Family-Integrated Church Model

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Jared, Jun 11, 2010.

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  1. Jared

    Jared Puritan Board Freshman

    I have been reading through Voddie Baucham's book, "Family-Driven Faith". I'm almost half-way through it. My pastor is moving our church in this direction, but I'm still not clear on everything it entails. I know that most family-integrated churches don't have youth group or children's church or other age-specific ministries like that. I'm not completely sold on the idea to be honest.

    Is this common in reformed circles? It seems like this was the model that the Puritans followed. Does anyone here attend an intentionally family-integrated church?
  2. Idelette

    Idelette Puritan Board Graduate

    I would say that traditionally the church at large was always family-integrated until the last 100 years or so. Puritanical churches as well as the majority of reformed churches were family integrated. I'm open to correction, but I do believe that is the case. Typically, it began in evangelical movements to have youth groups, and sunday school classes for children, nurseries and even children's church etc. My denomination believes in having the entire family partake in worship, including the children. That's one of the things that drew me to this denomination, because I don't believe it's Biblical to separate the children nor create groups. And the church suffers as a whole when there are intentional divisions within a Body. We were meant to worship, fellowship, and serve as one body. And I think we deny our children a great blessing when they are not sitting under the preaching of the Word which is the means of grace to us. I could give you more info if you'd like, but those are the primary reasons that I agree with family-integrated worship.
  3. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    I have a friend that pastors a Reformed Baptist church of that ilk. I have visited & I have a few problems with it.

    It is very difficelt for unbelievers to understand or navigate. In our culture provision is always made for small children at public meetings that welcome families. The message that you send to the unchurched is "please do not return, until you have learned the rules & expectations of our subculture". It seems to me that we are making it too dificult for people to come to church.

    As Tim Keller has said, If we don't prepare to welcome the lost before they come, we won't know what to do with them when they do (come).
  4. Curt

    Curt Puritan Board Graduate

    I have some of the same reservations as Kevin. There is a lot of baggage with the family-integrated model. I certainly agree that children should be with their families during worship if at all necessary. The family-integrated folks commonly take this to great extremes, however, going to the other end of the scale, making families who "aren't there, yet," feel left out.
  5. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    I serve as pastor in a family integrated congregation. This has become a whipping boy issue in some circles. It needn't be. There are a wide variety of family integrated models out there.
  6. Curt

    Curt Puritan Board Graduate

    Lawrence, I agree that there a lot of different models. Thoughtful pastors can lead family-integrated congregations in a reasonable fashion. People who just buy into package deals are not necessarily thoughtful.
  7. puritanpilgrim

    puritanpilgrim Puritan Board Junior

    I have attended Grace Family Baptist in Spring, since January. Voddie is an elder. It's not a crazy as it sounds, and children learn how to act in church. As for unbelievers, I think we should remember that Jesus had children around him when he preached. This was quite normal for the vast majority of church history. And unbelievers still came into those churches. It could theoretically go both ways. An unbeliever could walk into a FIC church, their kids could go nuts and they may say, "I'm going to the FBC down the street with a nursery." Or they might notice that or kids aren't acting that way. Which might lead them to question why. But, in reality, the main purpose of a church meeting on Sunday is not to make lost people feel comfortable, it is to woship God through song, prayer and word. If we aren't careful we will end up making the same basic aruguments that seeker sensitive churches make. Really, they might not feel welcome, because there is not a rock band. They might not feel welcome when they are told not to partake in the Lord's supper if they are not believers. There is a whole host of reasons an unbeliever might not feel welcome at church. I have a 4yo, 3yo, 20mo, and a 4mo. And we make it though the service by God's grace.
  8. Ne Oublie

    Ne Oublie Puritan Board Sophomore

    .. a visitor comes in with his child and sees that all the children are with their families, so this man says "wow, this is really hard to understand, where do I send my child, I am use to having a place for them to go".. so, because he is used to the "culture"(Socialism, anti-God is our culture) then therefore the church should be like the culture to accommodate as opposed to having the church teach the visitor that it is God and not culture that rules and orders worship?

