Sunday, January 28, 2007

What does a Family Integrated Church look like to me - PT 5

Up until now most of what I have written about the Family Integrated Church in essence does not look any different than any other biblical local church, and it shouldn’t. The reason it looks this is way is because as much as people like to proclaim that scripture does not say much about what church is to look like, in reality it says much. The problem seems to be that we are so much influenced by the culture around us that we look to the world rather than scripture when it comes to how church is to be structured. This is seen in the corporate type structure that most churches take on. The church sees the success of the business model and thinks that the church needs to take on this look. So we as a church need to rely more on God’s revelation than worldly wisdom.

I mention the above because as I look at what the Family Integrated Church should look like I often get questions that, while sincere, are usually derived from accepted practices and worldly thought rather than scriptural commands. So I will begin with what the worship service would look like in a Family Integrated Church.

In contrast to the churches normative practice of dividing up families for worship the Family Integrated Church sees the need to keep families together during worship. This is not simply keeping the children in the main service for the praise portion of worship and then sending them to the nursery but keeping them there for the entire worship time. Most churches in a desire to somehow make worship better for parents send children off to be entertained and placated.

The usual argument is that if the children go to specialized classes and so called “children’s church” they will learn much better than in the “adult service.” This action of separating children out is often extended to even young adults as they often even have their own service as well. What all of this does is make the church segregated by age and thus denies the unity the church is to foster. As to the argument about the preaching not reaching children I have two comments. First, we do not give children enough credit for what they can learn. Children absorb much more than we could probably comprehend and along with this they can learn how others are to worship by example. By being segregated out they learn that what is most important about worship is play and snack time. Even if the children’s church does much teaching it can never substitute for children seeing their parents and other adults worshiping as a community. They can take in that worship is not about them but about God.

So bottom line is that the church I would like to see started would have the children, of all ages, incorporated into the worship service. This means that there would be no official nursery or other avenue to let parents take a vacation from their parental duties. I do think that there can be a place for parents to go if their children are simply having a bad day, which children will do at various times. Visitors who may not be ready for this would be encouraged to only go there if they really need to and there may even be certain women in the congregation that would be tasked to go out if they see a visitor leaving with their child to encourage them to return when things settle down. I realize that this will be hard for some and if there are single parents that have issues other families could help them with their children.

I understand that this flies in the face of the average church but the goal is not to be average but to be biblical. Over and over we see Jesus preaching with children present and since we do not see such a thing as the nursery or children’s church showing up in the church until fairly recently, I would have to say that seeking to incorporate children of all ages into worship while difficult is imperative. I am sure there were crying babies and restless children when the apostles taught and so why should we seek to avoid it. What do we tell children if we separate them out from others? I know we do this out of a desire to do what is best but the truth is it is not what is best for the children or the parents.

More to come.

Other articles in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


Charley said...


Here is a link to a great article by John and Noel Piper, published way back in 1995, about having children present in the worship service. John wrote the first part; Noel the second. This thought was quite revolutionary at the time!



Tony said...

Thanks Charley, that was a great article. I will be linking to it on my blog. It is always good to know that you are the not the only one thinking a certain way. It is also especially good to hear one that is respected as Piper is proclaim the same message.

Again thanks for the link.

Grace and Peace to you,

Tony said...

So I realize this blog is old, but I hope you still see this comment... I understand your premise, and agree with it. But I do NOT understand how to live it! I have 3 boys under 4. We have been attending a church, where we are the ONLY family with children under the age of 14. We've tried to keep them in service. It is difficult, distracting, and harrowing. I spend little to NO time worshipping, fellowshipping, or being fed or encouraged because I am constantly shushing, chasing, and disciplining. We have recently decided to change congregations, mostly due to because we've been traveling nearly an hour one-way since we moved last year. We now attend a 'traditional' church, where I've wept the last 3 Sundays because I received spiritual nourishment, and could focus on the Lord and the Word for the first time in AGES. Please tell me HOW this works for young families where Mom (and Dad too)is not left spiritually starved and feeling left in Siberia. P.S. When in general service with kids, my husband is very helpful and also, disciplines, occupies and chases. When we gave that up months ago, I ended up going 'to the back' with our kids to a play room completely segregated from everything. Thank you for replying.