A correction from the pulpit is worth a hundred from the pew

Just in case you’ve been laboring under the laughable assumption that we are the Mary Poppins family (practically perfect in every way), let me set you straight.

We normally sit in the back row at church.  I know many families find that the front row works better, but we have our reasons.

Reasons to sit in the back row at church:

  1. It’s nearest the exit.
  2. It’s nearest the bathroom.
  3. It’s the easiest place to insert 12 people who are often late with minimal disruption to others and embarrassment to us.
  4. It’s the least intrusive place for us to whisper corrections and threats, and play musical chairs as we rearrange and divide bad influences from one another.

Last Sunday we were a few minutes late.  Believe it or not, we were late for legitimate, unforeseeable reasons of church business.  Doubt me if you dare.  Even the pastor would probably agree we had a pass.  However, because we were late, our usual seats were occupied and we had to sit near the front.

Reasons to sit in the front row:

  1. The pastor will see fidgeting, bickering children and correct them by name from the pulpit.

I am reasonably confident we will never have to warn those particular children again – at least, not if we sit near the front where they know the pastor can see them.  I don’t know if that’s enough to entice us back to the front of the church, but it does change my outlook a little.

By the way, lest you think less of him, I am exceedingly grateful our pastor has the frank, outspoken personality that brought him to do this.  Perry was not sitting with us, and I was rightfully embarrassed that I missed the behavior that was happening under my nose.  Our children were rightfully embarrassed by being called out.  The pastor spoke with us afterward to make sure we weren’t hurt or offended (we weren’t) and to make sure we understood what the problem had been (we did).

Are you wondering which children were corrected?  They’ve suffered enough for their crimes.  I’ll never tell – unless it happens again.  Then all bets are off!


  1. Thank you so much for this post. I read you blog often and it does seem like things run so smoothly for you. I have very fidgety children (one in particular) and it is nice seeing that this happens to someone else. It takes a village to raise a child and I am glad that your pastor helped.

  2. Dear Kim,
    First I would like to say that your family inspires me! I am a 14 year old girl and have been homeschooled my entire life. I have a problem and would like your advice. Recently I have felt called to wear only skirts. The more I have felt this way the more uncomfortable I have become wearing pants. But, my parents do not feel the same. Do you have any advice what I should do as I am still under my parent’s authority? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    P.S My email adress is curently not working

  3. We’ve always been a backrow family until about 2 years ago when our church started meeting at a daycare center. The first Sunday we were a little early, but the last to arrive. A friend sat everyone else so that the front two rows were left empty for us. She was so sweet, telling us that she was sure we wanted the little children to be able to see the pastor. Ack!! I felt like we were put on center stage, with spotlights! It became the expected thing, and now it’s a habit, and it does have its benefits. None of my kids have been called out from the pulpit (yet) but our pastor will sometimes wait if one of them can’t find a reference quickly…I must do more “sword” drills. We are still in the front – older 5 sit in front row, and my husband and I sit behind them with the 4 youngest.

    Last week, we were late, too. Actually, we were there about 3 minutes before the service, which is NOT enough time for everyone to gather bulletins, psalters, hymnals AND use the bathroom after the 25-minute drive. 😉 Anyway, we had a LOT of visitors and – alas! – some of the front rows were taken. Yay! A back row was available. We ended up scattered everywhere, but all children were seated next to adults and we had no out of the ordinary issues. Oh, EXCEPT when my husband briefly introduced himself to a visitor, “Hi! I’m Dave. You’re sitting in our seats, but that’s okay. Nice to meet you!” (Thankfully, the fellow loved the quip, joked in return, and plans to visit again.)

  4. My mom played the piano since I was 1 and used to farm out the “twins” so my brother and I would be with an adult and then my 7, 9. and 10 yo siblings would be alone and couldn’t blame problems on us. This worked well on the Sundays my Dad couldn’t attend. I am a pastor’s wife so we are of course there early before SS so being late doesn’t happen. We used to sit in the back with lots of toys when they I had a 3 and 2yo. When we added the baby (same year) I decided that I wanted to start keeping her in church. We began practicing church at home and purged the church diaper bag from dozens of toys down to one “God” book, pencil and 1 paper per child. We gradually worked up to sitting for 30 minutes while listening to a sermon or lecture of some sort on TV. When baby 3 was old enough to crawl I trained her to sit on my lap for the thirty minutes with nothing. She could play with her hands, or my necklace, or her dress. That was it. When we added baby 4 I had an 8, 7 and 5 yo. We dropped the books because it was causing fights over wanting to borrow and such. Now at 11, 10, 8 and 4 the big girls take notes and the baby draws until she gets fidgety and then it is lap sitting until service is done. She rarely naps now, but she knows she has to sit still. I used to swap them in different positions thinking I was helping. Nope. I have found that facing the preacher is the least tempting to try to talk or play with me or others. I have found that other family members don’t help becuase they don’t follow the rules. I enjoy the front row because there is no pew to kick, no people to poke in the back, etc. I also find that my note taking girls do much better when they don’t have lots of other people to distract them from Daddy preaching. Btw, my husband has never spoken from the pulpit to them, but he has stopped once for an extended pause that really did the trick for one of them! I have also noticed that if they seem to be talking to friends who ask to sit with us, that he may mention them in a sermon example. Just hearing their name in this manner reminds them to get back on track! Daddy reads their notes on Sunday afternoon and discusses them with them for a minute or two. This works for us!