    And to the "feeling left out" part below. Is it better that our children not only feel left out but be left out so that visitors are not?
    Children desire be with their parents when the parents desire to be with their children, it is the culture that has said that its better for the children to be entertained. It is far more practical to just get up and take your child out of the service area if need be, than to leave your child out of all of it.

    To remove the programs, teen clubs, and children church from the church seems absurd to some who see a need for a babysitter to entertain their children so the they can be attentive and listen without interruption. But what about an alternative which would be to train their children to be attentive themselves and learn from the Body and the Word preached what and how they should be in their manner and conduct toward others which would include learning how to serve visitors.

    And most family-integrated churches have accommodations, like training rooms for smaller children and nursing rooms which have the service going through speakers. These are to accommodate the "needs" of the body.

    Visitors are not really "there yet" in many ways, and the same as with all the believers which is why we are all there. LOL.
    Should we see family-integration as wrong because of some of the sinful attitudes of the people in these family-integrated churches?
  9. Jared

    Jared Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the input all. I'm not dead-set against it, there are just questions that I have. For instance, where do you incorporate age-appropriate ministries? and how do you involve parents in those age-appropriate ministries?

    I do feel like your church becomes more insular when you start moving in that direction. I'm sure that there are churches that are able to move beyond this. I've heard that Voddie Baucham's church is fairly large. So, I'm not trying to paint with broad strokes here, just saying what I've seen so far.
  10. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    Robert, The case that I was refering to is "dead set" against any accomodation. I am glad to hear that not all FIC are as ridgidly legalistic about this. The ones that I know well are this strict however.

    My concern is not that the lost will feel happy with every aspect of a christian worship service, of course they will not. However I am very concerned that we make our offense be the gospel, and NOT our subculture.
  11. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

  12. Willem van Oranje

    Willem van Oranje Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, we are encouraged to have the entire family, including "nursing infants" Psalm 8:2 in the service of God's public worship, at Bible studies, Family Worship, etc. Often times, having separate age-oriented studies and groups is counter-productive to bringing the family together in the faith of Christ.

    ---------- Post added at 08:25 PM ---------- Previous post was at 08:20 PM ----------

    Primarily, the responsibility of ministering in "age appropriate" ways rests on the parents themselves ministering to their children.
  13. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

  14. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Can you define "age appropriate"? Where does this derive from? Certainly not Scripture. Deuteronomy 6 entails a commandment to teach children the law of God from a young age, all day, day in and day out, so they will know it thoroughly. And where can a child learn more appropriately how to attend himself to worship than in the presence of mature worshipers? Ephesians 6:4 makes it clear that to fail to raise your child in the admonition of the Lord is to provoke them to wrath. The ultimate responsibility is given to the parents. If they're going to delegate that responsibility they better know exactly what their children are receiving, from whom and be ready to reinforce the teaching they're receiving. But most parents simply plunk their kids in the room they're assigned and scurry off to their own classes or worship. That might not be the case on this board, but it is the overwhelming norm in contemporary evangelical churches in the U.S.

    I think that much of the problem that is faced in among those who have made the family the golden calf of Christianity. When the family is set forth as the most important unit in society then all else is subservient to the family, including the church. This gets things backwards and makes the bride of Christ into a slave of families. While this is common in age-integrated churches, and even propagated arrogantly, it is also very present in contemporary churches where you might not recognize it so readily. Often someone will claim that they must go to a relative's birthday party or some other event during a worship service, as though this were a better testimony. The idea that blood is thicker than water is applied to the church in a sinful manner that actually ends up taking away from their testimony rather than helping it. There is tension in understanding this rightly and every church would do well to wrestle with it and make sure they embrace solid biblical reasoning in establishing their philosophy of ministry.

