Friday, July 22, 2011

Ask RC: We can’t find a family integrated church, what should we do?

First, whenever the question is, “What should we do?” the best first answer is “Repent and believe the gospel.” God does not welcome into His kingdom only those who both trust in the finished work of Christ alone and don’t allow their children into youth group. Some, sad to say, get so excited about discovering that the notion that our children must attend youth group or Sunday School is nothing more than tradition with no biblical warrant, end up with a rather distorted sense of priorities. Some forget the vital distinction between primary and secondary issues. Some, I’m afraid, would rather be in a family-integrated Mormon “church” than a divided evangelical church. Even more, almost as bad, would rather not be in a church than be in a divided church. In order not to divide up their family, the whole family is divided from the church, as these families set up their own “churches” in their own homes. These are in turn cut off from the blessings of elders, pastors, the communion of the saints and the grace of discipline. They are divided from the church. It is madness.

Second, one can always be a family integrated family, even without a family integrated church. I know of no church that requires its members to send their children to youth group, or to Sunday School. You can keep your family together even when others don’t see the wisdom of doing so. You may have to miss Sunday School, or you could, graciously and kindly ask if your child or children might sit in on the adult Sunday School, or if you might sit in in theirs. You can always teach your family together at home before you go to join the saints in corporate worship on the Lord’s Day morning.

Third, you can relax. Though I am confident that a family-integrated church is the best way to go, though I would love to see many churches go back to how the church operated over the centuries, I know in turn that there are plenty of family integrated churches that have far deeper problems than some non family integrated churches. I know that most non family integrated churches have far deeper problems than not being family integrated. We are bodies made up of sinners, and so we ought not be surprised when sin shows its ugly head in our corporate life. When it does, our first instinct ought to be to look for the log in our own eyes. The youth leader is likely not secretly seeking to seduce your children to the dark side. He wants to help. The octogenarian Sunday School teacher isn’t the devil’s handmaiden. She wants to help. The elders who created these programs, even if those programs have some overlap with a Darwinian understanding of education, are not a cabal of Darwinians. They want to help.

With all the cancer my family has been through I have had countless deeply caring people suggest countless alternative therapies. Though they might be right, my response is a sincere, “No thank you.” I don’t need to make them agree with me. I don’t need to defeat their arguments or evidence. I don’t need to have internet wars over their theories. I just pass on what they offer. Sometimes I read their information. Sometimes I don’t. You certainly can feel free to talk to others about your commitment to keeping your family together. You can talk to your pastor and your elders about the issue. But if they don’t hear you as loving, gracious, relaxed, and committed to the well being of the congregation, then you have a bigger problem than age segregation. You have a Hebrews 13:17 problem.:
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief for that is unprofitable for you.
So back to step one. Repent, and believe the gospel.

42 comments:

Daniel J. Mount said...

About twelve years ago, after attending a certain church for about a year with my family, we took the membership class. While Sunday School had been strongly encouraged, up until that point we hadn't understood it to be mandatory.

On the final week of the membership class, as we were to become members the following week, the church leadership pulled us aside and informed us that there was one more thing. As members of the church, it was now mandatory that the children be put in Sunday School.

Since we had already thought through our convictions on the issue, we said that we would continue to worship as a family. Over the next week or two, while they did not tell us to leave in so many words, they told us that our ongoing presence there would be divisive and made it clear that we were no longer welcome. So we regretfully left.

Thankfully, there aren't many churches like that, but yes, there are a few churches that require Sunday School participation.

Michaele said...

You write - "I know of no church that requires its members to send their children to youth group, or to Sunday School." Sadly, as VISITORS we were turned away from entering a church sanctuary with our premature baby and other young children because children were not allowed in the sanctuary, but had four separate classrooms & a nursery they were required to attend where things were more on their "level".

We attempted to appeal as we had not worshiped together as a family for our four month separation while I, and then my baby daughter, were in the hospital stalling off a devestating premature birth and then she was growing from 2 lbs. 11 oz to 5 lbs. 5 oz and learning to breathe on her own.

It is a fellowship of churches that teaches this way, and we were turned away on the basis of it. I grieved in my spirit for the single mom whose children have been abused when she attempts to enter any of these Christian churches and is turned away. As I do not readily hand my children off to strangers, and my baby daughter was at risk and wasn't allowed to be around other babies until she turned 2, we were forced from God's house. I will not name the place publicly, but I would like to dissuade you from the notion that there are no rules against children in the sanctuary in any churches, and if you would like to write privately I would not mind providing you with the name of this church if you desire. It is not obscure and you will probably recognize it. I enjoyed the rest of your post as I do many of your writings.

