Family integration is the embodiment of the belief that the most basic context for the believers which make up Christ’s church is the family. Additionally, it is founded on the principle that God has ordained the family as the most fundamental institution of all human society. When families break down, so do cultures and nations.
Family integration strives to create a church whose practices and ordinances strengthen families. If a church is populated by weak or loosely bound families, then sooner or later, the church will struggle and falter. What structure can withstand the challenges of our world with a foundation that is crumbling?
In light of this need to preserve and protect the family, Christ Covenant Church has decided not to offer a separate Sunday School or children’s church. Why would we do this? The absence of Sunday School or children’s church means that families sing together, pray together, learn together, and grow together. Everything is done with and through families. We think this is the best form of youth ministry and discipleship training.
Additionally, we encourage family members to grow within their Biblically defined roles by providing specific teaching and opportunities to put into practice the lessons learned. It is this kind of family-based spiritual development that we believe enables families to live out the discipleship principles taught in Deuteronomy 6.
Family Integrated Churches come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. There are FICs in virtually every denominational and theological tradition, and in most sections of the country. While no two FICs are exactly alike, simply said they do have certain distinctives in common:
Families Worship Together If you’ve ever walked into a FIC during a worship service, perhaps the first thing that struck you was the fact that there were so many babies and small children in the service. We have grown accustomed to the presence of children in the service, and the children grow accustomed to being a part of the worship experience. No one will stop you at the door if you try to enter our service with your toddler. No Systematic Age Segregation One of the biggest distinctions of a FIC is the absence of age-graded ministries. We do not have segregated youth ministry, or children’s ministry. First, these ministries are not part of the biblical church model. The Bible is clear on whose job it is to disciple children... parents. Second, these ministries can work against the biblical mode. Parents who are relieved of their discipleship duties tend to become dependent on those who have taken over the job. And, as Dr. Alvin Reid has noticed, “The largest rise of youth professionals in history has been accompanied by a decline in youth evangelism effectiveness.” Evangelism and Discipleship through Homes We teach parents to evangelize and disciple their children and their neighbors. We emphasize the ministry of hospitality, family worship, catechism, and family discipleship. Thus, instead of placing the burden on paid professionals to “do the work of the ministry,” we equip the saints to do it. Education as a Key Component of Discipleship Jesus said, “A pupil is not above his teacher, but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Whoever educates a child is discipling that child. We work hard to help parents see the importance of Christian education, and to help them make biblical choices as it relates to this part of their children’s discipleship.
Why Family Integration?
We believe the family is an integral part of the unfolding of God’s eternal purpose for the redemption of sinners. This salvation has been passed on in great measure to the succeeding generations of parents who faithfully disciple the children God gives them. Therefore, the biblical order and unity of the family are crucial to the stability and health of the Church of Jesus Christ. Statistics clearly support that when parents disciple their own children, an overwhelming majority of those children remain in the faith after leaving home. However, when that job is delegated to the church staff, a similarly overwhelming majority leave the faith. Why do they leave the faith when they leave the home? Why are children disconnected from their parents faith?
Voddie Baucham, Jr. writes in Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes:
It’s important that we recognize the synergy between what we do as churches and what people do in their families. It’s quite unreasonable to assume that things can continue to hinder family discipleship on a corporate level and yet allow us to see success in a personal level. The things we do corporately will go a long way toward determining how much we can expect to change privately. If there’s a crisis at church, there will most assuredly be a crisis in the home as well.
We believe the generation gap is widened with the age-based segregation and fragmentation common in most churches today. The typical family experience on Sunday morning is one filled with separate classes, separate social influences, and many times separate worship experiences. In the age-segregated experience, children are constantly bombarded with competing influences which often seem more compelling and attractive than mom and dad. How can parents compete? We believe they shouldn’t have to.
Family integrated churches recognize the need to protect families from being broken apart so that the parents remain the primary influence in the children’s lives. When the hearts of the children are turned toward their parents, true discipleship can happen, and the key to a multi-generational vision for Christ’s Church is established.
How is this possible?
Family integration runs counter to the prevailing winds in our culture. Everywhere you look, temptations exist to break away from God’s design for the family and for His church. It is a daunting task to think about rejecting cultural norms where appropriate and walking in a way that may seem a bit peculiar.
Many of us have not grown up in churches where family unity is protected and preserved, and such an emphasis on the family requires the parents and the children to pursue their Biblical roles with great perseverance. In a church where programs and age-segregated ministries aren’t there, the parents are the only ones left to take the leads in discipleship and training. This is unusual territory for many of us because so much of our spiritual and educational experiences have historically been characterized by turning our children over to the “the experts”. However, no one knows or loves children more than their parents, and God commands parents to take the lead in whole life discipleship in places like Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6. Therefore, we focus on equipping the family to function as God intended. Fathers are exhorted to lead and teach. Mothers are encouraged to support and nurture. Children are trained to respect authority and be service minded. But we can’t do it alone. A family integrated church is essentially a “family of families”. In a fashion similar to family unity, we strive to build a community of believers who share the vision of extending God’s Kingdom through the generations. Just as openness and honesty is critical within a family, so also is it vital for a church body.
When churches comprised of strong families extend their influence throughout our society, God will be glorified, and the world can be changed.