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Six Things My Mother Taught Me About Church

by Phil Cooke

Gleaned from the website: www.churchleaders.com

I’m a preacher’s kid, so growing up, I sat on a church pew every time the doors were open (and they were hard wooden things back then.)  Mom was pretty strict about attending church, and I’ve sat through about a million worship services, weddings, funerals, vacation Bible schools, Sunday school classes, revivals, youth rallies, and more.  Along the way, my mom had some pretty tough rules that have mostly fallen out of fashion since those days.  But after a few decades, I’m wondering if they weren’t so bad after all.  Let me know if you think my mom was nuts or maybe on to something:

1.  Dress Up

My mom felt that church was about honoring God, and looking right was a big part of that honor.  I had a whole collection of clip-on ties, and she made sure I was dressed up before I left the house.  Today, even pastors preach in jeans and t-shirts, and the truth is, I love being casual.  But attorneys and other professions have learned that how you dress impacts your attitude and perception.

As my mom said, it shouldn’t be about pride, it should be about honor.  Looking around the congregation these days, I just wonder if we could use an occasional dose of my mom’s advice.

2.  Pay Attention

I got slapped a lot in church for not paying attention.  Even as kids, my mom wouldn’t let us lay down on the church pew, draw in coloring books, or scribble on paper.  We had to pay attention – which, if you know how easily distracted I am, was like a personal nightmare.  But looking back, it taught me discipline and a remarkable amount of Bible teaching.

3.  Send the Babies to the Nursery

Back in those days, we didn’t have “children’s church.”  All we had was a nursery for the babies, and my mom thought they should go.  To her, there was nothing more rude than parents allowing a screaming baby to interrupt the worship of the congregation.  She knew babies weren’t getting anything out of the sermon, so get them out where they could have a little fun!  Please, leave us to worship in peace and quiet.  I thought about my mom last Sunday, sitting behind a young couple with a screaming baby who just sat there, and sat there, and sat there.  (You know the kind of parents that can’t POSSIBLY leave their children with anyone else?)  What did the pastor preach about?  I can’t remember….

4.  If You Show Up Late, Sit in the Back

Mom thought church wasn’t the same as a movie, concert, or classroom.  It was holy, and we needed to respect that.  Although 99% of the time, our family sat on the front row, if we showed up late for any reason, we sat in the back.  She would never distract anyone from my dad’s message by walking down the aisle after the service had started.  By the way – I hope the lady who came in last week during our time of quiet reflection and walked to the front row apparently wearing tap shoes is reading this…

5.  Bring Your Bible

My mom’s motto was “Buy a Bible, read it, and underline it.”  She never understood how people could come to church without their Bible.  To her, it was like showing up at a baseball game without a bat.  I’ve tried the “pew Bible” and Bible apps on my iPad, but for me, I can’t get my mom’s rule out of my head, so I bring the real thing – marked up and all.

6.  Sunday School Matters

Remarkably few churches have Sunday school programs anymore, and I’m often surprised at the number of church members who think a weekly sermon is enough.  Mom felt that we needed to go deeper, and Sunday school was that place.  Obviously, that was before many churches started to encourage small groups – although most small groups I’ve attended are more about “reflection,” “what’s new in my life,” and “sharing.”  My mom would probably puke.

At the time, I thought I’d been switched at birth, and my mom was an evil witch, but now, I’m starting to see she might have been pretty smart.



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I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13