Stacy McDonald said...

Excellent article! I am so glad you're discussing the importance of being in a church, as imperfect as it may be, and avoiding what we like to call "Lone Ranger Christianity".

However, I will say that James and I, at one point, attended a church that would not allow young children in the sanctuary (it was televised). If by chance a family made it inside with their little ones, the pastor, from the pulpit, would say, "Ushers, wake up." And the ushers would descend on the poor, oblivious family and escort them out.

I recall, one of our last Sundays there, seeing an usher following behind a tearful young mom who was heading to the parking lot with her baby while an usher followed behind her trying to explain.

We were also told that our children were headed for rebellion for not allowing them to attend youth group.

R.C. said...

Wow. So sorry to have my eyes opened further on this. It helps put in perspective the whole "divisive" claim, doesn't it, when they are the ones requiring us to submit to their tradition. I'm sorry for those experiences you all have had, but am grateful that many, many churches which are not self-consciously f-i-c, at least allow folks to follow their conscience while there.

Troy said...

In our previous church after being a deacon for 1 1/2 yrs our 1st child entered the youth. We'd only homeschooled and she was coming home telling about inappropriate language and behavior over the next year. The youth pastor claimed that there was not a problem and the senior pastor was disconnected. Long story short. I removed my now 2 youth from Wed night youth group and had them join me and my wife in adult prayer. They/We were seen as a "white elephant in the room" and I was asked to step down as a deacon or return my children to the youth group. I agreed to step down at the end of the 2nd year during normal rotation on a 3 yr term. My wife had been reading "Uniting Church and Home" by Eric Wallace and a church friend recommend a local FIC where he attended a baptism. We have attended the FIC for 4 1/2 yrs and are learning how to live in peace with our Creator. We miss and love many people from our previous church and see them on occasion. I also regret the year+ my oldest daughter was in that particular youth group. Help us Lord to raise our children in a culture that wants to swallow them!

Anonymous said...

I am curious why you put Mormon "church" in quotations?
I am new here, from Raising Olives so don't know your stance on those not of your specific Christian sect.
I hope I am wrong and can continue to be a reader!
Ashley

R.C. said...

Anonymous,
I put church in quotes because the Mormon church is not a church but a cult that denies the deity of Christ among other grievous errors. In short, I take the same view of the relationship between the church of Jesus Christ and the the latter day saints church that the latter day saints took for the first hundred years of their existence. I for one remember when they were honest enough to admit they weren't Christian and when Christians were smart enough to know it as well. You are, of course, welcome to read here, or at Raising Olives. Perhaps the Holy Spirit might give you life.

MamaJ said...

We have also attended a church that told us our toddler wasn't welcome in the sanctuary. We were just starting to train him to sit in the church service and a member told us that we were 'supposed to let the Sunday School teachers do their job'. There were other factors, but we didn't stay at that church very long.

Christine said...

I too have attended a Messianic congregation where the children were strongly discouraged from staying in the sanctuary, and the sabbath school was basically babysitting. We were only visiting, so I'm not sure if they would have allowed kids in the service if we had insisted.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification on your stance on other Christians. Perhaps, being a Christian, it would benefit you to learn the true doctrine of the LDS church prior to putting harsh labels such as "cult" or "not Christian" on us. (LDS.org and Mormon.org give a great representation of who we are!)
Jesus Christ is my Savior, Redeemer and King! Christ, the Holy Ghost and God are my light and life.
I will happily be reading at RO from now on...
Ashley (only anon due to no blog)

R.C. said...

Ashley,
As I stated, LDS is not Christian, as they used to say. Can't see why you'd fault me for agreeing with your own fathers. I pray God would be pleased to bring you to repentance and saving faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity. Then we could stand together, along with all other Christians.

abba12 said...

As far as I know we don't have FIC's here in Australia, except for some catholic and high anglican churches which still keep children in the service.

In Australia it is much more accepted to have infants and babies in the service, no church I have attended would ever think of turning away a woman with a premmie baby in her arms. However, once they reach creche age (usually about 2.5) the pressure is on and people take it very personally if you do not send your children.

While our church is not FIC, the pastor keeps the children in the service once a month for 'generation sunday' so I suspect he already holds to this idea in some way. As such, I think we will be very fortunate to not have too much trouble keeping our children in the service, at least, not from the leadership.

