Sunday, March 1, 2009

Family Integration

A few of you asked about our church. In particular, many of you were curious about family integration and how that works in our community.
For those of you who do not know what this is let me explain.
Family integration is basically keeping the family together when worshiping at church.
This can mean so many things to so many people though.
There are churches that are tolerant of those who bring their children into the church service.
There are those who are absolutely intolerant and even have created rules to keep children from being in the service with their parents.
Then there are those of us who believe that the church service is the ideal place to take your children.
But, family integration goes a bit further still. It is all about integrating all ages. From the oldest to the youngest. This is what churches did for centuries before we decided that breaking up into age groups was a "better" idea.

We all know the cons of a fully age integrated service. You have the elderly who have a hard enough time hearing the sermon without little miss over in the corner cooing or possibly even crying. Every week I wrestle with a three year old who would rather be out playing than sitting in my lap.
But, the pros? Your children get to see you worship. My children see me praise my God. I get to worship with my kids. I think this trumps any negatives that children can bring to the sanctuary.

I am not staunch on this integration stuff though.
I know that our style of church is not for everyone. I am convinced that God has established many different churches for the many different people He has called for His purpose.
I am not against age segregated Sunday Schools either. I actually think that there are some great benefits to teaching to the level of the little ones.
What I do not like is the presumption on the part of many parents that the church is their babysitter. I have heard it said by many a mom that she "deserves" a break from her children. On the other hand, sometimes the church allows and even helps the parents abdicate their responsibility in raising their children. It is fairly clear in Scripture that parents are to teach the Word of God to their children. Dad and mom can appoint another to teach their children but all of the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of the parents.

So, what about youth groups? I have mixed emotions. I truly believe that the family is the best youth group that could have ever been invented. But, I had some awesome experiences in some of the youth groups that I attended. The music at one particular church was so incredible and the opportunities to minister were amazing.
We do not have a youth group but then again...we really do. We have a group of kids that congregate in the back before and after service. What do we expect? We do the same! We as adults tend to congregate with our own rarely see a man or woman down on the floor playing with the three year olds! We have worked hard to get this group of teens to help out in different ways. Many of them will help with the little ones or in the kitchen.
In some sense, we can talk all we want about what we think church should look like but the reality ends up looking a little different. And, that is okay.
When all is said and done, hearing the Word of God preached accurately is much more important than whether or not your children are in Children's church or sitting by your side.
I would rather fellowship in a church that has love for one another and a vibrant youth group than fellowship with a body of believers who were stagnant in their faith and staunchly opposed to Sunday schools.
Oh, and by the way, one of the benefits of not having a Sunday school program? No more Sunday school papers to throw away!


Carlee said...

Ha, Ha! Your last sentence made me laugh so hard. I am the "mean" parent who throws away almost every paper--both from school and Children's Church. I love this post. It's so important to think through what we do with our kids and not just toss them in the nursery or Sunday School because they are available. We have the option of Children's Church, so we have had to really think this one through. We put our kids in sometimes--and I love it because it is 3 years old through 5th grade--and they expect the older kids to help the younger ones, not stay separated.

We also bring our kids (2, 4, 7) into church regularly for all the same reasons you listed. It is so important to be responsible for our kids' spiritual training, including teaching them how to sit respectfully through a service and follow what the pastor is saying. Because we have always done this, our kids all do sit that long (not without some wiggles, but they do well) and our oldest 2 draw a picture about what the pastor is saying--kind of like taking notes!

Great topic, and I salute you for taking the hard road of keeping a 3 year old in church with you!

Kenj said...

No more crafts involving glitter to take in the car on the way home!

Lou Ellen said...

You dont know me. I stumbled onto your blog when checking references on a travel agent. I love the blog! Your words speak right to my heart.

I just wanted to let you know that I am praying for you and your family. I can't imagine the pain you must feel after losing your lifemate.

We will be traveling to China to adopt a little girl later this month and would like to invite you to follow our journey.

May God bless you and yours.

Sonja said...

Great post, Heather. I agree whole-heartedly. I've been put-off so-to-speak by some groups that are "staunch" about their family-integrated church. I love the idea of having kids with you during church, but unfortunately, the reality in our society is that many people, especially new believers, aren't ready or equipped for dealing with something like that. That's where the love of Christ comes in and seeing vibrancy and life of a spirit-filled church. One where our aim is to nurture and help grow, not put down or put in a box and place burdens upon. There's no way I would have been ready to have my kids sit with me when I was a new believer....not without committing some haneous sin! :)LOL

Anyway, thank you. You are in our prayers.