One of the biggest things is that we actually have both children in the entire service. Admittedly, the first week of this did not go as I had envisioned. Crazily, I imagined that the first week would go smoothly, the kids would love every minute, and we'd go home with two children deeply impacted by the service. Yeah, not so much! Ethan and I both left that service in tears and I wasn't sure I was up for trying it again. But, more than 6 months later, I'm more excited than ever to be worshiping each Sunday next to my children. Don't get me wrong, it's still not perfect. They still don't always pay attention. But, they are learning and I love hearing their voices raised in praise. I love watching E's face when he can read some of the words on the screen or he recognizes the song. (Now, he still won't sing, but I almost cried this past Sunday when, as we were singing Your Great Name, he turned to me excitedly and said, "This is my favorite song!") I love that our choir and worship team are truly worshiping each week and my children get to see that. I love that I get to show them how I worship, through singing, taking notes during the sermon, praying, and giving my offering. I love how excited they are to gather their offering before church and to put it in the plate, along with all the other church members. I love that they will turn and ask me what a certain word or phrase means, whether they hear it in the music or the sermon. I love watching their face light up when Bro. Jeff quotes a scripture they know. I love singing praises to my Heavenly Father while holding onto my children (though, sometimes I am holding Ethan to prevent him from running around the room, but hey, every week can't be perfect, right?) My favorite moment so far was just a few weeks ago. E saw several people go to the altar to pray and he asked if he could go pray with them. I explained what they were doing, thinking he would change his mind, and he still wanted to go. So he and I went up to the altar and prayed with those at the altar. Y'all, he won't even pray at home unless he knows it's followed by food! It was amazing!
Since having my kids in church, a few things have changed in me, as well. I have to be honest, before this time there was nothing more annoying to me than hearing children being loud in the service. Now, there is no sweeter sound than a baby's cry during the sermon or as we are singing. There's nothing better than hearing a child ask their parents a question at the most inopportune time (in an adult's mind.) I have also decided that if we spent more time following our children's enthusiastic example and less time shushing them, our services would be revolutionized! I can't help but think we'd all be more genuine and sincere, in the best and worst of times. Now, I know that we can't just let them run amuck and be crazy just to be crazy, but what's the harm in letting them drum with the music, dance just a little right there in the pew, or clap as loud as they want with music they are enjoying? And, really, I am preaching to myself here. I know the times that I am least focused on worship are the times that I am trying to keep them from being kids during church. When I relax a little, listen to and explain the words we are singing, and help them to understand the sermon, I leave feeling closer to God, closer to my kids, and ready for the week ahead.
I know that this may not be what God is calling everyone to do, but it is changing me every week! Thought I would end this post with some quotes that really hit home with me in this book (it has even changed the reason and way that we do Kidz Choir so that we even use that hour to teach the kids to know what worship is, why we worship, and to look forward to worshiping with their church family every week):
*"Children help us to pay attention to what God is really saying."
*"Parenting in the pew-teaching our children to worship-is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that God rejoices to receive."
*"Children need to sense our excitement about worshiping with God's people."
*"Helping children develop a stable and worthy fixed center for their lives is invaluable in a culture with exhaustive options."
*"There is no substitute for being with your children."
*"The purpose of parenting in the pew is to train a child to worship, not to be quiet."
*"If our children's lack of quietness preoccupies us rather than worship itself, we are simply in the pew in the presence of our kids and are probably feeling far from the presence of God."
*Parents will not always see what we want to see in our children's lives, but then God's ways are not our ways."
*"Worship designed for God's pleasure and by God's Word and mediated by God's Spirit will expose the need for the imputed righteousness of Christ Jesus that goes much deeper than our behaviors, which are only a symptom, an evidence, of the state of our human nature. Worship designed for God's pleasure and by God's Word and mediated by God's Spirit brings us face to face with the God who shapes us in the sanctuary to send us into the real world."
*May Parenting in the Pew lead you and your congregation to explore more and more the wonder of belonging together in Christ who is our head. And may our children and grandchildren become disciples of Jesus in our midst-indeed, our brothers and sisters who join us in the worship, witness, mission and community of the church."