Youth group is a whole other issue though! There is even more emphasis on youth group than there is on sunday school and creche at the moment, but, that's many years away, and things will change between now and then. We shall see how things are in another 10 years.

Christina Anderson said...

Posting to leave a note of encouragement to those who are not surrounded by FIC churches --- we aren't either and we worship together as a family. We moved 2 years ago to a whole new area of our nation and the church search proved to be quiet overwhelming. Our hearts were being burdened/convicted for how we had always "done church" , and we new there were decisions to be made on how we would move forward from this point as a family.

We did make the firm decision to worship corporately as a family. We soon realized there were NOT many churches in our area at all that advertised themselves as FIC's. We did find , however, that there are some so bold to post on their website children under 11 are not allowed to enter their sanctuary. We didn't know how hard our journey may be, but we knew the convictions and obedient step we must take in this journey.

We visited churches with our children and yes, admittedly received some odd looks when we didn't leave our children in a separate worship service, but we knew God would provide. Sure enough, we are in a church family that has a completely separate children's worship service during our corporate worship time that we do not participate in --- but we do so with support from our church staff. You see, we learned long ago, most pastors do not mind you not "conforming" to everything that is "normal" in the church if you share with them your convictions and explain where you are coming from. The open conversation my husband had with our pastor about our decision to keep our children with us before we joined, I believe, comforted our pastor. It let him know that we weren't there to turn "their way of doing things" upside down, but instead we wanted to come in to this church family as a compliment to the churches work in the way we feel God has lead us scripturally to worship. We also had conversation with the children's worship pastor to communicate our convictions and decisions there. We have a great relationship there as well.

Our pastor knows we will answer honestly when asked why we keep our children with us, but he knows fully what that answer is and what our hearts are in that answer. He knows we aren't trying to be hateful or divisive. It has been hard at times to feel like we are "walking alone" in this journey - but we know God has provided and directed and walked along with us. He has given us opportunity to minister to many other families, he has drawn many to ask us why we worship this way, and we have had opportunity (with the pastors blessing) to start a group fellowship time during the week where several families from our church meet and eat with our children included in it all! There have been many families become interested in this way of "doing church". It has been encouraging to see God bless our obedience by allowing us to minister for Him in this area.

Clearly communicating with your church staff from the get go can ease a lot of unknowns for them and aide in you receiving blessing from them in this journey!

Ginger said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying this. We have personally seen so many come to our church and leave because we aren't family integrated enough. (We do offer a Desiring God class for children under 5 if their parents so choose.) These families never asked about our statement of faith or stayed long enough to realize that our pastor is unapologetic in preaching the gospel exactly as it is biblically (not "God has a wonderful plan for your life"). All they care about is that some families choose not to keep their littles in the sanctuary with them during the sermon. Family integration is important to us, but it is secondary to the biblical gospel.

I also agree with the others that there certainly are churches and plenty of them in our experience, who require children to attend children's church, where they will be "happier and have more fun". {eyeroll}

Anonymous said...

I appreciate this post. We also keep our kids with us in the service when everyone else lets their kids go to Sunday School. While we don't feel pressure from the Pastor to put the kids in Sunday School, it is very difficult for our kids to sit in the main service knowing that all of their peers get to go off to have "fun" while they must sit still and quiet (even though we've been doing this for nearly two years). Our children are young, ages 9,7,7, and 5 (we put our 3 year old and 1 year old in the nursery). We try to make sure their experience is positive. We cuddle, explain things to them, let them hold onto a small stuffed animal, look up verses in their Bibles, etc. but every Sunday it seems like they are unmotivated to go to church, and although we've explained why we worship together, and that others are free to do what they think is best for their families, they ask continually to attend Sunday School.

My husband cannot be with us every Sunday due to his work schedule. There are times when I feel like giving up! I don't want them to dislike church! The one FIC church near us does not even have a nursery, so I could not go to it. Any thoughts, or encouragement would be welcome! Thanks! Dyan

R.C. said...

I understand your challenges. We have many of the same challenges. Our decision, however, has been to keep our children with us. If you are not already doing so, it might help if you practice family worship during the week. (Of course, whether it helps or not I'd encourage you to do this.) One, it helps children understand the importance of worship all through the week. Second, it helps them learn to sit still. And perhaps most important, it helps them learn to participate. Learn the service music, and the frequent hymns. The more they are able to participate on Sunday the less unhappy they will be to be there.

DangAndBlast! said...

