Jan 17, 2011

Teaching reverence during church services

 Less than perfect

Okay, I admit it.  Yesterday our family was not the quintessential example of reverence during church.  I have a new calling as the ward organist, and we are learning the new ropes of what this calling is going to mean for our family.  While I played prelude music (so far so good), my husband brought in our three little ones and fed them a little lunch snack of quesadillas and apples.  The plan was for him to come in five minutes before sacrament with the children, but a diaper blowout prevented this, and wired nature of the children convinced him to stay in the foyer.  After the sacrament song, I went out to find him, and to his credit, all three children were sitting reverently on the couch.

Our family joined the congregation after the sacrament, and at first things went well.  There was a baby blessing, so seats were few and we accidentally split up a family as the father had taken a little one out and came back to find us.  For the intermediate hymn, I had to walk up in front of everyone, and pass behind the bishop to get to the organ.  When I sat down, I walked in front of the speaker and realized that I could have planned that better.  The closing song went all right, but during the talks I had to take Patrick out just to bounce him, Peter verbally wanted to know why the impact hammer in his book was tearing up the road, and Helen didn't want to stay in her seat.  I suppose it must not have been too much of a disaster since both my husband and I were able to enjoy the talks, but overall we decided that it is time for us to refocus our efforts to teach reverence during this most important meeting of worship.  After all, if we can't master this art now, as our family grows, well, we're doomed.

These two blogs, MormonChic , and BellaOnline, have some great advice on the subject, but my favorite blog was written by a minister's wife that I read two years ago and I couldn't find the article to share with you today.

A beautiful example

She said that the truth is, if you want to teach your children to be reverent at church, they are going to have to learn to be reverent at home.  If children are allowed to run the show all week long and then we expect them to sit quietly for just one hour at church, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.  The time of preparation far-spent.  This good sister has several children, and to the amazement of their peers, the children would all sit quietly and listen to each sermon.  She was asked several times how she did it, and so she wrote the article that I read.

When her husband was called the ministry, she looked at her small but growing family and knew that each Sunday would be her own battle, and she wanted to win it on her own turf- the home.  During daily devotionals with her family, expectations were explained, expected, and enforced.  She started small, by changing the environment for their bible study.  They sat on chairs instead of laying on the floor- little ones included.  Then she started adding things to scripture study- audio cassettes, films, inspirational stories, and singing time- until she had an hour-long devotional every day in her home.  Although her children were of course still children at church, teaching them how to sit still and listen at home made all the difference on Sunday.  After all, at home, it was just mom.  At Church they got to listen to dad, hear a live organ, and a real choir.  How wonderful!

My new resolutions

·                    No treats.  One of the things that has helped our family a lot during sacrament meeting is to leave the treats at home.  I was a believer in them, thinking that they were crucial for the little ones until a sister in our ward shared an experience where her church was remodeled and the bishop asked the families to leave the treats at home.  She told her husband that she had two small children and thought that it was unfair for the bishop to ask this of young families.  Her husband sided with the bishop and so she agreed, thinking that they would come to their senses after seeing how the children behaved after a few weeks.  Instead, her heart was changed as she didn't have to clean-up after the meetings and her children did just fine.  Sacrament meeting is the first block of the day and it is possible for them to not starve to death, especially if you feed them before the block.  We have already seen improvement in our own children by leaving the treats home.  I make an exception for the baby.  I believe on nursing on demand, and although I always feed him before church, he's little and the wants of a baby are the needs of a baby.
·                    Sit at the front.  This was our plan last Sunday, but it didn't quite happen that way.  Crossing in front of the speakers to get to the organ was, quite frankly, embarrassing.  So even if the family doesn't sit in the pews during all of the prelude music, we will now reserve a spot close to the organ so that I can fulfill the needs of our family and the ward with less disruption.  Does this help my readers?  Maybe not, but I know that sitting in the front when I was in college helped me be more attentive because there were less distractions.
·                    Stress the importance of family devotional.  In the past my husband and I have read scriptures independent of the children.  For the children, at bedtime we snuggle on the bed, sing primary songs and read from the scripture stories.  Often they roll around while we sing.  We will still snuggle at bedtime, but we are going to follow the pattern of the minister's family and start studying as a family, and the children will be part of our formal, unabridged study of the scriptures
·                    Let the children come to organ practice.  Okay, so this one is definitely not as useful for my readers, but during the week we are going to dress the children in their Sunday clothes and Michael is going to sit with the children while I practice for 20 minutes or so.  I can do a formal practice session on my own at another time, but teaching the children how to sit through music presentations is something that we want to teach them anyway, and doing it privately in this manner will benefit everyone.
·                    Reevaluate the contents of the "activity bag".  We do have a church bag with activities reserved for Sunday, and it has worked wonders for us.  I have made a few things that I will share in upcoming posts that have preserved the nature of the Sabbath, but perhaps the matchbox cars, and the ensuing "Vroom!" that comes with them, would be better served with the rest of the daily toys.  Yes, I'll take those out of the bag today.
·                    No reward for rambunctious behavior.  My son is new to primary his first week as a sunbeam he cried that he wanted mommy so I came and sat with him for a few minutes.  I left, and he cried again.  When the kind brother brought him down this time he sat with me in relief society and fidgeted the rest of the meeting.  Week number two when he refused to go to primary we went outside and he got to sit in his car seat.  He was content to do so for the rest of the block, defiant that he didn't want to go to primary.  It wasn't until the rest of the family came out to the car that he started crying, "I want to go to primary!"  That's great, Peter, next week you will get to go, but it's over today, you missed it.  I'm so excited.  Not only did he go last week, but he told me that it was a lot of fun, and he told me all about Daniel and the lions den.  It sure beat sitting in his car seat!  I hope that we nipped that problem in the bud.

Well, a short blog post has turned into a book, but these are my new year's resolutions, and my ramblings for a better Sabbath.  Of all of the things that I wish to teach my children, moral character, the gospel, and a love for our Savior, Jesus Christ are the most important.  Reverence is an essential part of the gospel.  I feel obligated to teach my children, and I am grateful for my husband's support in this endeavor.


Natasha said...

This was a great post. Thanks! If you ever find that article the minister's wife wrote, I'd love to see the link. Thanks again!

Tamsyn Spackman said...

Thank you, Natasha. Application is not always as ideal as the intentions, but it's good to have a goal. We are doing better though. After I wrote this post, I searched through my bookmarks and found her site, but it was a dead link. That's too bad, she was a great writer.

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