    When Sunday School started it was an evangelistic effort. One of the fears brought forth was that parents would begin to relegate their responsibility to raise their own children in the admonition of the Lord. Thomas Murphy addresses this in Pastoral Theology, though he was in favor of the Sabbath School (can't remember page, but in Sabbath School chapter). However, his attention to it, if I remember correctly, was based on keeping the effort evangelical or as a ministry to those youth without church attending parents. Spurgeon addresses this concern as well in A Good Start, if I remember correctly (may have been a sermon instead). However, the greatest impetus came with the advent of age segregated classrooms, based on Dewey's system of child development. Interestingly, his system was based on an evolutionary concept that caters to the lowest common denominator within each segment. This worked in concert with the youth movement, which further separated youth from their parents and provided a fertile atmosphere for free thinking and rebellion against all authority, including parents. What became cultural norms infiltrated the church to the point that hardly anyone knows any better and very few can provide a good biblical reason why they have age segregated classes.

    All of us should feel comfortable asking our pastors for their philosophy of ministry as it pertains to children and youth. From my experience most will not be able to articulate it very well at all. Of those that can, most won't be able to from a biblical perspective. If they are able to articulate it, it will likely be a philosophical perspective with a great deal of psychological influence.

    Some churches are able to do youth programs well, but most are dismal. We consider "age appropriate" classes to be distracting and a sure way to help many parents abdicate their God given roles. Simply from a pragmatic perspective, it requires much more manpower and is much more expensive as well. However, to help promote the ability of young parents to attend to the sermon, we do have a nursery. Also, we offer catechism classes during worship if parents prefer their children receive this teaching. However, it is not determined by age, but rather knowledge. Not that it's happened yet, but if a child learns the material then they are moved to worship. This is by no means compulsory, but simply offered as an option.
  15. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Just so you Know Pastor, the sight you referred us to is linked to in every manner I believe.

    I think we have discussed this a lot here. Even your reference. The links go directly to the sight. I am not sure there has been anything hid here. There seems to be some problems. Some.... is the word that should be expressed here.

    Proof for what I am saying is here.

    And here.
  16. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Age appropriate? That is left to the parent. I taught my kids about sex way before most people have ever done that. I know parents who wait till the kids find out they have thingies. I did that way before that. I also did that concerning Santa Clause and other imaginary idols. You can ask my kids. Your inquistition deals with how much a child can handle. Not whether or not something can be defined. Can you define when you were able to teach such and such on an understandable level? Your parents were left with that discernment. All of my sons have learned at different times and levels. As a Pastor you should understand this. My boys will testify I taught them the truth and at appropriate times. But that is dependent upon how much information a child can take in and handle. That is given to the parent to distinguish. Age appropriate is something many adults can't even learn nor understand in their old age. So do you really wanna go with the age appropriate argument?

    My kids never thought Santa nor the Easter bunny were true. I even taught them about how a Mommy and Daddy come together from a very young age. My boys are well rounded.
    I have seen everyone who has idols. You are being overly general here in my opinion. The Family is the first institution God made on Earth. It is the beginning of the Church. It is the beginning of all things civil and Covenanted and you are minimalistic here in my honest opinion. Yes, some have made the family idolatrous just as some have made the Church idolatrous. I know people who have made biblical counseling idolatrous. Come on Pastor. I know I am am being harsh. I don't mean to be disrespectful but you have become too general here.

    After you address this I will go farther into the Sunday school and the public education thing where this will ultimately lead by your assertions. We have been there before.
  17. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    For years we brought our sons with us to both SS and the main worship. Often we were frowned upon. But we also had many parents ask us why our sons were so able to sit through worship without being distracted and so easy to talk to. There is much involved here, but this was part of the equation.
    Interestingly, we took a lot of heat from some churches that thought we were wrong for not putting our sons in with the youth group. But we had wonderful times of worship as a family. Usually we would discuss the sermon at lunch. As a result my family would often get a second sermon as I would passionately expound on the lesson we learned that day. It was a wonderful opportunity that would have been impossible if they had not been with us during services.
    Oh yea, they missed out on a lot of really fun field trips too. We've been accused of depriving them of being able to enjoy childhood.