Of course, if it's your own, well-behaved children, that's one thing. If it's someone else's ill-behaved children, that's another. I had to move to the other side of the room last Sunday because the children behind me were chatting loudly and the parents were doing nothing to get them to quiet down, and I couldn't hear the sermon. We've also had children run up and start playing on the drums during prayers, while their parents had their eyes closed and didn't pay attention until the prayers were over. If you have excessively permissive parents in your congregation... Colicky screamers aren't conducive either...

(This from a church where nursery is an option, but not at all mandated; and where there's a large special-needs contingent, so it's actually pretty common to see a mother take out her (teenaged) mentally handicapped child who starts screaming uncontrollably (same child who often makes it through service just fine!), and not at all "not done" for at least some parents to know the difference between "we welcome anyone willing to participate in the service" and "if your child is uncontrolled and loud, the child's not getting anything from the service and is also driving away other people.")

(As a side note, one of my good friends often breastfeeds during the service - says it keeps the baby quiet!)

"Cricket" Renner said...

I appreciate your pastoral comments. Can you steer the NCFIC in that direction and away from their legalism that all systematic age-segregated training is evolutionary and sinful?

I wholeheartedly agree about corporate worship services being integrated. However, we have freedom in other discipleship opportunities to either age-segregate or integrate. I find much of the NCFIC "confession" to have very poor exegesis and scripture proofs.

Can NCFIC honestly say that having a children's catechism class is evolutionary or sinful?

Also, if confronted with a non-FIC reformed church and a FIC-independent/evangelical church, I fear many in the NCFIC "movement" would encourage attendance at the latter, making doctrine less important than the existence of age-segregated classes.

Finally, in FIC churches, do they ever teach on 'adult' topics like sex, money, etc? I think it'd be hard to have a Sunday school or Bible study with my 5 year old daughter, your teenage son, and anyone teaching about topics like those. So, do FIC churches just avoid those kinds of topics, or just not have any additional discipleship training outside of worship services?

I agree much of the youth/entertainment culture is a bad influence, but let's not completely discard training young people (as an elder, I'm called to be able to teach) ... instead let's reform HOW we do that.

In His service in Alaska,
"Cricket"

ryansprague85 said...

Cricket, Just to be clear, I am not speaking for RC or this blog. I'm a reader just like you.

I'd like to address your issue of "adult" topics. I'm a pastor, father of four young sons, former youth pastor, and current FIC leaner. I've heard this "adult" topic concern before, and I'd like to offer something for us all to consider.

I resent driving by pornographic stores advertised as "adult" or seeing pornographic media labeled "adult" movies and "adult" books. The truth is they are evil. Sex and money aren't "adult" topics, they are topics, period. (I'm not equating your usage with theirs, only helping establish a point for later)

When Paul addressed these issues to the church in Corinth or Ephesus, the letter was read for the whole congregation (kids included) to hear.

My kids are all under 8 years of age, and we have had them tithing, saving, and learning about money since they could count, and began desiring things from the grocery store.

As far as sex is concerned. God created it. It's a critical element of his design for marriage. It's not icky. The world has perverted it, and the residue of the worlds distortion makes us hesitant to discuss it with our little one., But, at least in our home, when it comes up, it comes up.

We freely teach them about blood, saliva, breast feeding, organs, the eyes, etc. all to the glory of the Creator, why not sex?

Obviously, I'm not preaching on details of the marital union from the pulpit, but you better believe the members of the congregation will hear the teaching that same sex sexual behavior is not God's design. Where scripture is silent, I will be silent, but where it speaks, I will speak.

Our kids desperately need to hear the truth of God's design. Shoot, more than 15 years I ago my dad took a wrong turn and we found ourselves in the middle of a crowd of men engaged in open homosexual behavior (hand holding, kissing, etc) My point is, no matter how much we shelter our kids, they will see this stuff at the mall, at target, at Disney, even in the church. We have to teach them God's design, or we run the risk of them assuming sinful activity to be part of God's plan.

We cannot afford to be silent with the truth when culture is screaming their lies.

"Cricket" Renner said...

Pastor Sprague,

I really appreciate your words, and agree wholeheartedly with most of what you've said.

We must be talking with our children about all these things, true. So, maybe my point wasn't the best in that regard.

I guess I get worked up about the FIC movement for a couple of reasons:

1. They have about 90% very good words/thoughts/emphasis (discussion of children in worship, I completely agree). However, they then make that a mandatory, there-is-no-freedom/you-are-sinning-if every single church event is not age-integrated.

