Subtitled Guiding Your Children Into the Joy of Worship, this is quite a unique book.  First of all, it should be stated that Robbie Castleman is a mother of two boys, assistant professor of biblical studies at John Brown University (wherever that is), national director for the Religious and Theological Studies Fellowship with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, as well as husband of a minister.  So she has rather a full resume.

This book is very short and easy to read, and basically details Robbie’s suggestions on how to make church-going accessible for your children.  In Robbie’s ideal church, once a child is past the age of 4, they should be able to sit through the entire service with their parents on a regular basis.

This is quite a far cry from all the churches I’ve ever been in, where children can spend the majority of their Sundays up until they’re about age 12 in Sunday School. 

I won’t go into all Robbie’s methodologies for two reasons:  1)  You won’t have any reason to read the book.  And 2) some of her suggestions are more suited for a church with a more structured liturgy.  (As far as I can work out, she is Presbyterian, but exactly what branch of Presbyterian in America I’m not sure). 

But this is an encouraging book, if only for the huge burden of authentic worship that it lays on us as adults.  Do we get enthusiastic about the content of songs?  Do we pay close attention to what we’re learning in sermons so that we can be edified?  Do we prepare our minds to come into God’s presence?  How seriously do we take communion/baptism?

In fact, I can guarantee that if you read this book (whether you have children or not), you will be convicted of your own approach to worshipping in church.  Robbie’s enthusiasm and fervour for coming before the presence of God is infectious, and it has certainly made me want to rethink my approach to church in 2008.

4 1/2 out of 5.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Parenting in the Pew (Robbie Castleman)

  1. This is a book my parents have long encouraged their parishioners read, as they are part of a minority of Ministry leaders who believe children should remain in the pew the entire service of worship.
    I and my 3 siblings were brought up in the service, without any tricks or treats – just a pen and paper (we became adept at making up games like counting lights, bricks and letters in the intimation sheet, and eventually writing notes on the sermons). Interestingly enough, the very reason my Dad’s church called him was because they remembered a family that visited with 4 children who sat through the entire service with barely a wriggle, and figured that was worth something)

    I see great worth in what my parents have made their ministry, but I now also see that there is no right or wrong – what counts is what happens in the home. Sunday School will not attend to a child’s spiritual needs alone, nor will church.
    My parent’s system is based on a traditional worship, believing that a child of any age should learn to sit through an hour service, so that by time of rebellion (teenage years)there is no shock to the system, and stands them in good stead for future years of instruction – both in the classroom (school/uni) and at work in combination with worship.
    My parents have seen many churches who have long since lost their young because families did not make a priority out of worship, allowing sport and other elements to fade God out. They aim on building churches with 3 generational families fellowshipping together, where everyone has the opportunity to hear the gospel preached, including the Sunday School teachers. This has caused a lot of hurt at their expense, and they have lost many families over the years who will not separate Sunday School out of the worship service.
    I wonder what would happen if churches reverted to tradition….

    Thanks for the review Matt – good reminder for me to pick that old faithful up and have a re-read.

    (My Mum used to sit my big brother between two stern matriarchs to keep him under control as she was solo-parenting with Dad upfront! We also always sat at the front – less distractions I think…)

  2. I took a class this weekend at FBC Jax and it was about this book. I did this with my 1st child in Ohio from newborn-age 2 or so during evening worship mostly and LOVED it. He was very good. Since moving to NC though and serving in our 1st church as Senior Pastor and Pastors wife (me haha)… its harder to do because Im doing so much that I cant be there for my child in worship. BUT! I plan on starting it again (hes now 3 1/2) once we get back. We also have a 1 year old but hes way to active and doesnt understand “SIT” yet so ill wait on him just a bit hehe. Thanks for the review!

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