    ---------- Post added at 09:26 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:20 PM ----------

    Wow Randy. Your response seems simply argumentative. I used general language on purpose to offer balance to the discussion. Anyone who knows me well at all knows I place high value on the family. But I also see it raised above the church with many, which is sin, regardless of the fact that we all have idols from time to time.

    And, you are right, age appropriate should be left to the parents. You made the right conclusion.

    I didn't bring up public education other than point out the origin of age segregation, which is well documented.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2010
  18. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    As was said earlier in this thread, family integrated churches come in different stripes and flavors. There are some FIC's that place the family above the authority of the local church. They do this by considering the family to be the local church even though they may attend corporate worship. These churches have a deficient view of the purpose and authority of the local church. There are other FIC friendly congregations that see distinct roles for the church and the family. The parents, under the headship of the father, are responsible for raising their children and teaching them at home. The church exists as the God-ordained institution for the ministries of grace; which includes the preaching/teaching of the Word, administration of the sacraments/ordinances, pastoral oversight, and restorative discipline. These things are not the function of the family within the corporate body of believers. It takes wisdom and a knowledge of the scriptures to identify when a church is operating properly in this area or whether it is strayed from the truth.
  19. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    BTW, Pastor Johnson.. I really didn't mean to be disrespectful. I am kind of tired of saying this model fits all scenarios, and that we all must concede. That has happened. My Church has kids who stay in the service and those who don't. I think that is wise. A Parent should decide based upon the maturity of a child.
  20. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Wow, that is very good. Thanks Elder Bill Brown.
  21. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Randy, you'll see in the first statement of my last paragraph in that post that I admit that segregation can be done well. But I have only seen it done well in one church that used the age segregated idea. If the parents are not being equipped to train up their own children as part of the teaching then the church is failing and enabling irresponsible parenting. This is the most common model, though I cannot speak for reformed churches in general. Just visiting local evangelical churches bears this out.
  22. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Randy, I wasn't implying that you posted an unbalanced site. I do know from experience that often people do not go to cited sites in an article. I wanted to offer primary source. That is all.

    We also need to face something: this is a hot button issue right now. The model of ministry that is at the root of family integrated churches has been around since the beginning. It has become a hot button because, as is the case with any model, there are those who take the issue to unbiblical extremes. These extremists, because they are highly visible because of their extremity, are all too often taken to be the norm when they are not. I am hoping that cooler heads prevail in this protracted debate. There is a great deal to be gained from viewing how discipleship models have changed over the course of time, the influences that have brought about those changes, and the results of those changes.

    At the bottom line of any sound church is the discipleship of its members. The Scriptures are clear that in a Christian home that responsibility ultimately lies squarely on the shoulders of the father. What a sound family integrated church does is assist the father in that practice on a very intimate level. I know that people can become solid disciples in an age segregated church, but all too often it is in spite of the system that the father has any input at all. I have less problems with a church that has Sunday Schools for the members of Christian families that also has entire families in worship services, has elders who assist fathers in catechising their families, and follows up on the catechisation. (From what I have seen, read, and heard that would be the rare church in deed.) When a church makes the decision that the children of a family are not allowed in the corporate worship service something is terribly wrong. Sadly, this is becoming more frequent.
  23. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks Pastor Underwood for your word. I just haven't experienced that in the PCA, Reformed Baptist, nor Fundamentalist Churches I have been a part of. Sometimes I have experienced the opposite because the teaching coming outside of the home is backed up by outside sources. In other words, "It isn't because my Dad told me this is what the Bible means." Does that make sense?