    • Stephanie says:

      Thanks for sharing how you did/do things. I was wondering if it was too late to train my energy filled almost-4 and 2.5 year old boys. We currently send them to the nursery or children’s church because they can’t sit very long. However, when we go to my parents, there are no such services provided, so we spend the service trying to hush them or having to take them out ourselves and miss what is going on. This would also make it possible to go to evening services, which I miss attending. Thanks for the encouragment to start training them.

  5. HeatherHH says:

    We have 8 children, from ages almost 10 down to almost 1. We used to always it in the back, but recently we’ve found it better in general to sit up front. Our children seem to pay attention better, and our 2.5 year old that doesn’t like crowds feels less crowded with only 1 or 2 rows of people ahead of him. Of course, if we have a child in a difficult stage typically needing correction, we might have to move to the back for a bit. So far, we’re managing with our 11-month-old, but if she stops nursing in church in the next few months, we’ll probably end up in the back for a while….

  6. You’re to be highly commended just getting everyone out the door dressed and in one piece. And BTW, I like your new header picture! 🙂

  7. Ha! Like some of the other commenters, my husband is also a pastor. Having infant twins, I spend more time out of the sanctuary than in. Apparently my husband had to chastise my seven-year-old from the pulpit a few weeks ago. His behavior has been much better in church since his daddy called him out!

  8. My dad tells a story about sitting towards the front, when I was under 4 somewhere cause I have no memory of this:D I was fighting with my brother and my dad had enough and hauled me down the isle and out of the building as I was screaming “don’t beat me daddy, don’t beat me” full disclosure my dad was a child protective services social worker at the time, and while I’d got spanked it could never be classified as a beating, and I know I deserved a beating on more than one occasion:D His embarrasment did not stop my punishment, nor did it stop me from being hauled out again in future weeks, years, sadly sitting still and quiet just wasn’t in me.

  9. I was the preacher’s kid who sat ALL BY HERSELF(at the age of two) on the front row while Mom sat at the piano. . .
    I was spanked (what seems like now)EVERY SUNDAY AFTER CHURCH. 🙂
    I can definitely see where a pulpit-given correction would be more effective than fierce whispers from Mom or big sister.
    Thanks for being transparent here.
    May the effect of correction last a LONG time! 🙂

  10. Reason #2. You provide cover for my kids who are in the very next row! JK, kinda. 😉

  11. I’m playing church musical chairs at the moment. My husband’s a pastor, so we’ve always sat in the front row so we could sit together as a family. I’ve given up on that because when you’re a pastor’s wife, you have the lovely inclusion into the world of “single-mother pew syndrome”. Trying to wrangle a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and a 4 month old by myself, in a pew, in the FRONT=Torture. I’m still in the stage of life where I wonder why I even bother to GO to church some mornings. One of these days I wouldn’t be surprised if my husband stopped mid-sermon to yank one of our kids out of the service. It has happened to my husband (a pastor’s kid), and also to my father (a missionary kid). Apparently misbehavior during church services runs in the family! 😉 They were both mortally embarrassed, but have mentioned that they shaped up and flew right after the incident. I think it’s reasonable to expect the same from your kids! 😀

  12. A prideful momma would have taken offense. I truly appreciate your humility in this situation Kim! I’ve been the mom whose disruptive children were corrected from the pulpit; not fun. But I must agree; the public chastisement was most effective!

  13. We *always* sit in the back row, unless we are too late to do otherwise. I think maybe a little pulpit correction might do us some good!

  14. We always take up the back row, but for some reason there are never enough chairs so now we take up the back row and part of the next one up. We’re never late for church since we get there an hour earlier for SS, but we sit at the back so that my “negotiations” with my 2 yr old don’t bother anyone else. My husband is the pastor and I’m afraid if we were on the front row he wouldn’t let me bring her in to church. She’s great when my hands are empty, but when I’m holidng Calvin she thinks she’s free : ).

    We’ve played musical chairs a few times, but now everyone has assigned seats. Thankfully, I have my mom and dad and Granny to sprinkle between kids.

  15. Kat Menard says:

    My father was also a pastor during much of my childhood. I can still remember the chill that went down my spine as i realized that he had stopped his sermon. He was looking at me, as was much of the congregation, as my friend was whispering in my ear. As i prayed for the earth to swallow me up, he then continued without comment.

  16. When I was a child my mother needed to stay home with a younger child who was ill. That left my pastor father to take my 3 year old brother and me (5) to church by himself.

    Evidently, Robert and I thought that this meant that we were free from any parental authority throughout service and especially the during sermon since my father was otherwise occupied.

    We were wrong.

    By the middle of the sermon my father had had enough of our fidgeting and fighting (I’m told it was actually a fight, although I don’t remember). He said to the congregation, “Excuse me just a moment.” Came down to the front pew where he had parked us, took us both by the hand and marched us out of the building. After a brief “talking to” he marched two children, tear streaked faces and all, back up to the front pew and continued his sermon where he had left off.

    And Robert and I sat and listened to the remainder of the sermon without so much as a sucker punch to the other.

  17. I totally agree with the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” and it’s nice to know that a) others are watching out for the well-being of the children around them, and b) that they are comfortable enough to speak up. I think nowadays, many people are too afraid of what people might think to “interfere”, even when doing so might be the right thing!

Don't just think it: say it!

%d bloggers like this: