United Families Dividing Churches

Reprinted with permission from Faith Pulpit (Jan-Mar, 2012)

The Family Integrated Church Movement (FICM) is having a growing impact within fundamental Baptist churches. Since the mid-1990s an increasing number of families within fundamental churches have gravitated toward the family-integrated approach. In addition, families entrenched in the movement have been drawn to fundamental churches because of their emphasis on Biblical preaching and conservatism. At first glance the influence of the FICM might seem entirely beneficial for traditional churches, but unfortunately not all of the impact has been positive. The FICM mindset can divide churches. 

Understanding the FICM

The FICM is comprised of evangelical churches, pastors, and laymen who share a distinct philosophical approach toward the family and church. Advocates of family-integrated churches (FIC) believe that families should always worship and fellowship together in age-integrated (i.e., multigenerational) services and activities. Conversely they insist that virtually all age-segregated ministries and activities at church, such as Sunday School or youth ministries, are unequivocally unbiblical. Also, they often speak of the father as the conduit of spirtual growth in the family.

The FICM is not a denomination but rather a loose association of churches and organizations represented by a variety of denominational perspectives. Some key leaders are the following:

  • Scott Brown, director of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC)1
  • Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum Ministries2
  • Voddie Baucham Jr., professor, author, and pastor of Grace Family Baptist Church near Houston, Texas3
  • Eric Wallace, president of the Institute for Uniting Church and Home (IUCAH).4

The NCFIC, founded in 2001, is the flagship organization for the FICM and has a national network of more than 800 churches. It should be no surprise that the FICM has close ties to some currents of the homeschooling movement. While homeschooling is not essential to the FICM, the vast majority of families in FIC homeschool their children.5 

The central concern of the FICM

God has established three institutions to bring order to creation and fulfill His purposes: the family, the state, and the church. Scripture delineates specific responsibilities for each institution, and ideally the relationship between the family, state, and church should be harmonious and complementary, each institution fulfilling its God-given role within its distinct jurisdiction. According to those in the FICM, the fundamental problem within evangelical churches is the skewed relationship of the family and church.6 Leaders of the FICM argue that churches have usurped the responsibility and role of families and consequently enabled families (and especially fathers) to abdicate and abandon their God-given responsibility to train their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

According to the FICM, this distortion and blurring of jurisdictions have led to an alarming crisis within the American church. Youth are abandoning the church and Christianity at incredible rates. Studies suggest that as many as 40% and up to 88% of today’s young people are leaving evangelical churches once they leave the home.7 In addition, only about 10% of churched teens have a Biblical worldview.8 These statistics are shocking and prove that something is clearly wrong. Those within the FICM believe the root of the problem rests in the current way churches relate to families.

Adherents of family integration identify the culture of age segregation within church ministry as the key culprit. They consider ministries that separate families by age (or for any other reason) as unbiblical and a form of “practical apostasy.”9 These ministries include Sunday School; youth ministry; children’s church; children’s clubs (like Awana and Kids4Truth); VBS; youth camps; college, singles, and senior ministries; and often nurseries.

Scott Brown contends that age segregation is inherently wrong for several reasons.10 First, using the Regulative Principle and historical-grammatical hermeneutics, he argues that age segregation is not found in Scripture and is therefore unwarranted and indefensible. At the same time, he points to examples in Scripture where families worshipped together as the normal pattern. Second, he asserts that the very concept of age-segregated training is the product of humanistic philosophers, educators, and sociologists and is therefore corrupt. Consequently, the church has inadvertently replaced Biblical truth and methodology with pagan, non-Christian philosophies and practices. Third, Brown suggests that age-segregated ministries are wrong because they have failed to produce lasting fruit and are not working.

Distinctives of the FICM

The leaders of the FICM see themselves as part of a reformation movement within the church similar to the Protestant Reformation.  As Voddie Baucham states, “This is a reformation, a paradigm shift… . We are not talking about a new program; we are talking about a complete overhaul of the philosophy that is accepted in our churches, colleges, seminaries, and homes as the only way to do it.”11 They describe the church as the “family of families” to explain the complementary relationship between the church and family, that is, the church should acknowledge the authority and jurisdiction of families within the church.

So what do family-integrated churches look like?12 First and foremost, they worship together as families. Virtually all services and activities are intergenerational. Second, there is conversely an absence of age-segregated ministries. Baucham summarizes, “The family-integrated church movement is easily distinguishable in its insistence on integration as an ecclesiological principle… . There is no systematic age segregation in the family-integrated church!”13 Third, “the family is the evangelism and discipleship arm of the family-integrated church.”14 Advocates in the FICM lay the responsibility of making disciples on the shoulders of parents, and primarily fathers, based upon the Bible’s clear teaching on childrearing (Deut. 6:1–9; Eph. 6:1–4). Fathers are expected to lead their families in worship and catechism.15 As a result, church takes a secondary role in the discipleship process, primarily training and equipping fathers and mothers to do the work of the ministry. Intergenerational teaching (when the older teach the younger, e.g., Titus 2:3, 4) takes place not through church programs but rather through informal relationships. Their youth ministry philosophy could be summarized in Malachi 4:6a, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”16 Families are expected to reach their own children with the gospel and reach the lost outside the church through simple obedience to the Great Commission and hospitality.17 Fourth, family-integrated churches place an emphasis on education as a key component of discipleship. This involves not only family catechism but also homeschooling for most.

Other common characteristics in family-integrated churches include an emphasis on strong marriages, male headship and Biblical patriarchy, elder rule ecclesiology, courting, and the “quiverfull” approach to family planning. While it would be wrong to see the FICM as monolithic, the majority of leaders fall into either the Presbyterian/Reformed or Baptist wings of the Reformed tradition. Most see themselves as carrying the baton of the Puritans in matters related to the family and church.

Evaluating the FICM

How should one evaluate the FICM? I find several areas of agreement. First, those in the FICM have a high view of Scripture and correctly see it as the sole authority for doctrine and practice in the church. Second, they place a high value on expository preaching. Third, proponents should also be commended for staying in the church. Their ecclesiology reflects the New Testament more closely than other family movements such as some cell churches and home churches who have virtually abandoned a full ecclesiology. Fourth, those concerned with worldliness in the church will find an affinity with FIC authors. 

Finally, I also believe FIC proponents are essentially correct in identifying the breakdown of the family as the fundamental problem in why youth are deserting the church. Those who work with youth need to acknowledge that parents have the greatest spiritual impact.18So the FICM’s emphasis on parental responsibility in the spiritual training of their own children is welcome and needed. I have personally benefited from some of their writings on family worship.19

I find, however, several areas of disagreement with the FICM.20The seminal problem with the FICM is the tendency for family concerns to override church ministry. For example, their inflexible position toward age-segregated ministries is wrong for a number of reasons. First, it is wrong hermeneutically. FIC advocates protest vigorously that since there are no explicit Biblical directives or examples for age-segregated programs, they are unbiblical. However, this kind of hermeneutical approach is flawed. Using this reasoning, things like church buildings, pews, musical instruments, and technological advancements, along with church officers such as clerks and treasurers, would have to be deemed unbiblical as well. FIC adherents press the Regulative Principle too far. This Reformation principle was intended to regulate corporate worship at Sunday services, not the outworking of the Great Commission in other activities.21

Second, it is wrong theologically. The mandate to “make disciples” is given to the church (Matt. 28:19, 20). This mandate is to reach all people, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, age, or family status. The church is not required to reach individuals through their families. Although this normally may be the case, it certainly is not mandated. In fact, Jesus announced that He came to bring division to families, which is often the practical effect of the gospel (Matt. 10:34–36; Luke 12:51–53). Technically, churches are not comprised of families; they are comprised of believing individuals (at least in Baptist polity). In this sense, the church’s authority to disciple individuals both includes families and transcends families. The Bible gives both examples and instructions showing how God’s grace can triumph in less-than-ideal family situations (e.g., Acts 16:14, 15, 40; 1 Cor. 7:14; 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15; 1 Pet. 3:1, 2). 

Further, in Ephesians 4:7–16, we see a Biblical rationale for teaching ministries in the church. Paul wrote that God gifted the church with leaders, such as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints to accomplish the work of the ministry (4:11, 12). This work is essentially discipleship, and the heart of discipleship is teaching. So pastors are to train and equip the saints to teach. This is a principled, Biblical argument for qualified men and women to teach the body of Christ. Christian education programs are simply venues to accomplish Biblical discipleship.

Third, inflexible insistence on family integration is wrong practically. In my opinion, the leaders of the FICM have failed to prove that age-segregated ministries are the cause of the problem. Instead, the family integration philosophy has actually generated divisions in traditional (nonintegrated) churches rather than unity. Families involved in the FICM tend to make their convictions a test of fellowship, choosing to disassociate with believers in their own church who do not share FIC values. Both Scott Brown and Voddie Baucham acknowledge this unfortunate phenomenon in their writings and sermons. In addition, the emphasis on family discipleship within the FIC has the potential for alienating or neglecting those outside of nuclear families (e.g., singles and broken families).

In conclusion, the emphasis in the FICM on parental responsibility  and spiritual discipleship in the home is welcome and needed. Instead of uniting the church and home, however, the FIC philosophy often leads to division in the church. By potentially elevating the family above the church, the FICM tends to diminish the proper role and authority of the church.22

(The text of this article, as well as a Theology of the Family outline, are currently available at the Faith Pulpit website.)

[node:bio/doug-brown body]

Notes

1 The NCFIC website (ncfic.org) has numerous articles and resources that articulate the vision for family-integrated churches. Particularly noteworthy is the NCFIC Confession and the documentary Divided, The Movie.

2 Vision Forum Ministries (visionforumministries.org) provides resources on many issues related to the family, such as home education, civil and legal issues, and family integration. Especially informative for the FICM is its statement on Biblical Patriarchy.

3 Baucham is probably the most mainstream spokesman for the FICM. In addition to his books, his church website and blog have a wealth of information about the FICM (gracefamilybaptist.net).

4 Wallace promotes more of a mediating position between what he calls the Traditional Ministry (with multiple programs) and the Over-Corrective Designs (where the church focuses on nuclear families alone). He calls it the Household Relationship Design (unitingchurchandhome.org).

5 J. Mark Fox, Family-Integrated Church: Healthy Families, Healthy Church (USA: Xulon Press, 2006), 43, 44.

6 The majority within the FICM would also advocate that the relationship between the family and state is askew as well. Most are strong advocates for homeschooling and believe the state has no right to educate youth.

7 Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do to Stop It (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009), 19–36; Scott T. Brown, A Weed in the Church: How a Culture of Age Segregation Is Destroying the Younger Generation, Fragmenting the Family, and Dividing the Church (Wake Forest: National Center for Family Integrated Churches, 2010), 37, 38.

8 Voddie Baucham Jr., Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 176, 184.

9 Brown, A Weed in the Church, 37.

10 Brown, A Weed in the Church, 71–130. See also Baucham, Family Driven Faith, 176–85.

11 Baucham, Family Driven Faith, 197, 204.

12 Baucham, Family Driven Faith, 195–203; Brown, A Weed in the Church, 141–94.

13 Baucham, Family Driven Faith, 196, 97.

14 Baucham, Family Driven Faith, 197.

15 This is developed in Baucham’s newest book, Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011).

16 See Paul Renfro’s contributions in T. P. Jones, ed., Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2009).

17 Brown, A Weed in the Church, 215–19.

18 I made this same argument in my January 2000 Faith Pulpit article, “Family-Based Youth Ministry.”

19 Their views on patriarchy, however, are a distortion of Biblical complementarianism.

20 For critical reviews of the FICM, see A. J. Köstenberger and D. W. Jones, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation. 2nd ed. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 260-67; J. Webb, “The Family-Integrated Church Movement: An Exploration in Ecclesiology” (MAR Thesis, Reformed Theological Seminary, 2009).

21 See Terrry Johnson, “What Does the Regulative Principle Require of Church Members” 9Marks eJournal 8, no. 3 (May/June 2011): 32–34 (accessed February 21, 2012). Ironically, Scott Brown quotes Mark Dever’s definition of the Regulative Principle in making his point about age-segregated programs (A Weed in the Church, 83), yet Dever’s 9Marks eJournal for Jan/Feb 2012 is dedicated to the subject of the Sunday School (accessed February 13, 2012). Here’s the point: not everyone who subscribes to the Regulative Principle would agree with Brown’s application of it to age-segregation.

22 So also Köstenberger, God, Marriage, and Family, 259.

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There are 77 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

Thanks, Doug, for this fine assessment.

Our church has both a family integrated class and traditional Sunday School. They both have their advantages. For example, children on the autism spectrum or with other special needs often fare better in a family integrated class.

Like homeschooling (and we home schooled), there are those who view it as a choice (as we did), but there are those who condemn others who make another choice (as we did not). Whatever happened to freedom and respect for those who choose differently?

"The Midrash Detective"

npaul's picture

Isn't this movement largely a result of Gothardism, even though it's modern proponents would likely deny Gothard was the modern "father" of this movement?

We have some of these people who attend our church on Sunday mornings for the preaching service only, but they refuse to become members, they never come on Wednesday nights, and generally don't particpate in any other way in the life of the church.

Mike Harding's picture

Great article. I am in full agreement with the author. I have one family that practices some of the principles of the FIC. Fortunately, they attend all the services including SS, and they fully participate in the musical ministry of our church. They have a great attittude. We are glad to work with them.

Pastor Mike Harding

Aaron Blumer's picture

npaul wrote:
Isn't this movement largely a result of Gothardism, even though it's modern proponents would likely deny Gothard was the modern "father" of this movement?

I think there are some separate routes that have landed folks in similar places in their thinking. I'm pretty sure Voddie Baucham and the NCIS folks have little in common with "Gothardism" -- though I suppose it depends partly on what you mean by the term. Brown, Baucham etc. are not disciples of Gothard.

Rob Fall's picture

1. For the last twenty or so years, singles and childless couples have dominated the membership of Hamilton Square Baptist. These folks did not "grow up" in HSBC or even in San Francisco. (E.g. I was born in San Francisco. But I grew up and still live in a southern suburb. Growing up, my family belonged to and was active in the local United Presbyterian Church. I was not saved until I moved to Indiana for a summer. Coming home in August, I joined HSBC.) Our discipleship ministry would fall apart if we relied on "fathers and mothers" to do the training. Because for amny years, there weren't any.

2. Independent Baptist Church (Evangelical Christian-Baptist) is a multi generational church. It was organized twenty years ago by Russian speaking EC-B immigrants to Sacramento. IBC is four generations deep (as religious refugees, the folks immigrated by families from the babes in arms to the grandparents.) Sunday services are all ages affairs. However, on Friday nights, the adults meet for a prayer meeting and the children have the age appropriate Bible classes. The singles meet on Saturday nights for their Bible class.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Susan R's picture

It is a mistake to conclude that because the word 'family' is used to describe the dynamic of FICs, that this means singles, childless, widows, etc... are not embraced and ministered to in a FIC.

I agree that some churches (and not just FICs) take the role of the father too far and deny the children and wives individual liberty before God, but overall, the premise is that the church isn't to exclude ANYONE. However, this often happens in segregated ministries where one group of people- singles, elderly, childless- never meet up with anyone outside of their demographic. The point of FICs is to facilitate and encourage generational fellowship, which includes all ages and marital statuses. To continue to speak as if a FIC somehow excludes singles or childless is arguing a point that has never been made.

The comparison to Gothard is IMO a backhanded way of dismissing and disparaging the idea without having to deal with the issues at hand.

The FIC movement is reactionary- I'll grant that. But a reaction to what? I believe that the hyper-segregation that takes place in many, if not most, churches, IS harmful. Parents who want their children with them in church are treated like they're stupid, over-protective, and blahblahblah. On the other hand, there are parents who often talk about their kids in terms of how often and for how long they can 'get rid' of them- at church and at school, and it's obvious they are only pretending to be joking. This is not only acceptable, it's expected and considered normal. I think it is an abomination. The family unit is under attack, and churches (generally) aren't doing very much to edify and admonish parents or encourage children to turn their hearts toward their parents. I see that in the way people talk about sending kids to Christian college to get grounded in the Word- they are 18 years old- why aren't they grounded YET? Apparently it is someone else's job to teach and train children- SS teachers, the pastor, the Christian school teachers, and then Bible college professors. By all appearances, the role of parents is to foot the bill.

What about the fact that there is no indication in Scripture that people are taught by being segregated into several demographics? We see gender segregation to a degree, and that's the extent of that. Is this truly an argument from silence? I don't think so. The Bible is NOT silent about the family- husbands, wives, fathers, children... are given many directives in Scripture, and we have plenty of examples and patterns of family life. That is NOT the same as padded pews and hymnbooks and air conditioning.

Are FICs they going too far the other way? It's possible, but that has to be judged on a church-by-church basis, in the same way that IFB churches are not all the same in faith and practice.

Aaron Blumer's picture

I think it's generally agreed on the non-FIC side of things that extreme age segregation is unhealthy. But the official teaching of FIC leaders does not seem to recognize that extreme non-segregation isn't healthy either. So there are really three basic views here

(1) Never separate into age groups (FIC)
(2) Always (or nearly always) separate into age groups (I'm not sure who believes or does this but I accept that it exists)
(3) Use togetherness and separateness prudently

The FIC POV does not accept that #3 exists or is possible, but routinely lumps church practices into two headings: always-together and unbiblical.

So that's the real problem. I have no problem whatsoever with a family or congregation that says "We think always together is the best approach." This is fundamentally different from saying "Ever age grouping at all is unbiblical." The latter is what FIC actually teaches.

(The relative silence of Scripture on the subject of forming groups by age is not a strong argument... just as its silence is not a strong argument for anything else. And, as I pointed out in Why Churches Should Have 'Kid Times,' there is evidence that groups within the church do have special needs that require special attention.)

As for who's job it is... the NT is clear that discipleship is indeed the responsibility of the church. This doesn't erase the parent's role, but when you look at passages about discipleship and growth in the faith, the vast majority of them assume or directly attribute this to the ministry of the body. Eph.4:11-16 is one example. (See also Matt. 28:19-20, Rom. 15:14, Col. 3:16, Heb.10:24-25)

Family under attack... no doubt about that. The problem is that the FIC point of view assumes a particular cause and particular solution and its case for that assumption is pretty weak (mostly because it assumes rather than supports that analysis... where it does support, it relies heavily on correlation=causation fallacy). My own belief is that the attack on the family is the result of changing beliefs and values in western culture and not a particular Christian Ed. model. If that's the case, changing the model will not fix anything. Only correcting the beliefs and values will lead to solutions.
I keep going back to my own experience: four generations (and counting) of strong Christian families discipled in "age segregated" churches. I've yet to hear an FIC adherent explain how that is possible in their analysis. Their writings basically insist that it is not possible. But in the circles I grew up in, it's not only possible; it's routine.

Susan R's picture

I agree that the church's role is to equip the saints- but equip them for what? One of the qualifications of church leadership is that they have an orderly home life. The church/family relationship is a circle, not a fork in the road. The church equips the parents to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, thus rendering them (parents and children) fit for the ministry.

But at no point does the church override parental authority unless a parent is violating Scripture. I understand that some parents do absolutely nothing with regards to teaching and training their children- but is the church supposed to step in and take over? Or hold those parents accountable for their lack of obedience to the Word? Christian parents who are not grounding children in the faith are disobedient and in rebellion against God. Get that part straight and then consider age-segregation.

I'm still waiting for some real evidence that 'corporate worship' really means 'a unified body of individuals that are over 18'. Far too much of what we do in church guided by practical considerations instead of Biblical ones. "We have to have SS Classes" so what we end up with is Sunday Schools guided mostly by women, people teaching classes who have the spiritual maturity of coleslaw, and regenerate children being taught right along with unregenerate children, being told to 'ask Jesus to come into your heart' by talking cucumbers, and singing "If You're Happy and You Know It". Then they turn 18 and think church is a joke. In the words of this generation- "Duh".

Edited to add: That's not fair, Aaron. You edited your post while I was writing mine! Smile

Yes, strong families are possible in age-segregated churches. I don't doubt that. But was it the church that accomplished this, or spiritually mature parents brought up by spiritually mature parents? There's no doubt in my mind that the last few decades have seen a hyper-emphasis on age-segregated fluffball children's and youth ministries. It doesn't surprise me to see a strong reaction to this, and a pendulum that has swung all the way to the opposite pole.

Does the FIC movement divide churches? Probably- but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There are parents who want to be part of a church that helps them with the responsibility of teaching and training children. If they can't find it in a traditionally organized church, then they may see a FIC as very attractive- whose fault is that?

bob rogish's picture

I find, however, several areas of disagreement with the FICM.20 The seminal problem with the FICM is the tendency for family concerns to override church ministry. For example, their inflexible position toward age-segregated ministries is wrong for a number of reasons. First, it is wrong hermeneutically. FIC advocates protest vigorously that since there are no explicit Biblical directives or examples for age-segregated programs, they are unbiblical. However, this kind of hermeneutical approach is flawed. Using this reasoning, things like church buildings, pews, musical instruments, and technological advancements, along with church officers such as clerks and treasurers, would have to be deemed unbiblical as well.

Doug, reasoning is an amazing thing. I see what you are saying about FICM hermeneutic; is there a New Testament example of age segregaration within the local church ? This may have gotten lost in the points that you make and address.

Thank you for your time to answer this quick question.

Bob Rogish

Karl S's picture

I have been (and continue to be) on a journey Spiritually concerning this issue. I'll not go into that other than to say that I grew up in churches that were "age-segregated", and have come to believe that most of the programs and practices that we consider to be "traditional" in this realm are in fact unbiblical, anti-biblical, -- and as such -- harmful to families, churches, and the culture at large.

It burdens my spirit to see such articles coming from fundamental Baptist sources, as one of those "fundamentals" most assuredly is the authority and sufficiency of Scripture in all matters of life and practice. This article and others like it that I have seen, are in my opinion, very shaky hermeneutically and offer no solid Biblical evidence for the age-segregated model.

For instance, Dr. Brown takes exception to using the Regulative Principle in defense of an argument from silence (a defensible position), but does not attempt to answer the argument from Scripture that he himself acknowledged ("...At the same time, he points to examples in Scripture where families worshiped together as the normal pattern"). We cling to many practices/beliefs that have no direct command/prohibition in Scripture, but which we recognize as Biblically correct or needful because of the principles, patterns, precepts and overall testimony of the Word.

He states that the "make disciples" mandate is to reach all people, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, age, or family status. Somehow he assumes that the FICM is prohibitive to this! Promoting corporate worship as a single unified group, rather than split up into multiple classes speaks of inclusion, not exclusion!

He goes on: "The church is not required to reach individuals through their families", yet the FIC model reaches all individuals at the same time with the same message, clearly promoting rather than discouraging unity. This also assumes facts not in evidence; namely, that the FICM has no means of discipling anyone outside of the complete family unit. This is an area of misunderstanding and controversy that has been dealt with at length by prominent FIC pastors/leaders.

Dr. Brown views Eph. 4:7-16 as a biblical argument for age-segregated ministry. In my view, there are some serious logical loopholes and assumptions happening in this argument. He basically equates the "work of the ministry" with teaching alone. This probably comes as a great surprise to some that thought their works of service, helps, hospitality, etc. were actually part of the ministry! He also evidently assumes that this teaching needs to include "Christian education programs". He gives no evidence for how these education programs are "Biblical" other than the fact that they involve teaching. In the FIC model, the pastor(s) and teachers instruct the congregation in doctrine, etc. and expect the congregants to then teach and instruct their own families, fellow congregants, and neighbors in a relational rather than classroom method. Does this not fit perfectly Dr Brown's stated goal of "pastors…train and equip the saints to teach"? Who is being left out in this model?

In his practical argument, he asserts that the FICM has not proven that age segregation is the cause of the mass exodus of the next generation from the faith. Perhaps I might ask for proof that age segregation is not the cause!

Dr. Brown laments the fact that this issue in some churches is causing division. While I (and I believe most of the FIC leaders) would agree that this issue should not be an issue of dissociation, one might ask -- is it ever necessary for there to be division or purification? Is it possible that those entrenched in the "age-segregated" mindset might have any part in this division (after all it takes two varying opinions to cause division)?

I personally believe from my study on this issue that there is a much stronger Biblical case for the FIC model than the age-segregated model. Articles from this side of the issue seem to be very reactionary, while in my experience, the arguments from the other side seem to have arisen out of a close examination of Scripture and a genuine desire to reform areas which have been revealed to have been in error. I believe there is a strong resistance to change from the age-segregated model, not so much because of the Biblical evidence, but because of human factors (breaking with "tradition", phasing out paid positions, open evidence of poor child training, reluctance of parents to bear more responsibility, etc).

It seems clear to me that the overriding focus in this issue should be the Biblical evidence for or against these competing methodologies, and that Christians everywhere should submit to their consciences as they are informed by the Word of God. As such, I believe that the result of such action will invariably be a truer and closer unity.

Rob Fall's picture

What was Hamilton Square Baptist Church supposed to do from the late '50s to the early '90s? We didn't have enough families to be our core. We did have older/younger singles and empty nesters.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Karl S's picture

Rob Fall wrote:
What was Hamilton Square Baptist Church supposed to do from the late '50s to the early '90s? We didn't have enough families to be our core. We did have older/younger singles and empty nesters.

Rob,

This type of concern tends to come up often (situations w/singles, divorced, etc). The simple answer for me is that, because the underlying principle (based upon the consistent pattern of Scripture) is a unified gathering for corporate worship, the overall family status of any congregation is of only secondary significance. Simply follow the pattern and precept in the Bible of the entire congregation worshiping together.

No "movement" is perfect, and the Family Integrated Church Movement is no different. I think the name tends to give pre-conceived notions that it is only for "complete" families. This is an unfortunate misnomer. One could simply call it the "Integrated Church Movement", and that might give a more accurate description. Or perhaps you could call it a "Inter-generational Church Movement". The emphasis in the movement is not so much on "families" per se (although the movement has a lot to say about the family and our church culture), but on worshiping together rather than in peer groups.

I should also say that this does not preclude the principle of discipleship among the members of the congregation. However, this "teaching" would not take place in the cultural normative model (teaching=classroom), but in a relational (one-on-one) type of model. Titus 2 discipleship is viewed as relational, personal, realized by older men discipling younger men & older women discipling younger women (inter-generational), and would typically not be seen as including children (the older women are to be teaching the younger to "love their own husbands", be "love their children", etc -- strongly implies older adults teaching younger adults).

