Every time I accept the call to preach at a church, I get mixed reactions about the past preacher. Some think that he was God’s gift to the ministry and hated to see him go. Others think that he was the anti Christ and they rejoiced the day he left to go somewhere else. Strive to keep my thoughts to myself about the past preacher because I know when the day comes for me to leave these same people will make similar comments about me. Today, I have one thing to say about the past preacher, when he promoted family integrated ministry here, I believe that was a move in the right direction. Look around at this congregation, full of families, Potters and Baileys. Make the most of these family connections.
Pleasant Ridge is a family integrated church. Most noticeable in our worship where everyone worships together- all ages, babies to senior citizens. In a nutshell, being “family integrated” means that we strive to be an intergenerational church that focuses on being “together.” We strive to integrate the family unit throughout everything we do, instead of “dividing” families. Too often, the church becomes a place of “division”- with families driving to church together and then going their separate ways at church, only coming together again when they get back in the car for the ride home. As a family integrated church, we seek to give children, parents, grandparents, and the like, the opportunity to grow in the Lord together.
Let's talk about the family integrated movement
Burden for the brood
Ken Ham in book, Already Gone, published in 2009 found this: 61% of today’s young adults who were regular church attendees are now ‘spiritually disengaged.’ They are not actively attending church, praying, or reading their Bible.”
A similar statistic from the Barna Group from 2011 indicates that, on the whole, 59% of young adults with a church background “drop out” after graduating high school. This statistic and others like them are discussed by David Kinnaman in the book, You Lost Me.
Big deal, this happens in every generation and in the end many of them come back. Yes, but this number is higher than with past generations and considering only about 1/3rd came back to the church from past generations, we will see a greater number of our youth leaving and never coming back. Many of them are our children and grandchildren. Are we concerned?
What can be done? Ken Ham in Already Gone after commenting about Sunday schools said this: Part of the concern is that the mere existence of youth ministry and Sunday school allows parents to shrug off their responsibilities as the primary teachers, mentors, and pastors to their family. The other part of the concern is that, again, what we are doing just isn’t working. If the existence of our Christian education and youth ministry programs are not working, why not dump them altogether? David Kinnaman says this in You Lost Me: The concept of dividing people into various segments based on their birth years is a very modern occurrence. Many churches have allowed themselves to become internally segregated by age. Because of this age segregation, churches are unintentionally contributing to the rising tide of alienation that defines our times. If you lead a faith community, prioritize intergenerational relationships. Deep relationships happen only by spending time, and big chunks of it, in shared experiences. For the most part, these connections won’t happen by accident.
From these comments and others like them, the family integrated church has come about.
“Afterwards, Joshua read all the words of the law--the blessings and the curses--just as it is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the aliens who lived among them.” Joshua 8:34, 35, NIV.
At Tyre- “But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray.” Acts 21:5, NIV.
Mostly the early church met in homes- Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned twice as having the church meet at their house (Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19). We can imagine the children running in and out but also participating in the worship.
If 60% are leaving, then 40% are staying. So, why do they stay? Dara Powell and Chap Clark, in the book Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids, published in 2011, say there are 3 common factors among those who remain in the church:
1. The children are raised in a culture that emphasizes a relationship with Christ.
2. The children are surrounded by an intergenerational church family.
3. The children have parents who took seriously their task of teaching God’s Word.
Many well meaning parents are afraid they will “mess everything up” if they try to teach their children. After all, isn’t that the job of the church. If little Johnny has a question, they encourage him to ask his Sunday school teacher. If Susie wants to know more about Jesus and how to be saved, they take her to talk to the minister or a youth leader. And, while there is nothing wrong with these things, this represents a shift in what is now a wide “gulf.” The Bible is put on the shelf at home, only to be taken down when we walk out the door and head to church. Today, the bulk of most Biblical instruction takes place inside the walls of a church building, instead of inside the intimacy of the home.
What does God’s Word say? Who is responsible for teaching the children? The church or the home? The Bible says the home is to be the place. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6, 7, NIV. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4, NIV.
Had a young lady come to me and ask “what must I do to be saved?” I could have met with her over several evenings and talked about this, but I didn’t. What did I do? Well, I gave her a book on salvation and baptism, we showed this book to the family, and she and this family went through that book together. That is where it best happens, in the home.
I encourage us to look up family integrated church or ministry and not to just take my word for it. However, when we look up this information, I must give words of caution. Family integrated churches come from many different strands of Christendom. Beyond this we must also be wary of going “beyond what is written.” 1 Corinthians 4:6, NIV. More than 3 but mention 3:
1. Any activities that go on in the church must include the whole family. Anything that does not include the whole family is wrong and heretical. We have Sunday school, VBS, church camp, Ladies events. According to some in the family integrated movement, we are wrong and heretical. Each family must determine what is best for them, but to say that others are sinning because they take part in Sunday school, seems to me to be going “beyond what is written.”
2. Some family integrated churches shun and refuse to fellowship with sister churches because they do not promote the family integrated model. This promotes division in the Restoration Movement and among the Lord’s churches. To me this is promoting division and going against the prayer of Jesus in John 17. This is going beyond what is written.
3. The family integrated model works best for families that homeschool. Those families who are unable or ill equipped to homeschool are shunned and are on the outside looking in. My family homeschools all but one of our 4 children. My family believes that homeschooling is the best way to fulfill the command to bring up our children in the training and instruction of the Lord. However, each family must decide what is best for them. When we knew that one of my sons had special needs, we made the difficult decision to put him in a special needs public school. Education of children is an important decision each family needs to seriously consider. However, I pray that we never shun those who choose a different education environment than homeschooling. I pray that I am not shunned because one of our sons is in a public school. To me, this is going beyond what is written.
V. Big ideas to boost
Need to promote family devotions
In the fall, winter, and spring, we have a Wednesday night fellowship meal. Here we have tables of families- children, adults, teens and college students- all talking, laughing and sharing their lives. After this we strive to have Bible study time that includes whole family.
Children in worship- As children watch their parents, grandparents, other extended family worshipping, we modeling for them what it means to worship God and serve in the church. I know that babies, toddlers, and young children are challenges. However, the rewards later on are worth it. People, especially children, need to learn how to conduct themselves in God’s household- 1 Timothy 3:15.
Family fun trips
Family mission trips- heard of a family go to Mark and Helen Begarly in Zimbabwe.
Kick ball game was tremendous. Need more of those times. Trying to do things on Sunday nights before worship for the whole family. To be honest we are running out of ideas. Need help from you and might need outside help like a family minister.
For more information about Family Integrated churches: https://ncfic.org/
Another thing in favor for family integrated churches is this model prevents sexual predators from preying on children. For more information on this go to: http://www.veritybaptist.com/fic.html