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— How does a fellow teach his kids and grandkids to behave in church these days? It seems thatthey just don't want to sit up and listen but would rather slouch, drop their hymnal and even lay on the floor. Whatever happened to the respect and honor we were taught to show to the Almighty when we came into His house each week?

You know, this really wasn't a big problem when I was a kid. I learned in no time at all what was and was not acceptable behavior in church. I grew up in an old German Lutheran Church where everything was done "decently and in order."

After Sunday School, the children marched in and took their seats right up in front of the church on each side of the chancel, right there by the pulpit and lectern.

Only one time do I remember getting in trouble in church, and that's when I was still young enough to be sitting next to my mother - she may remember more. I don't remember what I did on that occasion, but I did get taken outside; and I believe it was a sin for the parents to bring a misbehaving child back into the church without the child being teary eyed and sobbing at least a little bit.

And, once I was old enough to sit up front with all the other Sunday School kids, I didn't dare misbehave. Why? If you did, you'd have at least one or two hundred people from the nave and up in the balcony looking down at you, sternfaced and glaring. The pastor,in his long black gown, was right there too, and he might just stop and look at you. And, if you did misbehave and interrupt what was being done "decently and in order," you knew that you were really going to get it when you got home - that is, if you even made it that far.

What's worse, if you misbehaved, you had to suffer the consequences all week long.

You'd walk into the general store to buy a piece of candy with the money you had earned from collecting pop bottles, and the people in the store would stop talking to the store clerk, look at you and then start talking to him in German - the language of heaven even if theonly words you had learned probably couldn't be spoken there.

But you didn't have to understand a word to know that folks were talking about you and what you did in God's house last Sunday! The guilt and the remorse became so great that you vowed to be a model parishioner from that time forth.

Well, kids today haven't the benefit of such a godly upbringing. They don't have to worry about things being done "decently and in order" and what people might say about them in the store during the week. In fact, most of the people they will see during the week probably weren't even in church last Sunday to knowwhat they did there in God's house.

So, how can a fellow get his kids and grandkids to behave in church now that they don't have any fear of what others might say or of what their parents can no longer do - at least, in public? I guess the only option is to teach them to truly fear and honor the Almighty, to consider His works and His ways and all He has done for us. Perhaps then, they will want to sit up and behave. Perhaps they will want to honor Him and learn more of Him.

I certainly hope so, because old German Lutheran churches like the one in which I was raised are getting pretty hard to find these days.

Opinion, Pages 5 on 08/05/2009

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