Hopefully this helps.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Karl,

Without even getting into all of the doctrinal aberrations common in the FIC movement, the whole notion of an unsegregated 1st century church is simply uninformed. The early church gatherings modeled earlier synagogue meetings, which were definitely segregated. Women sat on one side with girls (or all the children) while men sat on the other side (sometimes with the boys). Furthermore, Jewish boys went to the rabbi during the week for religious training, a practice Paul seems to have modeled with Timothy. There was absolutely segregation in the synagogue on which the early church was modeled. Any of the NT passages promoted by the FIC can support the model I have just described, which was a gender and age segregated congregation that was most certainly not patriarchal in structure.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Julie Herbster's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Without even getting into all of the doctrinal aberrations common in the FIC movement, the whole notion of an unsegregated 1st century church is simply uninformed. The early church gatherings modeled earlier synagogue meetings, which were definitely segregated. Women sat on one side with girls (or all the children) while men sat on the other side (sometimes with the boys).

Chip, quick comment: I don't think that the FIC perspective sees the church arrangement you have described here as segregation. In fact, this arrangement (if what you are saying is true) would seem to bolster the idea that all family members were present in the worship services, which is what FIC's advocate.

FWIW, I don't consider myself a member of any "movement." However, I have been provoked by the FIC's message to think in a critical way about the modern "way we do things" in church. I consider the FIC perspective to be valuable for this reason; it's good to be aware that "the way we do things" might not be "the ONLY way to do things." And I do believe that some churches that are humming along with all of their age-segregated/peers only-together programs would do well to consider the other side of the issue and perhaps tweak and/or balance out the age-segregated times with "everyone together" times. Our family has experienced firsthand the benefits that come along with worshiping together with all ages and stages...young and old, single and married, new Christians and seasoned saints. There's a beauty, richness and depth that "you just have to be there" to understand.

Rob Fall's picture

For the last twenty years, HSBC has had a robust one on one discipleship program. Early on, some of our older members (chronologically) actually were newly saved thus were discipled by younger (chronologically) but older spiritually members. This hasn't happened in the last few years as our "bench" has grown in depth. At any rate, usually discipleship takes place between two unrelated individuals.

Karl S wrote:
Rob Fall wrote:
What was Hamilton Square Baptist Church supposed to do from the late '50s to the early '90s? We didn't have enough families to be our core. We did have older/younger singles and empty nesters.

Rob,

This type of concern tends to come up often (situations w/singles, divorced, etc). The simple answer for me is that, because the underlying principle (based upon the consistent pattern of Scripture) is a unified gathering for corporate worship, the overall family status of any congregation is of only secondary significance. Simply follow the pattern and precept in the Bible of the entire congregation worshiping together.

No "movement" is perfect, and the Family Integrated Church Movement is no different. I think the name tends to give pre-conceived notions that it is only for "complete" families. This is an unfortunate misnomer. One could simply call it the "Integrated Church Movement", and that might give a more accurate description. Or perhaps you could call it a "Inter-generational Church Movement". The emphasis in the movement is not so much on "families" per se (although the movement has a lot to say about the family and our church culture), but on worshiping together rather than in peer groups.

I should also say that this does not preclude the principle of discipleship among the members of the congregation. However, this "teaching" would not take place in the cultural normative model (teaching=classroom), but in a relational (one-on-one) type of model. Titus 2 discipleship is viewed as relational, personal, realized by older men discipling younger men & older women discipling younger women (inter-generational), and would typically not be seen as including children (the older women are to be teaching the younger to "love their own husbands", be "love their children", etc -- strongly implies older adults teaching younger adults).

Hopefully this helps.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Susan R's picture

Julie Herbster wrote:
Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Without even getting into all of the doctrinal aberrations common in the FIC movement, the whole notion of an unsegregated 1st century church is simply uninformed. The early church gatherings modeled earlier synagogue meetings, which were definitely segregated. Women sat on one side with girls (or all the children) while men sat on the other side (sometimes with the boys).

Chip, quick comment: I don't think that the FIC perspective sees the church arrangement you have described here as segregation. In fact, this arrangement (if what you are saying is true) would seem to bolster the idea that all family members were present in the worship services, which is what FIC's advocate.

FWIW, I don't consider myself a member of any "movement." However, I have been provoked by the FIC's message to think in a critical way about the modern "way we do things" in church. I consider the FIC perspective to be valuable for this reason; it's good to be aware that "the way we do things" might not be "the ONLY way to do things." And I do believe that some churches that are humming along with all of their age-segregated/peers only-together programs would do well to consider the other side of the issue and perhaps tweak and/or balance out the age-segregated times with "everyone together" times. Our family has experienced firsthand the benefits that come along with worshiping together with all ages and stages...young and old, single and married, new Christians and seasoned saints. There's a beauty, richness and depth that "you just have to be there" to understand.


Ditto, ditto, and ditto.

