Helping Them Worship
About the Guest
Children will love worship once you teach them how. So says mother of two, Robbie Castleman, as she shares insights from her book, Parenting in the Pew, with Dennis Rainey on today's broadcast.
Robbie CastlemanRobbie Castleman is Professor of Theology & Biblical Studies at John Brown University. She is known affectionately by her students as "Dr. C." Besides the books listed here, she has contributed chapters to several other works: Faith on the Edge, For All The Saints, Shaped by Faith, My Heart, Christ's Home Devotional, and my husband and I wrote the study guide for Howard Synder's Community of the King. I also have contributed to the Baker Handbook of the Bible and have written for several...more
Children will love worship once you teach them how.
Helping Them Worship
Robbie: I remember one time we were quite late getting to, actually, the Sunday school hour, and it was because we'd had a row and a go around, and we had to get straight, we had to get straight first, and we all got there late. So spiritual preparation, the preparation of our hearts has got to be a part of the logistics.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, January 27th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What kinds of things are you doing to make sure your family is spiritually prepared for worship?
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. I remember one time Mary Ann and I were visiting a new church, and we wound up sitting in the front of the church on the right side as you face the pastor, the first three or four rows. What we didn't know was that we had sat right in the middle of the teenager section. It's where the teens had all sat traditionally in this church, and here was our family plopped down right in the middle of the teen section. I did look around and think, "Gee, a lot of young people sitting around here," but I also became immediately aware of a challenge that was going to be presented to our family, and that was that this church had a teen section where traditionally the kids, as teenagers, all sat. And the challenge was going to be this – we wanted our teenagers sitting with us, not in the teen section. And we did face that a few years later when one of our children got to be a teenager and wanted to know if this particular child could go sit with the other teenagers. And we said, "Invite the other teenagers to come sit with us, if you'd like, but you sit with Mom and Dad."
Dennis: It sounds like you've been talking to Barbara. This is one of the Rainey rules. We don't split up on Sunday morning. It's very, very rare when our family doesn't sit together. We feel like we are going to church as a family, we're going to sit as a family. Half of us is not going to be upstairs, the other half downstairs, and maybe a few skipping out. Well, we have someone here in the studio to help us today, and she is here to help you raise the next generation of worshipers. Her name is Robbie Castleman, and, Robbie, I want to thank you for your work and your book, "Parenting in the Pew." This is an outstanding resource for parents who want to raise children who know how to worship God. Thanks for being with us.
Robbie: It's great to be here, and I can amen what you just said.
Bob: The whole deal about teenagers?
Bob: You wouldn't let your boys sit with the teenage section at church?
Robbie: Bob, I think you just were echoing – since I guess I am a little older or younger, I don't know, anyway, but I said exactly the same line. "No, sorry, your friends can sit with us, but we're going to be together as a family."
Bob: And did they push on that every once in a while?
Robbie: Of course, they're teenagers, certainly. They know the rules, and the rules don't bend.
Dennis: You had two sons of your own. Your husband is a pastor in the Siloam Springs, Arkansas area. That's up in the northern westernmost part of the state of Arkansas.
Bob: Yeah, you can't go much farther west than that and still be in Arkansas.
Dennis: You're going to be in Oklahoma if you go any farther than that. We talked yesterday about an age-appropriate approach to worship, and although we touched on all age groups, we primarily focused on children who were four years of age, maybe five. What's the next segment or age break that a family needs to look to and how do you capture that age for the next things you want to teach your children about worshiping and experiencing God?
Robbie: Early elementary children are excited about learning. Most children, up until fourth grade, adore their teachers. They are excited to be in school, they love to learn, home-school kids are really teachable at that time – just the whole variety. So early elementary is a nice little training stage because they are learning to read, their eyes are a little bit more coordinated in terms of following some things. They like to sound some things out – so to just constantly draw that child's attention to different parts of the service. This is a time, in early elementary school, where imagination of children really comes into play and can be very helpful in training children to listen and also in their musical development.
In the book I talk about helping children listen to choral music, choirs, and then just played music at that age and how – they're still kids, you still need to work hard to relate it to them but, say, during the prelude to a worship service, that's an instrumentalist or the organist and/or the pianists are playing, I would ask my kids in church if this was the background music to a video of a Bible story, what story would it be? And children would learn, "This is the story about Jesus on the boat and the big catch of fish," or this, that, and the other thing.
And so it's a training in paying attention. It's a training in drawing constantly being creative and how to draw your children to what's really going on – the refrain that you do hear from a lot of parents, toddlers through teens, is "Well, there's just nothing for the kids to do." Yes, there is. It's called "worship."