2. They have poor exegesis for their scripture proofs. I've noticed they've changed some of them recently ... do you think the NCFIC has notified all the churches that signed the "confession" of these changes, or have they published why they've changed them?

3. I know "freedom" in the Christian life and in church is thrown around WAY too much, but can this organization REALLY say ALL age-segregated training is based on evolutionary methods? Even if it were, does that mean it's not a good way to teach people?

4. The organization emphasizes Family Integration, at times, over doctrine. As RC Jr rightly pointed out, you can have FIC churches that are NOT gospel-preaching.

Wouldn't it be better to push for reform of age-segregated discipleship training, rather than rejecting it all outright?

Thanks for the interaction!

The K. Family said...

I'm kinda late posting a comment :) We have been to churches where we have been asked to put our children in the nursery as we walked into the church. Now we have a wonderful family integrated church that we love! There's about 100 people on an average Sunday and we have no youth group, well, each family has their own youth group you might say. So don't dispair, there are some good family churches out there. Also, I have heard of some who ask the pastor if they can lead a family oriented sunday school class. Usually they are very well atteneded as many others feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

Our church (in Australia) has just recently become a family integrated church, a decision made by our pastor and the church eldership. Although it caused a few problems at the start, with a few families leaving, most of the church have welcomed it. We can already see the benefits of having our families worshipping together.

Anonymous said...

When we went out of state to visit family, we decided to go to a local Baptist church and asked if any of the kids wanted to go with us (they do not attend church).

Several of my nieces and nephews came with us and we all sat together and did not send the kids (ages 10 & 8) off to classes.

Well, that day the pastor was preaching in Mark and the text he discussed was cutting of your hand if it causes you to sin.

My 8-year-old niece because very upset and started crying and carrying on and I had to take her out of the sanctuary to calm her down.

There ARE things in the Bible that can be very upsetting to children. I think pastor's do need to keep this in mind.

Anonymous said...

I can speak from experience after spending three years on staff and serving in several ministries over the years. Our old church made the point of sending elders and/or deacons into the sanctuary to ask parents to remove their children from the service and put them in Sunday School or nursery. Also, when we moved to another state and our children were 10 and 13 they asked if they could sit with us in the service we said yes. After a few months we were accused of being divisive by not doing what all the other parents were doing and sending their children to Sunday School. Finally, I grew up as a Mormon and I can say first hand that we were taught to identify ourselves as Christian because it did give more legitimacy to our religion. Yet, the LDS church teaches a different gospel, a different christ, and a false view of heaven and salvation. I spent many, many years in the church and praise the Lord for His grace in saving me from that cult and forgiving me. Praise the Lord! We now attend a family integrated church but I will say that if you homeschool many, many churches go out of their way to attack those who are different in their family life from other Christians. There is a tendency among pastors to believe other pastors when it comes to condemning the practices of homeschoolers. I can totally understand why the puritans left England for America. Sometimes the attacks within the church against fellow believers is too much for any one family to endure. Granted the Puritans had to deal with a state who subjected them to prison but the jail sentence in some churches for homeschoolers who desire to attend church as a family can be quite cruel.

Rhonda Devine said...

Thanks for this post. My husband and Steve Fuentes, along with their families, just planted a FIC last fall. Before that, our family attended traditional mega churches for 22 years--but we still were able to practice family integration while there. I will say it was not always understood and we were excluded from ministry at times because we weren't mainstream enough, but we were allowed to worship together and for that we were grateful. It is so important to be part of the body of Christ wherever God has you and be under the teaching of the Word, even if it's not ideally the kind of setting you would wish for. I'm so thankful for the importance my husband placed on being involved and connected to a local body of believers.
Blessings & Prayers,
Rhonda for the Devine family

George said...

I have a question regarding what makes a primary issue and a secondary issue. I am part of an independent fundamental baptist church which seems to be the closest doctrinally to my understanding of the scriptures. However, I am finding it very difficult to make disciples when homeschooling and any type of family integration is undermined from the leadership of the church. Some other choices of churches in my area include UMC churches with female pastors, Roman Catholic, and health and wealth pentecostal. Is there ever a time when you start from your own house apart from other churches and begin a new work with another family rather than being part of a church that you are at odds with?
Regarding primary and secondary issues: Is the sufficiency of scripture a primary or secondary issue? If someone holds to the sufficiency of scripture but comes to a different conclusion than me with a reasonable argument from the scriptures then I believe I could be in fellowship with them at a church. However,most of the time I have found that the sufficiency of scripture is a doctrine of convenience. For example,it is believed for tithing but not for male headship. Where are you drawing the line for where your family can worship? Are you suggesting that families stay at churches where they are not going to be able to make disciples of Christ because they are dishonored on a regular basis? I would like some wisdom on this issue because I think about it on a daily basis.

