The parenting years are training years! There's potty training, voice training, executive control training, strength and core training. And, then there's what we call pew training, those moments on Sundays when littles learn to sit, enjoy, and later contribute to "big church".
Training years can be exhausting, marathon sessions of reminders, follow throughs, and well-dones.
At least they've been for us.
We've parented children with active minds and busy hands, lively imaginations and energetic bodies.
These traits didn't change on Sunday mornings!
Pew training is not a new fad. It has been taking place for generations. I remember sitting in the pew as a child. Sitting by my grandmother, I watched as she dug in her purse to find me a mint. Mint in mouth, I handed Grammy a pen, a hint I wanted to play tic-tac-toe. Later in the service, my mom wrote a number on the church bulletin and I would hunt through the hymnal for the hymn with the corresponding numeral. I loved sitting with my family in church. I felt big, part of a larger community of people.
I am thankful for the sacrifice my parents made to include me in their Sunday morning worship.
Mike and I have been pew training for more than 25 years. Currently, our Sunday worship times include coloring, puzzle solving, and bead stringing as our just over two-year-old daughter prefers to sit in the service (as long as she can) with our family. To help her in her desire to be with the family, I pack a bag of treasures, things for her to look forward to, just as I anticipated Grammy's mints and games of tic-tac-toe.
How do I prepare for pew training? It's all about what I pack in our bag.
What's in the bag?
- thick cardboard puzzles with piece count appropriate to the age. Our toddler will stand in front of the church pew chair and solve the puzzle on the seat of the chair.
- a few board books, especially ones with textures or quiet flaps. I change these out frequently so there is a new selection in the bag.
- crayons and quarter sheets of cardstock. Colored pencils become drumsticks and noise makers, hence the crayons, and standard paper creates a crinkly paper cacophony. Cardstock quarters has quieted coloring sessions.
- a quiet snack in a quiet wrapper.
In addition, I pack a few treasures for our preschoolers and early learners, just in case.
- thick cardboard puzzles, again piece count appropriate to the age and ability of the child.
- a small notebook and crayons. Some of our young worshippers enjoy drawing something they hear about during the sermon.
- a tablet of stickers for use with notebook or to fill the empty white space on the bulletin. For emergent readers and spellers, I pack letter stickers.
- a toy car.
- a quiet snack in a quiet wrapper.
- beads and a string or pipe cleaner for stringing and small motor skill building. A plastic bag quiets shuffling beads.
- a small doll or a few Lego figures.
On the weeks I forget to pack a treasure, I pull a pen from my purse and allow little worshippers to draw on the church bulletin. Our early learner likes to search for and circle vowels or specific letters she chooses on the printed bulletin.
Not every Sunday unfolds smoothly, even if I prepared. For example, this weekend I spent the majority of the service in the lobby! Even still, I don't feel my efforts were wasted. I know I made it one step closer to the goal: being able to sit in church as a family.
A few weeks ago, I caught a glimpse of our pew. There stood our children, toddler to adult (plus a few friends an adult child invited) extending the entire length of the pew. What a blessing! Twenty-seven years of pew training (and counting) in the making. Our efforts were worth every obstacle we had to overcome.