Dennis: And worship is made of music, it's made of the preaching of the Word, it's made of the sacraments, it's made of community, but there is also a component of worship, I think, that parents miss, and that's giving, or tithing.
Dennis: Of entering into the financial blessing of God from what He's given. When have you started teaching your boys about tithing?
Robbie: From the get-go, and you make it exciting and interesting. When the boys were toddlers, we used – in our church the tradition is – but you can just use plain envelopes if your church doesn't use "church" envelopes that are numbered and all that kind of stuff – but every child in a family should have their own little box of envelopes, whether they're from the local store or from your church, and you teach them how to tithe. And, of course, things were cheaper when my boys were younger, so they would get a nickel and five pennies for putting the toys back in their toy box at the end of every day when they were four years old, and then it just grew from there, both in responsibilities and cost, but we taught them this is what 10 percent is and that you always start with 10 percent and then give to the Lord's work from there.
Well, you know what little kids do – you show them the five pennies and the big nickel, and you show them their envelope when they're four years old, they get to put their tithe in, which is one penny out of a whole dime. But what do children want to do? What did my boys want to do? What did so many children that we've started this – "Can I give Jesus my nickel?" "You want to give Jesus the nickel, too? Oh, put that in the envelope. He will be so excited." And then you lick the envelope, which is a lavish production with four-year-olds, and then they color it, and they put their name on it, and what happens then? You are in the middle of the worship service, the time for the offering comes along, that child is trembling sometimes with joy because they are actually giving – and not just their dad's spare change that they've dug out of his pocket or whatever.
I think what I've hoped, and what I am seeing, in fact, in my children's lives, is the desire to be generous and joyful givers. Very often, when we train children, we don't mean to, but we don't think about it. When we train children to give God spare change, we, in fact, end up with a generation of adults who essentially give God their spare change and lose out on the joy of giving. And, of course, you go right up through the teenage years – my kids, you know, once they didn't want to color envelopes and do all that kind of stuff, they still had to tithe their jobs, they still had to – you know, this, that, and the other thing – they knew that this was a way of honoring and loving the Lord.
It gets hard when you want that pair of tennis shoes, and it becomes sacrificial, and they would cheat, we all would cheat, but there would be some kind of dissatisfaction in that that they would learn from.
Dennis: So you would – shall I use the word "force" them to tithe?
Robbie: Well, when they're little, it's a habit that you have a lot of authority in.
Dennis: Oh, I'm not talking about when they're little. I'm talking when they're teens, there comes a time where you go, "You know what? You need to tithe. You need to give 10 percent here."
Robbie: And you know how much it is, and if they said, "Well, I'm going to make it up," there comes a time in that passing of the baton where you trust them with that, and then you pray like crazy that they learn from that. And they do eventually.
Dennis: You know, this has been a battle at our house, too. It doesn't start out to be a battle. It starts out to be just a fun kind of a great thing for young children to do, to be givers. In fact, I was just talking with my daughter, Laura, last night, who has done quite well recently in terms of a job and kind of raked in some cash and was going down to buy a CD player for her car.
Dennis: Yeah. And I turned to her and said, "Now, you have been giving, haven't you?" And the reason I had to ask is, as Robbie just said, Bob, there is a time in teenagers' lives, around 16, 17, 18, where you have to finish passing the baton, and it has to become their decision, and if you keep making them, you're making a tactical error. And Laura turned to me and said, "Yeah, in fact, just last week, Dad, I just gave "X," and she talked about how she'd given and how she was looking forward to making an even more generous gift out of this paycheck, where she had kind of raked in the loot.
Bob: Robbie, what about the 16-year-olds who are now bigger than you, and they just don't want to go church. They're working until 11:00 on Saturday night, closing up at the Pizza Hut, and they're tired, and they just want one morning when they can sleep in, and church is boring, anyway, and they just don't want to go and aren't they old enough to make up their own minds about that stuff?
Robbie: And that's real life in a lot of homes. What was interesting about Dennis's last comment applies to this one; that it was perfectly appropriate for Dennis to allow her to make her giving decisions. It was also perfectly appropriate for Dennis, as a parent, to ask her the question – to say, "Are you giving" – to be the reminder, to continue to parent his increasingly adult child. And it was a nice conversation because she does do that. Too bad I don't have another son to marry her off to.
But he's not ceasing to be a parent just because she's taking on some of her own decision-making. And that's a fine line. Sometimes it's finer than other times in terms of learning to parent adult children. In this situation, that's what you have to do, and you have to weather the consequences of that. "Son, if you're too tired on a Sunday morning because you're closing up the Pizza Hut on Saturday night, it's going to be the Pizza Hut that goes and not our commitment to the Lord as a family. Now, we'll help you find another job or another shift or another thing that can lend itself to the greater priority of our life as a family. We'll help you do that."