    Just as I posted before.... we can make anything idolatrous. God calls his own. I was saved by reading a Bible in a historical context of understanding Cecil B. Demille's Ten commandments. I AM was the dude in the bush. Something our children now days do not understand nor have heard. John 8:58
  24. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Well said, Bill. I have seen this at its worst where the father attempts to interpose himself between his children and the sacraments, literally taking the bread and cup from the elders for all his family and distributing them as if he were some kind of mini-priest.

    Well, said, Lawrence. We ought to denounce unbiblical extremes, but not let them frighten us from biblical duties.
  25. puritanpilgrim

    puritanpilgrim Puritan Board Junior

    Can I have some examples of extremes that certain FIC churches are taking things to? I keep hearing about this thrown around, but I'm hearing specific examples. Also, this should not be criticized so quickly on a reformed board. As far as I know, the reformers were family integrated. As far as I can tell, Holy gathering in Old and New Testament were FIC. This is a reformed board. Does the regulative principle have no bearing at all on this issue? This is about a worship service. How were the worship services conducted in the NT? Fish don't know they are wet. We need to consider how many cultural assumptions we are carrying in. Age segregation in classes goes back to the early twentieth century. Most of us have always done things in an age segregated way, so the idea of doing it differently seems very odd. But we should be sure our discent is based upon scripture. What are the scriptures against family integration in worship? What are the scriptures supporting youth groups, age segregated sunday school, and children's church/nursery?
  26. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member


    My objection to some extreme FIC views has little to do with the worship service. My church does not have age segregated Sunday school or children's church. Families are together for both functions. I become concerned when the family usurps the role of the church. You ask for examples? I believe they have been given. Don't allow the discussion to get stuck on peripheral details such as whether a church should have a youth group or not. Be more concerned that there is not a blurring of the line of distinction between the function of the church and the family unit. If that distinction remains then a church can decide for itself whether or not to have age integration in the worship service or have/not have a youth group.
  27. Parker234

    Parker234 Puritan Board Freshman

    My wife and I attended a FIC church for three years. The first year was painfully difficult, because we had a two year old and a newborn infant. A few months ago, we decided to stop attending. Even though several of the families with small children had managed to get their children to sit still for a 3 Hr+ service (they had to have "practice church" during the week, with spankings if they left their chairs), my wife and I struggled tremendously, and eventually left the church for a PCA church with a nursery after we found out that our third child would be here soon. The FIC model is very difficult to follow with a newborn, a two year old and a four year old. Ultimately, my wife was bending under the weight of the stress and dreaded going to church each week. That's no way to worship, even if you love the community you're in.

    My respect to those who do it.

    As to the insulation mentioned, my experience with this church was that the teaching was rock-solid exposition, but the church had zero outreach, though it did give to missions. Anybody who came to our services would be immediately frustrated at finding out that their kids would have to sit and scream through a very long service. When I spoke to the elders about how helpful a nursery would be for us, they stated that they were very committed to the FIC model. They ultimately felt it better to see my family and I leave than to give up that model, which I was never committed to in the first place.

    What I did learn by attending there, however, was the importance of raising my own children in the Lord and not leaving it to a sunday school teacher. I was thankful for my experience there, but it was frustrating for me to know that the elders saw our family's struggle and to consider the model more important than looking out for sheep who were set to leave the fold over this issue.
  28. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Adam, I'm sorry to hear that your experience went the way that it did and that you experienced what you did with your elders. A three hour service is a bit long, in my opinion, if that is a weekly occurence. Our congregation is family integrated. We do provide an area for parents to take their children if they need to be quieted, fed, disciplined, etc.

