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    Training in Churchgoing

    April 3, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    I wrote once before about bringing our children to church with us, and how we have encountered people who appear to think it is silly of us. Yesterday evening, I was reminded of the more practical reason for why we do what we do.

    How was I reminded? By the poor woman in front of me, trying to control her two sons, who looked to be about 12 and 14 or so. The older one got up {I’m thinking it was to use the restroom}. And then he did it again, and then again. Naturally, there could be a reason for this. I initially suspected he had the flu or something.

    After he had left and returned three or four times, his younger brother decided this was not a half-bad idea, and he proceeded to get up and leave the sanctuary, and then return a bit later. The mom became more and more obviously frustrated by this, and eventually I heard her forcefully tell her oldest son to sit down when he attempted to leave again. He obeyed, but I saw him there, squirming in his seat. Paying attention was on the bottom of the priority list because it was a struggle just to sit.

    I believe there are three battles to be fought when one is training a child in churchgoing. Obviously, there isn’t much mention of the training part in Scripture {the children are just there, it doesn’t tell us how their parents interacted with them}, so this is based on my own observation.

    I think the first battlefront could be given the long title of Sitting Still and Staying in My Seat. These children can be identified by the toys or pencils they have been given to “entertain them” while they learn to Sit and Stay. This is the battle our daughter is currently fighting.

    The next battle is Listening. A child may sit there, but not hear a word that is spoken. They stare at the ceiling, at another child three rows up, or at their sister who is learning to Sit and Stay and is consequently a cause for many giggles. This is the battle our son is fighting right now. He can become completely distracted by flipping the pages in his Bible.

    The third battle is Understanding and Assimilation into the Soul. This is where the {much older} child learns to not merely hear the word, but to understand it and obey it in love on his own. The bridge between Listening and Understanding is the parent, who can ask the listening child what they heard and help train them to process the information, until they are able to do it without assistance.

    Each child is different and will learn at a different pace. But, in pondering my observation of these boys I mentioned, it seems to me that an average 14-year-old should be well on their way to victory in the battle of Understanding, and here I saw a boy fighting the Sitting and Staying battle instead.

    I write this not to criticize the mother–she was there alone, and she has probably fought {and lost} a lot of battles because she has to fight them alone–but rather to reinforce the idea that there is value in helping a child to fight the battles they are capable of fighting at the earliest time they are capable of fighting them.

    Honestly, I don’t want to argue with a teenager about sitting through church, merely because he doesn’t know how to remain sitting. I look forward to having many years while our children are still at home to aid them in the Battle of Understanding and Assimilation. But if they are still fighting the Sit and Stay Battle at 14, we might be lucky to help them conquer Listening by graduation. I wrote about this before:


    It is quite difficult for a little boy to learn to sit still in church. He may try very hard, but most boys are born with the wiggles! I don’t want to fight all the battles when he’s older. I want to train him now, so that, as he grows older and is ready and able to understand, he won’t still be struggling with simple things like remaining in his seat and concentrating.


    My new opinion is that not training a child to sit through church is a disservice to the child. Battles should be fought one at a time, not heaped upon one’s shoulders at the magical age of 18.


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  • Reply Brandy April 3, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    Kristie–I had no idea there was an official Note Passing stage! *gasp!* You Johnson girls sound pretty wild…teehee. =)

    Grace–I can’t believe there were kids talking on their cell phones during your church’s services!! I know you said not to get you started, but WOW…

  • Reply kristie April 3, 2006 at 8:08 pm

    Nice thoughts. This brings back memories of Johnson family post-church “discussions” (lectures) due to “note-passing.” The other teenagers’ parents didn’t even notice. We could never figure out why we were the only ones getting in trouble for this; I guess every family has battles to pick. Ours was “note-passing during church.” It kind of makes me laugh now. What rebels. =)

  • Reply Grace April 3, 2006 at 8:05 pm

    Hey Bran! Good article! I remember those stages in my life. I know that the church I grew up in had the kids be part of worship and then dismissed us. This, I thought was a great idea for kids and parents to be together as well as to introduce the concept of “big church.” I remember finally having to sit through the whole service starting in Junior high and how to stay awake through the messages. My friends and I would pass notes to each other about the cute boys, etc. But I do not ever remember squirming or getting up so often that it would become a distractions to others. Now as an adult, when there’s a kid who does that or even starts talking on their cell phone (don’t get me even started on that), I just get so frustrated why the parents aren’t doing anything! This all goes back to the article and discussion on you blog a few days back. I think you’re right. Training starts at a VERY young age!

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