Dennis: I like the way you said that.
Robbie: "But this is the way it will be."
Dennis: "The greater priority of our family." I think a lot of families end up circling the wagons around the needs of a teenager instead of the greater priority and the values of that family. And, in this case, you're saying worshiping together is a higher priority …
Robbie: They don't have to like it. They can sulk and make your life miserable for an extended length of time, but you are the parent – parent.
Bob: Can I step on the soapbox here for just a minute?
Dennis: It's all yours, Bob.
Bob: I hear, more and more, of parents who – it's not the Pizza Hut closing at 11:00 on Saturday night, it's the youth soccer games that are taking place at 9:30 on Sunday morning, or the swim meets that are taking place at that time.
Dennis: Or the job.
Bob: Yeah. And, all of a sudden, the parents are saying, "Well, I have a child who is particularly gifted, and this could be scholarship material, you know, this could get us into college and get us at a good school, and it's for a season, you know, and we still have family worship while we're at the tennis match. We go, and before we play" – you know, I can understand that in an isolated particular Sunday where there is a state tournament that you've got to go. I'm not saying that we've got to be like Eric Little and say "no competition on Sunday."
Robbie: We've weathered that with our little boy, when he was six years old. He was quite a good little ball player. In South Louisiana, if you didn't play T-ball you were serious from the get-go. And they hit pitch ball at six years of age, and he was quite good. He was a starter on the team and all that kind of good stuff, and it came around to be tournament time, and, sure enough, the first game that we were to play in was 11:00 on a Sunday morning, and we talked it over with Scott and said, "You'll miss the game. This is how it is." We talked to the coach, and it was rather disheartening for us, as parents, to realize he missed the first game of the tournament, went to the park after to play the second game and on and on, but did not start after that; was treated very differently both by the coach and some of the parents because the team didn't do as well without Scott. It was painful for us to watch, as parents, for a six-year-old to have to be ostracized for being faithful.
But we talked it over with Scott, and we said, "Scott, does this hurt? How are you feeling?" And he says, "It's not much fun, Mama, but I think Jesus is proud of me." And after I quit crying, I said, "Yeah, I think so, and, at the same time, you need to love your coach, you need to be positive. If you don't get to start again, and you don't get to play as many innings, you need to continue to do your best, because welcome to the Christian life."
And if he began to learn that as a six-year-old maybe that's why, as a 26-year-old, he's going into ministry – because he's willing to pay the price for being faithful.
One thing that did happen at this same little church, and we were about two-and-a-half blocks from the ballpark, was when our kids had a noontime game or a right-after-church game just during the regular season, our kids wore their uniforms to church, to worship.
Bob: Their uniforms?
Robbie: Yeah, they wore their little ball uniforms so that right after church we could scoot to the park and eat our hot dog and let the kids play on Sunday afternoon. It got to be so funny in our congregation that on any given Sunday morning during ball season, it was – the pews were just filled with all the team colors, because all the kids started wearing – but fewer and fewer kids quit – "Well, we're not going to go this morning because, you know, we've got the game starts at" blah, blah blah, and so …
Dennis: They were there.
Robbie: Yeah, yeah, parents began to be more consistent in their commitment to come because their kids could wear their uniform.
Dennis: You're touching on a subject, and I know you raised two boys. In fact, I think I’m going to take issue with something you wrote in your book.
Robbie: Go ahead.
Dennis: You said this – "I never wanted what my children wore to compete for their attention in preparing to encounter God in worship."
Bob: What they wore to church, you're talking about.
Dennis: That's right. "We allowed them to dress as they liked as long as it was ready to be worn by Saturday evening." You're talking about preparing, getting ready for church. Now, were you talking about the teenage years? Are you talking about elementary age children?
Robbie: Yeah, and I had two – oh – no – the whole – like, if they had a favorite pair of pants. There was one season of my older son's life – he had these pants called "chicken pants," and this was during elementary years, and they had little chickens on them. They were the ugliest pair of pants, probably got them at a garage sale – he loved his chicken pants. He called them his "chicken pants." They were his favorite pair of pants, and, I mean, every Sunday he wore his chicken pants because they were his favorite, therefore Jesus would love them, too. And because it grew out of his expression of his – Jesus knows me in my chicken pants, you know, and he loves this. And then this was the one son who never had any kind of idea of sartorial splendor. He would wear anything, anywhere, anytime – still does. He's still the slob of the family in many ways, and you know who you are out there.
And then my other son, who has also repented the other way, of his clothes idolatry, at times, he always dressed to the nines. But for both of them, there was an expression of – this is what I find pleasure in, and I want to please the Lord. It did, for the most part, grow out of their affection for the Lord to be real.