    BTW, I used to get over to McPherson every now and then when I lived in Kansas; nice town.
  29. Grimmson

    Grimmson Puritan Board Sophomore

    It is educational term, and a category that is actually wise to keep in mind. You wouldn’t teach a two year old the same way as a 12 year old, or even 17 year old. It considers the mental growth and ability of the child in question to meet obtainable, and realistic objectives for educational growth. It derived from educational research and psychology in the last 100 years of children education and can be quite productive if used wisely. It is not anti-biblical, and can/should be considered in a child’s Christian education; particularly with the application of how the Christian language and the Law are used. And yes we have our own language in the sense of how we use terms.

    And in regards to Christian education, it should be a joint effort between the parent and the church in equal harmony. It is not just the parents’ responsibility alone to educate children. The church does have a role to play in the training up of fathers and assisting parents by providing solid theological education to children with consideration to the child’s age and background as they are brought near to Christ. However this is not to negate the parents responsibility, but to cooperative effort to lead one in the tradition of the church with the scriptures as the foundation. We do not want parents to teach contrary to what the church teaches in relation to scripture. And it can happen if we start to raise parents educational role higher then that of the church. In some cases parents do not know at times what their talking about on certain issues and have not thought about it critically.

    I have seen some good home schooling in the secular sense and I seen more often poor home-schooling in the secular sense. If parents cannot always be trusted to properly teach standardized objective subjects like math, should we always trust them in the teaching of their children the Bible and theology. Proverbs 32 comes to mind, “God helps those who help themselves.” Some parents actually believe that statement comes from scripture and we know here in this board that such a statement is not in scripture.

    Parents do not always know what their child is capable of. Particularly with the first born. Their not always wise, particularly fathers, in what appropriate for the child’s education, but that why God gave parents grandparents, and I would also include wise gray-haired elders of the church, so that the parents could be guided along with what best for their children.

    Family Integration can be positive experience for a family, but I have seen what I consider things of a negative nature. One example is during communion, where the heads of the family went up and grabbed individuals glasses and plates for their family individually take communion together, instead of the entire church taking it at once. I don’t think the heads of families are personally qualified to pass out the elements and must be instituted and guided by the Pastor/Elder for the entire church to take the right together. What would prevents such families to not take communion at home? In a sense it turns the family into a small little church with the father as pastor. It can neglect single men, whereby they are forced to pray and partake of communion alone. I don’t think anyone should take communion alone. Now these people that I saw doing this, were nice people. The problem is that the families take priority over everyone else in the church.

    I knew one family that visited with me was uncomfortable with the church because all the women dressed as if they were from “Little House of the Prairie” (my friend’s wife’s words, that was visiting with me, not mine)and there was little attempt to get ease the feeling of uneasiness of the family through visitation. Neither I nor my friend was personally visited at my home. Between the dress, the application of the sacraments, and the children citing catechism questions and bible verses (which I liked the children involvement in the service), without any instruction why any of this was going on, could create a cultic feeling. Now they were not a cult, but they could still create that feeling and scare off people that could hear the gospel. Now there are ways that I think this can be remedied, through visitation of visitors to explain why they do what they do, that they don’t bind a type of dress on their women folk, that you don’t have to home-school your child to attend or be active there, and creating something in place were single people are not neglected and actually used in the church, instead of ignored or scared off.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 16, 2010
  30. Montanablue

    Montanablue Puritan Board Doctor

    I grew up in a church that was FIC and it slowly moved towards this model of the father being a "mini-priest." (My family left for that reason among others)

    Another problem I've seen is the way the church treats singles, particularly younger singles. (elderly widows and widowers are generally exempt from poor treatment since they've been part of a family). This is certainly a peripheral issue, but it can be disheartening for a single to feel the pressure to marry "because that's what a committed Christian does" or to be in some manner blamed for their single status. Even if the church doesn't go out of its way to belittle you, there's really just no place for a "one person family" in many FICs. I know this isn't the case in all FICs, but it was rampant in the one we attended when I was a child and I've seen it in ones I've visited more recently as well. I've been very grateful to attend a church where I'm not looked down upon because I'm still unmarried.
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