Darrell said...

George, I can relate with your post. In Nov. 2007 I was happy to be living the life of a sinner. But on the 14th of that month the Lord reveled Himself to me. From that day forward I have been a very different man! I never attended church before or understood even the most basic things of religion. On that night of salvation I had an insatiable hunger for God's truth. I have come to find 98% of most church building attendees don't care about these very things you are talking about. And if you do bring anything up, you to end up the odd man out! Is this how you feel George? I want to find fellowship and fear putting my family I into most of these church buildings!

Anonymous said...

As far as the youth pastor "not secretly trying to seduce your child to the dark side," I know of at least two youth pastors sitting in jail for child molestation and another one would be there too if he had not committed suicide while the police were enroute to arrest him. Yes, there are youth pastors trying to seduce your children to the dark side, and I find no mention of a youth pastor in Scripture.

Vicky

Sandra said...

Back in 1976 my parents moved to a medium sized town in Northern Ohio where there was no Wisconsin Synod church, so they started a homechurch in our home. It was fairly easy, from my point of view. The pastor of the closest church (in Maumee) agreed to come after his regular Sunday service to preach to the half dozen families who met with us. It was a great lesson for me and my siblings as to the importance of one's theology (ultimately I got born again and forsook Lutheran theology.

karen horton said...

i found this article to be discouraging. it's possibly easier said than done to just go to the nearest local church since you are not in that situation. it's a much bigger issue than made here. i have found that those in the Family Integrated take it for granted what a blessing it is. we have been without it for years, we've not had any local F.I churches where we live. we have suffered much in the regular busy churches......where reformed teaching is taught but it's taught more antinomian and emergent. there is a coldness and a deadness to these churches. women walk around almost naked and we are constantly asked why we don't do sunday school and all the programs. we are pretty much invisible and alone. we had to finally go to a mega church because the small churches would pretty much ask you to leave if you did not participate. one preacher said we would be too different for their church. i know F.I. churches are so picked on that maybe y'all feel lead to put it down but it really is the best. and it's o.k. to say that. we don't have to be politically correct or relative here. We can stand on Godly wisdom!!!!! when we travel to visit F.I. churches it's always way better than where we attend so much so the last few months we decided it was better to travel to attend where our conscience is free. we have been so much happier and fulfilled!!!!!! we are way more encouraged!!!!!! we only have one child, due to health reasons, so our child really needs to have other children who are being raised like him and heck we need need it. it's not an easy world to survive in alone. we weren't made to be alone! i don't see how this is an issue of repenting at all. i see it that clearly F.I is better and we do not need to apologize for it. and one more thing, home churches can have pastors and elders too. we are not catholic and have to attend a big building. i was disappointed in this advice. you have such power and influence.....while youth groups or sunday school have good intentions , i clearly agree with that statement.... the issue is what is right, what is the best maximum thing to do for one's family. i think Voddie's new book Family Shepard was so excellent!!!! 80-90% of children are leaving the faith.......that says a lot. the current system of church is not working, in fact it is failing. it is not what God intended for the church and we are seeing the fruit of that. even if i disagree with you we are big R.c jr. sproul fans and pray for you often!!!! blessings

Karen horton

R.C. said...

Karen,
I'm sorry you found this piece discouraging. I suppose I would to, if I had said what somehow you think I said. First, I'm not unsympathetic. I have been in a non-family integrated church for over two years now. Our family, however, remains a family integrated family. We are such because I believe in family integration. My piece was not designed in the least as an attack on family integrated churches. I spoke at the first two Uniting Church and Home Conferences. I am interviewed in Divided. I am close friends with Scott Brown. In short, I'm on your side. What concerns me is when people like us elevate fic to such a high position that they end up in otherwise awful churches, or worse, become lone rangers. (I also have no quarrel with churches that meet in homes. I'm preached in such churches before. My beef is with churches made up of unaccountable men, or non-churches disguised as churches.) Oh, and I love Voddie's book, and Voddie as well. In short, the question I answered was not, "Should I be in a family integrated church or not." My question that I was answering was, "What do I do if I can't find one near where I am?" Hope that clears things up, and thank you for graciously raising your concern.

karen horton said...