Bob: Now, if they'd wanted to wear their swimsuit to church, you might have drawn a line there, right?
Robbie: Right, yeah, sure.
Bob: I mean, there was some appropriateness. You're just saying it wasn't going to be around fashion that you were going to draw the line.
Robbie: Right, and it helped that you could never afford a suit, anyway.
Bob: That's right.
Dennis: Well, the reason I want to take issue is you raised two boys.
Robbie: Yes, yes, I did. They're cheaper.
Dennis: There are some teenage girls right now who are listening to the broadcast say, "Well, I have my outfits that I just think – they're my joy, too." And there are also some teenage boy's joy, too, looking at these girls and what they're wearing, or should I say not wearing.
Bob: Those outfits probably aren't appropriate at church or anywhere else, that's the point, right?
Dennis: It is, and that's why I wanted Robbie to comment on it, because to say that you allow them to dress as they liked has its limits.
Robbie: That's right, and I absolutely agree with Bob, that I might have only raised boys, but they dated girls, and the young women that my boys did marry had the kind of parents that raised these girls that if it's not appropriate before the Lord, it's probably not appropriate anywhere.
But it is important to think about who we are before the Lord, and how we do relate to a congregation and to not be distracting. This conversation is important for a lot of things. It really gets at the heart of what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians about how we're to dress when we prophecy before the church. We are to dress in a way, whether we're men or women, that is simply not distracting to the Word that's being spoken.
And, therefore, that's the rule of thumb – that we're not distracting to the Lord or to other people – to the Lord in a way that we're taking away His pleasure in our lives so that if it's in my daughter's closet, it's going to also be appropriate to who she is as a young woman.
Bob: You don't still have the chicken pants, do you?
Robbie: They are in – I think I kept them, because they were so dear. They're in my little cedar chest.
Dennis: We could probably put a picture of them on the website.
Bob: I'm thinking eBay. You might be able to get some money for those chicken pants on eBay.
Robbie: I'm not sure I kept them, but those chicken pants were famous for a while.
Dennis: I've got some friends at Chik-fil-A that might buy them from you. You know, the thing that I want to underscore here about clothing is the time to have the discussion about what you wear to church is not at 8:30, quarter to 9, on Sunday morning. You need to have some family times a long ways away from Sunday, where the battle isn't raging, it's not about what they have on or what they're suggesting they wear, but instead a discussion about what is worship – back to the theme of this book, "Parenting in the Pew." It's calling them back to focus on God and not be a distraction to other people, not to be caught up in having everybody look at them, but to be pointing our children to experiencing God and, Robbie, you've done a great job on this, and I want to thank you for being on FamilyLife Today.
Robbie: Oh, thanks for having me. It's been a joy.
Bob: And we hope that there are going to be a lot of listeners who will get a copy of your book and not just get a copy of it but will read, and that it will make a difference in how your family worships together in church on Sunday.
Dennis: You know, on more than one occasion, our listeners have heard me say that when it comes to the area with our young people with sex, we've challenged them to the wrong objective. We should be challenging them to innocence and purity, not just virginity, and I think Robbie's book, in a very similar sense, is a challenge to us, as parents, not just to take our children to church but to raise the standard to teaching our children how to worship, which is a higher, more noble goal than just going and attending a church service on Sunday morning between 11 and 12. It's all about experiencing and worshipping the Almighty God.
Bob: Again, the title of the book is "Parenting in the Pew," and you'll find it in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Go to our website, FamilyLife.com. There is more information available there about the book. You can order online, if you'd like, or you can call 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. We can have someone on our team make sure you get a copy of this book. Again, the toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY, the website is FamilyLife.com. Stop by and get more information or order a copy of Robbie Castleman's book, "Parenting in the Pew."
Dennis, this month we are hoping that some of our listeners will consider stepping forward and becoming new Legacy Partners here with the ministry of FamilyLife Today. A Legacy Partners is somebody who, each month, helps provide some of the financial support necessary to keep our program on the air in this community and in communities all across the country. In the last couple of days, we've heard from a lot of listeners who have decided to do just that, and we're excited about that.
We try to stay in touch with our Legacy Partners each month and offer them practical bible help for their marriages and their families – some unique resources that often are available only for Legacy Partners. If you'd like to find out more about becoming a Legacy Partner, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and say "I want to know what it takes to be a Legacy Partners." We'd love to have you on the team. Again, the toll-free number is 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we hope you'll consider calling.
Well, we hope you have a great weekend, and I hope you can be back with us on Monday when we're going to meet a remarkable couple with a powerful story to tell. Alan and Leslie Chambers talk about Alan's past involvement in homosexuality and about their marriage today and how God is working in both of their lives. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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