Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Doing Church

I've been intrigued lately by a new approach to "doing church". It's called the family integrated church. Have you heard of it? Is this the approach your church takes to worshipping?

My friend Shawna has a post about it at her blog We Lift Our Eyes Up. The Accidental Pastor's Wife has also recently reviewed a book called Family Driven Faith that has generated a lot of good discussion in her comments. I believe the book (I haven't read it yet) talks about the family as being the first place we learn to worship and disciple other believers (ie. our kids).

The idea of the family integrated church, from what I understand, encourages family Bible reading, worship, and prayer all week long at home in preparation for the corporate (I really don't like that term but it will have to suffice for now) body worshipping on Sunday. On Sunday children do not attend Sunday School, the whole family sits together, sings together, hears the Word taught together, takes Communion together, and prays together.

What a concept! Instead of dropping your children off in seperate areas and then going into "adult" worship stay together as a family. You hear God's word together as a family. Think about it....I mean really think about it. Instead of trying to discern from a Sunday School coloring page what your child might have heard during Sunday School you know for sure. You can go home as a family, together and discuss it, answer questions, apply the word to your lives, together.

I love the idea. And I would love to see how it is worked out practically because, of course, there are questions. What about babies and toddlers? What about early school agers getting bored? What about (gasp) youth groups? (That's another post and another soap box...youth groups I mean.)

This concept of "doing church" also begs the question, "What is the purpose of the church?" Is it there for unbelievers seeking God or is it there to grow and strengthen people who are already believers? Is Sunday School just a tradition of man? Is it what we see in the early church as described in the book of Acts in the New Testament?

A decade ago there was a lot of talk in philosophical circles, business and in the media about a paradigm shift. The American Heritage Student Dictionary (hey it was handy...we're homeschoolers ya know) defines paradigm as "an example of how something should be done or treated; a model." Is it time for the church to make a paradigm shift? Is this the shift it needs to make? Will it better equip the saints (especially our younger saints) to go out into the world and be salt and light? Will it help give our children the solid foundation of a Biblical world view? Will it help us as parents give them that solid foundation?

I know, I know, your saying to yourself, " Good golly she has a lot of questions! Does she have any answers?"

Uhhh, answers. I have opinions. That usually goes without saying...I always have opinions. However, on this occasion I am more interested in hearing your thoughts, opinions, ideas and experiences. So take a look at some of the questions I've asked here and tell me what you think. I only ask that you please be kind and use nice language. (This is, after all, a respectable establishment.)


Gina said...

Its a nice concept but I have doubts about the practicality.

I for one, would not want my daughter sitting with me on a weekly basis. She's very well behaved and attentive when she is in "big people" worship but she's 7. She wiggles, fidgets and swings her legs. It completely disrupts my concentration.

Also I know that the children's program at our mega church has huge appeal within the community. If the church is to be seeker friendly, I think we need high quality and fun children's programs.

Just my .02

Amy said...

I really like the idea of family integrated worship, especially considering my troubles with nursery and such at our church recently. I had been seeing things about this as I read parenting info when we were expecting our first child (probably first in No Greater Joy materials by Mike and debbi Pearl) and at our church, noticed that one family with many young children kept them with them as much as they could, using nursery when needed for the about the 8-36 month old period. We keep our 1 and 3 yo with us as much as possible. The 1 yo goes into nursery after just a few songs, but our 3yo stays until the sermon starts at least, sometimes he stays the whole time. If he does act up, he gets disciplined in the hall or a classroom before he can go to nursery.

Having said all that, our church has just started a children's church. While my kids are technically too young for it, which gives us a good excuse to not participate, at least 2 families are not participating in it as they feel like the family should worship together. I'm afraid it may become divisionary. It is touted as a way to be 'seeker friendly', but I wonder if it just a way to avoid addressing some behavior issues. My husband once wondered if we needed to pray about the urinary tract needs of the kids at church as it seemed to be an epidemic.

As with the decision to homeschool, I don't like not knowing what my child is taught in SS either, not that they'd teach anything inappropriate, but rather, I just can't go over it with them, feel like I'm out of touch, disconnected, from what he's learning.

But now I'll be taking my 1yo with me into the 3yo's SS class instead of attending my own SS class.

Anonymous said...

When we started attending our "little church" the children sat with their parents. Very often the littles started out with the parents until they got really restless(the kids,not the partents). The nursery was limited to those under 5 and was is in a very small room, it really was easier to let them sit with you.
I love the fact that my children sit with me in church, I love the fact that I teach and have taught my children in Sunday School. It is a blessing to me each time we discuss what we learned in SS and church together as a family. Our church has made some changes and while I know that change is good, it seems somewhat strange to sit in church without the children in there. I remember the first Sunday our church started it's "Children's Church" program. The empty feeling in my gut was a HUGE distraction from the worship of the day. My husband & I are one of just a handful of people who choose to keep their kids with them. I am very greatful to the people who wish to minister to the children through this ministry, it is just not for us. Being with my children is a joy. Learning with my children is a joy. Worshiping with my children is AWESOME, esspecially when they can understand the words we sing, pray and that are preached. To see their eyes light up, their voices swell and their arms raised in worship makes it all worth the struggle of training them to sit in "big" church. And that comes from the mother of a VERY active 7yr old boy, who is ALL boy!! Thank you for this post and to the others who have posted on this subject.

Juloyes said...

Voddie Baucham's idea is that worship begins at home and is supported by the church. So if 6 days a week you are training and teaching your children in your home, then they are more than ready for 1 hour of worship on Sunday morning. I've found Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman to be invaluable! I've been training ds #1 (the squeaky wheel in our family, frankly) since he was 4 and it's only been in the past year that's "got it". He's 8 1/2 now so it's been a long investment. The point is to engage children in worship to train them to be capable adults, not to cater to their childish desires. When we sing All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name in family worship, when my 5 year old hears it on sunday, the light goes on-"I know that song!" Children are sponges. They pick up on so much. They can sense if we're frustrated with them, if we're delighting in them, if we want to be with them. Robbie Castleman also encourages you to be constantly whispering and explaining all the parts of the service so that when we take communion, I'm letting my sons touch the bread and wine, explaining what it stands for and why it's important. It's so much more than just "sit still and be quiet".

Cyndy said...

Julie, you explained it sooo well! Thank you. I have some thoughts brewing for another post so I'm not going to spill them all here but this was the kind of explaination I was looking for (even though I didn't know it was what I was looking for).

Jen said...


Check out the link on my blog about this "Family Integrated Church"


Linda said...

This is pretty fascinating. I love reading about stuff like this because I work at a church. I had never heard of this before--thanks