Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Four Benefits of the Family Integrated Church

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Salvatore Vuono,

The vast majority of Christian's today attend churches where Sunday School, women's ministries, men's ministries and children's programs are the norm. For those of us who are Christian, Sunday School is what our kids do on Sundays, and it can be almost impossible to imagine a world in which these age and gender-segregated programs don't exist.

However, there is a small and growing movement toward churches where there are no age- or gender-segregated programs, and where families worship together. This church model is called the family-integrated church. In this article, I want to give you a list of benefits of attending a family-integrated church.

1. In the family-integrated church, families worship together. Have you ever taken your child to Sunday School, and, upon picking them up ask, "What did you learn today?" only to get stutters and ums, and mentions of silly games or yummy snacks they ate, and little to no information about what they actually studied during their time at church? In the family-integrated church model, since families worship together, parents know what their children are hearing, and the family is learning the same things at the same time. Sermon topics become conversation topics during the week, where parents have a chance to extrapolate on the sermon, bringing the message down to their level and helping children internalize what they have already heard on Sunday.

2. In the family-integrated church, children see that faith matters to their parents. There came a point in our church life where my kids were in one classroom, I was in the mother's room with a crying baby, my toddler was in the nursery, and my husband was alone in the church. We weren't learning the same things, and frankly, we didn't know what our kids were learning, and we assumed they weren't capable of understanding what we were learning (not true). Our faith walks were totally separate from one another. In the family-integrated church model, children sit with their parents, they see their parents worshipping, praying, and fellowshipping, and they see other adults and children doing the same. If our faith matters to us, in this church model, it'll be obvious to our children. Children look to see what matters to their parents, and those same things will matter to them. Actually physically seeing you make God a priority, will impact the faith of your children.

3. There is more unity in a family-integrated church. I'm sure this is not true of all family-integrated churches, but the very nature of doing church as whole family units lends itself to more unity within the greater body of Christ. You get to know whole families, as opposed to a more traditional church model where you might get to know the person sitting next to you and your child might make a friend with someone whose parents you've never met. Doing church together, means getting to know families in their natural state. This lends itself to deeper relationships between the members of the church body.

4. Children learn to participate in "real" worship. I want to be very careful how I word this next point, lest anyone think I'm suggesting that children cannot worship without their parents--that is not what I'm saying at all. My point here is that the vast majority of the time Sunday School is more about crowd control and making church "fun" so that children will want to come back, and less about real knowledge and understanding of the matters of the faith. As an example, at our last church, we adults received wonderful teachings from the word of God, but when my husband volunteered in our kid's classes, he said there was literally a 2 to 5 minute mini-lesson, a snack, play time, and singing time. When children are trusted to enter into "big" church, there is a chance for the "bells and whistles" to fall away, and for children to come humbly to the throne of an amazing God, a God whose Son said, "Suffer the little children to come unto to me, for such is the kingdom of heaven".

There are so many benefits to attending a family-integrated church. It has literally changed the dynamics of our family (in unexpected and wonderful ways). Since switching to this church model, I have seen so much spiritual growth in my older children (ages 7 and 8). They may not understand every word of the sermon, but they are taking in more than you would think. Even my 2 and 1 year olds can be caught singing the great hymns of decades past in their baby language. My husband and I are more unified than ever, and as a family, we are so much more engaged in our church body than we have ever been in the past. So if you're thinking about trying a family-integrated church, I encourage you to give it a go. You might just find that you too enjoy worshipping as a family.

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