R.C.,Thank you for writing back. I falsely assumed you were in a family integrated church. I was confused because you were one of the first introductions for us into F.I a couple of years ago. someone was telling us all about your stance on the family. and we read the book training up a child thereafter, that really encouraged us! we had come to many of those conclusions ourselves but had no idea F.I. existed. so that is where my assumption was that you were in one. i have OFTEN ironically, been envious imagining you all having that kind of church and support and thinking how alone we felt in the churches we have attended. so interesting that is not the case. i have imagined the persecuted in prison with no church. i do know it is not always possible to be in a F.I. church. my sister is bed bound and can not attend any church at this time. my health problems is the reason we need F.I. even more, i'm very isolated. i can't run around crazy busy in the typical local church. i'm just not able, but even if i were well, i wouldn't want that. so i really look forward to sundays and i want us to be together as a family. i'm very careful to not elevate it too much, most people have never even heard of it . what prompted me to write today, it still doesn't mean it's not better even if there is not one. and the youth teachers good intentions really got me. good intentions can be very dangerous if not guided by true wisdom. i'm so deeply saddened that F.I is so few. that we are just consumers in every way. that the family is so divided. and b.t.w. i've run into some not -so- great f.i. churches, i know people are not perfect, i know how deeply flawed i am, one of the worst for sure why i need family in the church oh so desperately! i did honestly raise the concern today from this article, wondering where the church will be if we continue to neglect the family, the headship of the husband etc, the role of the woman etc. the family is hurting so much in this culture. i want a better life for my son, not in the American way where he has a bigger house, a better job.i want him to have way more of Jesus than i did!!!! people travel for vacations, jobs, ball games etc. i think traveling for a better church is the best choice if possible. that was the answer we came up with after much prayer, when we can't find a local F.I. church. are we more Holy, no, are we more encouraged , Yes. are we a happier family, yes! just a good option to throw out there. it's that important to us. our best friends travel 2 1/2 hours for a F.I. church with 6 children, we thought they were CRAZY!!!!! we soon realized why they did it. and people think we are crazy now that we drive, not that far but still far. it's worth it, it really is. i pray this is for God's glory this long winded response!

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say that in a small town we don't have a lot of options. One local church booted members for not putting their children in youth. They were considered divisive. We raised many eyebrows in the church by taking our children to adult sunday school instead of shipping them off as well. We might have stayed had the church board (*not* elders) had such a high degree of tolerance for a professing and very vocal preterist in it's midst. We are very short on options! We now drive an hour to a home church with about 11 families and 2 elders. I would call it Family Integrated, homeschool friendly, and pretty solid theologically compared to what we've seen and experienced. I wish we had a closer option, but we don't. It can be very disheartening. We're okay with being black sheep, as long as we aren't being back stabbed by the elders and leaders.(It happens) The controversy and heartache aren't worth it.

Brian said...

Wow, I am praising God after reading these comments, that I have the church and the pastor that I have. We have several families, including my own, whose quivers are full, so to speak. Several families homeschool, including ours and the pastor's family. Perhaps that our congregation has only been around for a few years means that there hasn't been enough time to develop complacency-laden programs for people to get upset about. We're also situated in a community that's very heavily populated by military personnel. So there's always a constant revolving door of people coming and going. So a lot of the bickering or cliques, if there ever are any, don't really have a chance to get a foothold.

I found myself pretty upset that there are churches who would escort someone from the property if they refused to put their kids in Sunday school. Apparently, so many people have forgotten that church was never designed to be EXclusive, but rather, INclusive. That someone would be treated this way is a sure sign, if there ever was one, to find (or start) another church.

Stewart said...

Thank you RC for this post. I am a pastor of a small church that is seeking to become more family integrated in our worship and I am so surprised that families will not be a part of our "institutional church" to come and help in the restoring of the family. We have been bringing kids in to join our worship and I have very few members that will help encourage families to stay together. All those with these bad experiences, I am sorry to hear. Go to the leaders and tell them. But dont bail on the local church. Thanks again for posting this

Jewel said...

The Church is the Bride of Christ. She is the agent by which God entrusts His dearest treasure, the life giving message of His Son. True, the Bride may have muddied herself, but the dirt doesn't make her any less the Bride. As believers in Jesus Christ, we, note WE are still His body. Therefore, rather than abandon the church, have we tried to work through the issues?

