

We have had two primary objectives for our children at church.
#1. To train them to understand that church is a place to worship God with other believers and learn about things related to God and eternity.
#2. To train them that church was a public place where the normal play activities DID NOT take place. Older people, babies, others-in-general were to be watched over, cared for, and respected as valuable and potentially fragile. We were to be ever sensitive to others' ability to focus on the service.

When our children were little, we always had books, quiet writing/coloring utensils, and we sat in the back of the church so as not to distract anyone as we trained them. We gently but consistently trained them to whisper VERY quietly--only if they truly needed to ask or say something. We allowed very little whispering do to that fact that even that can be a disturbance. Just tapping the lips firmly but in a “shepherding, training mentality” communicated the expectation we always discussed before we went in for each service.

When they were under 2 or so, one of us (at times) might take them out for a little while to walk around and chatter in the nursery. But that was rare. We just tried to read the situation and do what was best for both our trainees and others. They doodled, colored, etc. in church until they were about 6 or 7. Then as they desired to write, they were to take notes about the service, not draw or doodle or write things unrelated to what we were there for. It was a little longer for one than the other as maturity varied.

It’s a process, and I know that each parent has to set their priorities, being aware of the differences in each child.

It’s work if you decide to train them when they’re young in this way, but we’ve found it has been well worth the effort!

Tara said...

I am so appreciating the feedback you're getting here, Charity! Some very useful advice and information.

When are you going to weigh in?!;)

Toots said...

Charity,
I've thought a little further on this topic and can't help but add a few more comments.
It is so easy to focus on the what and not the why. I think that if "the why" is not what it should be, "the what" won't matter too much.
For instance, the focus we have had has been based on the Christ-like principle of "the preciousness of others" and the lifetime need to develop and exert self-control; the Bible often uses temperance, moderation, etc.
Training in this area can lay a wonderful foundation for future self-control. Obviously, it starts with Mommy/Daddy control, but then we are placing that ability into the child's hands as they develop habits we train into them.
Discipling them to be followers of Jesus has to be at the heart of all we do.
I won't clog up anymore space, but just had to make sure I communicated from where I was coming. Legalistic rules or requirements are death to a living relationship with our children. That's not where I am.

Charity said...

OK, Tara. You're just going to have to be patient ;o) I was planning to give this a week to 'marinate'~ but lucid thoughts are a bit scarce at the moment. I'm still searching for a way to organize what few I have into a brilliant post ;o)

Tara said...

Okay then....I'll be waiting with bated breath for your brilliant dissertation on the matter!

I will add this, though...third time's the charm!...I have had no problem with my children attending "Children's Moment" in our church when they have it. It is something that is only done during the time of the sermon and it's designed for the purpose of modeling the adult service and explaining the various "rituals" to the kids and what they mean. This is for kids ages 5-8; but we have had no problem with that.

I think Laura hit on a lot of the things I was trying to communicate more effectively. That our 3 "biggie" issues are: 1)Worship together as a family unit; 2)Respect the desire of other families to do the same; and 3)Take advantage of the opportunity to teach self-control and "appropriate" behavior.
When Lauren was still really little, I began the practice of talking, talking, talking to her all through the day. I talked to her about everything I was doing, introducing her to language patterns and words. Of course, at the time I didn't know that was what it was called, but I was doing it nonetheless! I continued that practice with all of my children. Part of my Sunday morning routine as I dressed them for church, even as toddlers, was to begin talking to them about where we were going, and WHY. I told them we were going to sit quietly and respectfully and WHY. I did this long before they even knew the words. But somewhere along the way it begins to sink in.
I really don't want to sound as though my children sit like little clones or robots during church services. THEY SO DO NOT! But the fact that we have a standard of behavior to strive for is important to us, and for the most part, it has been successful. We still have progress to make, for sure.

I will definitely shut up on this now! I got a little paranoid that perhaps my original answer didn't "come out" the way that I really meant. And I don't know that I've done much better this time around, but I will stop anyway! I just close with same sentiment: It is always imperative to be gracious toward the parenting styles and concerns of others. Hopefully we're all doing our best....!