Many leaving their comments thus far have mentioned their experiences. Our experiences do not mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. And we cannot assume our experience is the case for every church. We are part of a local body of believers not only to disciple and evangelize but also to conform us into the image of Christ. This polished image requires sanding, conflicts with one another where we learn to submit to one another rather than run away from the situation. Be part of the solution in the church rather than assuming we are too good for it. Our desire for control can cause us to resist the spiritual leaders over us. There can be no accountability if we simply roam from one church to another whenever we decide we don't like something.

If we surround ourselves with only those who agree with us,then we begin to believe false assumptions. Our beliefs are never tested or challenged. We become 'bubble' Christians. That said, we do need to agree wholeheartedly with the doctrinal statement of the church we attend. I am not referring to that, but rather to the secondaries, such as style, programs, and flavor of people.

Lastly, I will join the ranks of those who have shared their experiences and present my perspective. As a youth pastor's wife I have a discipleship ministry with young women, training them in godliness through Bible study. My biggest frustration is when the parents do not support the program. How can we come along side and help the teens if the parents refuse to let them participate? Mind you, the absences are often due to sports, band, drama, and even the obtaining of high grades. We worship activity and education. These extracurricular activities are religiously kept, but church is the last priority. And we wonder why our kids deem church as unimportant. If it is enjoyable and a priority to the parents the kids will follow suit.

I realize the argument that many purposely avoid being overly committed in order to have a home life that is sane. As a parent of two teenagers plus younger ones, I understand. But rather than fuss and fume about the programs of the church which from our perspective may divide families, (in actuality it might not be the case at all), why not go through the proper authority structure and present a solution rather than a complaint? Do some research and find out why the church has established certain expectations. There is usually a valid reason for what they are doing. In my case I asked my leaders to combine their Awana night with their middle school youth group night so that families could have an extra night at home. And they readily heeded the suggestion! Very peacefully they made the change.

However, I've learned that when the church frees up more nights for families to be together, most families do not use the free night for family, but rather fill it with some other activity. Our enemy is not the church. God forbid! The enemy is our own pride, the love affair we maintain with our idols, and the culture which WE have created. We must search our own hearts. How can we be salt and light in the world if we are isolating ourselves or fighting one another? All I can say is, Christ loves the Church and gave Himself up for her. Maybe we should do the same.

Kyle Ball said...

Very helpful article and discussion! I literally just learned what a family integrated church is a couple months ago and it has left me hungry and seeking but instead of bailing on the church family we have known for 7 years I am being proactive to help our pastor and leadership question if there are ways that we can become more family integrated. I am very thankful for the openness they have shown. Keeping the children in for worship is a good first step and now I am helping to create a program (not all programs are bad) that is focused on equipping parents to take the lead of the discipleship of their children in the home. I believe that if the leadership support and teach this focus that it will transform our local church from the inside out.

Eric Burd said...

Great article, RC. I greatly appreciate your emphasis upon the gospel!

nochurchome said...

People get asked to leave for not putting children in Sunday School because the whole structure is about conformity and control control structures. But not conformity to Christ or godliness!

How many churches dis-fellowship people for sin anymore?

clanmc61 said...

Hi I know these posts are old but I just wanted let you know there is a group promoting FIC In Australia it's a yahoo group called "Australian Biblical Families and church" Would love to get in contact with Anonymous to find out about that FIC Church

Dale said...

We the church, including the leadership and congregation, need to remember that our main focus is God and His Word, not ourselves.

newcreatureinhim said...

When we first were saved, we attended a church with a kid's program. My preschooler did not want to be separated from us in the children's program, so he came with us to service. As we grew in God's Word, we felt more and more convicted about having our children with us in church, so I pulled out my younger children from the nursery.

At first, it wasn't a big issue, but when others began to do the same thing, I think the youth pastor found it threatening to his position. One family was made so uncomfortable that they left. I was publicly berated by the pastor's wife one day when I sat outside the service with a misbehaving child. On other occasions, the youth ministers would try to entice my children into the Kids' Church, speaking directly to them and not to me. One of my friends was publicly humiliated by an older woman who told her that her children didn't belong.

After a year, all of my children were fully trained to sit quietly in church with no disruptions -- and I was pregnant with my fourth. Many other families were at various stages of training their children. It does take time, particularly with new babies being born and new toddlers needing training just as the preschoolers are finally getting it!

Finally, we left the church. The last time we visited, they had a sign up in the service that said that children were only welcome until after the worship music was over.

I wish we had some family-integrated churches in our area, because this really does become a big issue.

One of my friends was even berated by a friend of the youth pastor's, saying that her family's stance was affecting his ability to make a living! Like supporting his livelihood is a good reason to give our responsibility to our children over to others.