Marty said...

Very interesting post! I love all the comments. Can't wait to get your take on this subject!

Ladyluck said...

Very good book! My MOPS did that this past summer for our summer reading groups. Very helpful to read it and be able to discuss it with other ladies and find out that my husband really isn't the only weird man out there.

Church... ahhhh... I am so torn about this! I was brought up in a church with no children's church or nursery. There was a crying room for you to take your own baby to, but no staffed nursery. We did have Sunday School and even Children's Meeting on Thursday night, but these were in addition to worship and preaching, not instead of it.
Now it seems like I get the odd eye for bringing babies and kids into church. I can't tell you how many times people offered to show me the nursery when Joey was born. I know they were just being nice, but still... it wasn't like he was doing anything but sleeping in our laps!
We did send the older two to nursery once they got to be about one or so. Joy would NOT go for anything until recently when she turned two.
I still have mixed feelings about it, I'm not sure that was the right thing to do.
I love going home to my home church where there are no funny looks for bringing the babies and kids into service (and indeed there is no other option)and the pastor will make it clear that if a wiggly baby bothers you, you need to pay better attention or find a closer seat to the front. He is very strong on keeping the kids in church and the church family being supportive as each family trains their children. Ahh... of course we are only home a few times a year to benefit from that, but it's nice when we are there.
For right now, we have concluded that the kids can stay in their children's program until such time as they go into first grade because in our church, at that age they go into a much larger mixed class, with kids up to I think 6th grade. Eeek. no thanks.
I strongly feel that there is a real danger in creating a split in family worship and an expectation of being entertained. It used to be that kid's church went to about age 10 or 12, but now our church has a separate teen class that the teenagers can go to during Sunday morning service. It's supposed to be more "geared" to them or something. Yikes. I guess real church isn't entertaining enough for kids that have been nurserified from birth on up? And now I'm off on a tangent. Anyway, this is a question that is very real and current for our family.

Taylors said...

I've enjoyed reading the comments of everyone. I guess the majority of your friends believe the whole family should be in church together...I must be wrong, because I'm in the minority! Well, this is one pastor's wife who is very thankful for people who watch her children on Sunday morning. I hope that it's not the wrong thing to do. You all pray for us. We are trying our very best to teach them Godly principles all week long. We want the things of God to be a part of their "entire life." I'm smart enough to realize that my children being in the pew with me in every service is not going to be their ticket to heaven. My job is much bigger than that. I have to be their "church" all week long. I have to live "Jesus" in front of them in every moment of my life. That is what will be the best witness.
That's my point of view. I am praying that we are doing the right thing. We pray for wisdom in every area of our child rearing.

Juwah said...

Charity;

So much good has been said on this, I hardly think I can add anything. You could say the philosophy of our church is to not segregate. While the children do have their own Sunday School the young people do not. We learn together and from each other. While we are not all learning on the same level we are all learning. I think this fosters relationship, relationships that draw children to want to participate in the body. So I guess that's why I have my little ones in church with me. There are lots of reasons from, family worship to the discipline of being faithful to and thoughtful of our brothers and sisters in Christ. But mostly because I want to learn together as a family, to worship together at church as we worship together everyday with our lives. I want our boys to know from early on that they have a place, not only in my world, but in this body of believers, they are valuable and not a nuisance. However, I won't send anyone to Hell for having a children's church or nursery, it's just not part of my paradigm. (I'm sure that releives many) :)

So if you are one of those who keeps your kiddos in church with you, here are some practical things we did to help our boys learn.
1. We practiced at home. From the time the boys were old enough to show interest in books (around 12 months) I would insist that they sit still through one whole book. We worked our way up until at a pretty young age they were happy to sit on my lap for several books. We also had room or port-a-crib time. This helped them to learn to play contentedly by themselves with a few toys for a set amount of time. This helped really increase their attention spans and not have to be constantly entertained.
2. We have books, paper, sewing cards, or a magna-doodle to help them maintain quiet. To be honest, we "did” a lot of pre-school at church. Our boys learned colors, shapes, letters, and numbers. I know some are gasping that Matt and I did not "pay attention" to the sermon. However, Matt and I see our boys as our ministry(btw, so does our Pastor so he's OK with "inattentive" parents, he wasnts the little ones in church). There are sacrifices we parents make for our kiddos, especially in the early years. (How long has it been since we've been able to totally relax as a couple and visit with friends? ahh...... oh sorry. I digress) At this point (ages 5 & 3) we don't have to keep the boys constantly "occupied" during church. They have to participate in all of the service and then they are allowed to look at books during the sermon. Occasionally we still read to Micah, but for the most part he is content to look at books. Don't get me wrong, they have their moments, but I think they are characterized by sitting pretty quietly through church. It's like any other thing we train our little ones in, it doesn't happen overnight and it just takes sacrifice and consistency on the part of Dad and Mom.

Charity said...

Ah-ha! NOW, I'm getting some interesting thoughts! Stay tuned for the BLOG that's coming out of all this (I'll try to get it out tonight when the kiddies are in bed). Thanks for everyone's brilliant input. Does anyone get the impression that this is a bit controversial? :o)

Tara said...

Well, to be honest, I was expecting a little more controversy than is evident here. I'm seeing a pretty common thread weaving it's way through the majority of your commenters. However, it is a topic that all parents of little children find themselves investing time and energy in!

And for those who find themselves out of step with the trend on this one post, it shouldn't be necessary to become defensive or apologetic. I haven't seen anyone attacking those who do choose nursery or children's church!

And I think it should go without saying that we're all smart enough to know that our children don't gain a free ticket to heaven by sitting with their parents in church.

I'll check back tonight, Charity!

Marianne Brown said...

Philip said you called and wondered if we had any thoughts...he didn't but I do. I've thought about this quite a bit and here is the springboard for what I've been thinking. What you do/don't do with your children in church reflects the philosophy of worship you hold. (Philosophy being a system of values and beliefs that guide our every action.) Why do we worship? What is involved in worship and How does that work out in our lives? I worship for many reasons but here is one reason that touches on something I'm trying to teach my boys: 1. Worship is a time for us to give sacrifices (praise, thanksgiving, etc)to God. This is usually done through song, giving, and verbal expression. I find that people don't often attend church thinking, "What can I give God today." Rather they are there to get (which usually happens but I'm not sure that's what God intended for a day of worship). I want my children to understand church is not some place where we go into passive mode and all we do is warm a seat. Church is a place where we gather with fellow believers to give to God the worship he deserves. Because this is my philosophy, I want my children involved in worship. Now, that works itself out in different ways at different ages. With boys 4 and 1 it's we're teaching them that they can worship God by singing and giving (they like that part!). It's for that reason that I want my children with me. I want them to feel a part of the body of Christ even though they are children.

Summation: I want my children to realize that church is about giving, not getting. Any even though they are young they have something to contribute to the body of Christ.

Most of the comments listed here I agree with wholeheartedly. There are a lot more thoughts that I've had swirling around but I think what I have written is safe and I won't be labeled a "hairy tick."

Looking forward to seeing you this summer.

Charity said...

No 'hairy ticks' around here, Marianne. Learn to live on the edge ;o) BTW, I really liked what you had to say. Thanks for the input. We, too, are really looking forward to your visit!!!

Liz said...

Wow! So much to think about! I just now read all the different comments! I really had never thought of all these aspects (believe it or not!) :>) I've honestly been in survival mode as far as church goes, and I'm seeing, through this discussion, that I must get past that to the real issues. . . thanks again!

Mary Ellen said...

Wow, I missed this whole thread and I'm glad I found it - very interesting! I know you've done your follow up blog but I'm going to comment anyway. "-)

Our first child was rarely/almost never in the nursery - our second child a little more so as a toddler and the third and fourth were in there as toddlers. The more we had, all about two years apart, the more we used the nursery once they passed the baby stage. We like to sit towards th front, far less distracting and you get so much more out of the entire service. But if you do that with toddlers then you are probably causing a lot of people to not pay attention, including the parents, so we utilized the nursery once we reached the toddler stage.

Our nursery is for infants up until they turn three then after that you are on your own. If we did not have a staffed nursery then I probably wouldn't have used it as I really like to be in church.

Once they turn four, until they are six, there is a kids church for them. It is not playtime or a free for all but a regular childrens church designed for that age. After that there is another kids church for six to ten year olds - frankly our kids were totally bored in there because it was "dumbed down" (for lack of a better word) for the bus kids...so once they graduate out of the little kids church they come to church with us. I think there are excellent childrens services out there and kids learn a lot from them. Unless it is a big hoopla that will result in kids being very bored when they return to regular church I think they can be very beneficial if done right.

I like the kiddy church (ages 4-6) because instead of just sitting and playing our kids are really learning in that class and since we don't do preschool, etc. I like that they are learning songs, Bible verses, Bible stories, etc. on Sunday morning during church. It isn't a hyped up free for all, but an organized service designed for that age. One of the things that disturbed me about a "mega church" we attended once on a Sunday morning was the "church service" for the kids was like going to a kids club with loud music, etc. and I'm thinking how bored these kids will be once they are too old to attend that class - what in the world are they being trained for!?!?! (just my personal opinion) If our church didn't have any kind of kids church I would be fine with that but since they do I think our kids have benefited from what they have attended. IF our church had a kids church that was like a big entertainment type "service" then we wouldn't send our kids.

Our kids are with us on Sunday nights in church.

Anyhoo - the nursery is a valuable tool for that age between baby and old enough to sit for a long period of time. I think some parents have very unrealistic expectations for their little ones and what they can handle. Between the age of 1 and 3 the nursery is awesome for wiggly ones who are not going to get anything out of a church service. Yes, they can be taught to sit still and be quiet...but the more kids we had the more this Mom needed the break and the Sunday morning service to minister to ME. Our kids were taught to behave at home and I didn't "need" to spend that hour and a half on Sunday morning training/disciplining...I needed to be in church and have my soul fed! And it didn't affect our kids behavior later on - our three oldest (ages 5,7 and 9) are very well behaved in church.

If kids are taught to mind at home then they won't have a problem minding in church. Stand up, sit down, sit still, be quiet...are all intructions they can easily understand and follow...and if they don't there will be consequences.

Our oldest three must participate in all of the service up until the sermon. They stand when the congregation stands, the oldest two must use a hymn book and they MUST sing! All eyes are to be closed during prayer, etc. Once it is time for the sermon they can color, draw, etc. but no talking. If there is talking then whomever you are talking to and yourself will be seperated. And our kids sit with us, it is not time to sit with other kids and play. We usually sit with my family so there are often cousins sitting together in the pew but under parental supervision. "-)

Between the age of three and four we have not had any trouble teaching the kids the proper behavior in church. I make sure I have all the right tools - quiet toys, books, snacks, drink, etc. IF you go out - it is for a spanking and you come right back in. It doesn't take a child very long to figure out it is much better to stay in to begin with. "-) With Michael, we lived in NY and there was no staffed nursery - that was taught much sooner than three. Again, kids who have to mind at home won't have much trouble at church as they are already used to minding. Nine times out of ten when you see a child acting horrible at church it is the same behaviour you would see exhibited anywhere they are...unfortunately.

I know there are a whole range of opinions...but I say that each family should do whatever they feel is best for their family. If you want all your kids with you all the time, then do it! If you want to use junior church, then do it! If you want to use the nursery, then do it! The parents know what is best for their family and it shouldn't be based on what someone else does or doesn't do. Hopefully the end result is that Sundays are a day of worship for all of you and each family needs to do whatever they have to and try to make sure that happens. And above all - remember that "this too shall pass" when it comes to wiggly toddlers, crying babies, etc. It's a short season in life! "-)