There is http://www.leadered.com/2010Mega/AlisaBraddy/BraddyHandout.pdf ]scientific evidence that gender segregation is beneficial at times , while peer segregation has no basis other than a convenient organizational method with which to corral groups of people. The 'segregation' that takes place in Scripture still involves everyone being part of the same gathering, not sent to various parts of a building with separate activities so that ne'er the twain shall meet, unless perhaps they chance upon each other in the grocery store wondering why the other looks familiar. :/

As Bro. Karl has noted, the key word of the FIM is Integrated. The use of the word family seems to throw everyone completely off the deck. It would help tremendously if we focused on the Integrated part and stop thinking in terms of 'the only family that exists in the universe is father-mother-child-golden retriever'.

Our family, which happens to include my widowed mother who lives with us, has also experienced more growth and bonding when we are together for services and activities instead of the modern SOP of being separated into peer groups.

PLewis's picture

I guess what I don't understand is 1 or 2 hours a week .. in the company of other Christians (hopefully..) and an adult leader.

I understand the concept - I do NOT see a whole lot of biblical mandate in the movement .. (any more than for age specific teaching.. ). I don't agree that it is harmful to have age specific teaching.

I think it probably works GREAT if all or the majority of families in the church are homeschooled .. where all are used to teaching to all ages at once.

There's been some small discussion in our church to do away with age specific teaching. I think it would be a HUGE mistake .. we are small - but many of our families are in no way "complete" ..

We rarely have activities that are "age specific" .. almost always they cross all generations. We only break out by age for Sunday School - on Wednesday nights our "youth" has morphed into a "father / son" group - because for now we have a few single (sort of) Dad's with teen boys .. The older dad's ( ie - my husband ) has started doing another round of "The Truth Project" ..

We tend to let folks go where they want - and it works. Yet - on Sunday morning Sunday school we have our kids broken down by rough "grades" - yet if one is not ready to move on to the next class - we let them stay in the younger - or if one is more mature .. they move on up .. we KNOW these kids .. if the parents don't attend ( which DOES happen ) we make the call ..

The point is we are flexible in the way we handle things .. we take the time to get to know each other individually .. we have one family that will not "separate" .. that's cool .. we love them, they participate in activities .. we don't worry about it..

Julie Herbster's picture

PLewis, your description fits our church as well (we have "segregated" Sunday school and various Wednesday evening programs). I think it's great that instead of just adopting the normal "pre-fab model," your church has wisely considered what would be the best way to minister to its members. That's one of the reasons I really like attending a smaller church; it seems somehow that there is more room for that sort of thing. I guess all I'm really trying to say is that the ideas we are hearing from the FIC should not just be dismissed out of hand. They are valuable, and should be considered. On the flip side, any "good idea" can certainly be taken too far.

PLewis's picture

Julie-

I believe all generations should have opportunity to interact with each other .. AND have opportunity to learn in environments geared toward their learning level. That is why flexibility is important. It also shows the importance of knowing the people involved.

I agree that a smaller church is more conducive to the way we do things.. I think that once a church gets beyond 100 - 200 members it's time to start a new autonomous church in another neighborhood.. keep churches small and local .. people can know each other and have greater opportunity to serve in the church. Of course I don't know of a biblical basis for such a thing .. but it sounds like a good idea! Actually this is how our church started .. two large Southern Baptist churches had little church plants in our area .. both the church plants combined once they realized they were on the same mission ..

Aaron Blumer's picture

To bob and Karl...

A major point of hermeneutical confusion in the debate is what to make of silence. An example of 'age segregation' in the NT is not required any more than we need an example of passing a plate to collect an offering (or having a box at the back if that's your method). What we have is a mandate to teach and even a mandate to teach particular things to particular sub groups (some of which are age-based). So the details of method are in the sphere of application.

There is also no inconsistency with the sufficiency of Scripture in applying Scripture in this way ... or any other way. Nobody believes that sola scriptura demands what we only apply Scripture in ways that we see it apply itself. That is, even the regulatory principle doesn't exclude the idea that revealed principles must be applied in not-revealed ways.

So the attitude should be something more like "you apply the Scriptures by dividing into age-based groups sometimes; we apply them by not ever dividing into age-based groups--you do your thing and we'll do ours."

But can we get to the heart of the controversy? I really think that the FIC movement (I've read Baucham's book and numerous articles on the subject) is mostly driven by alarm that so many young people seem to be leaving the church plus the conviction that age-grouping is to blame for this. This is the central thesis. The rest is an effort to borrow some biblical authority for the preferred solution.
But the "droves of young folks are leaving because of age-segreation" analysis relies heavily on "correlation = causation" thinking. (And there are some major gaps in the research as well: When these kids "leave," where do they go? How many return later? How do we know they are not just church-hopping, and getting counted as a loss more than once?)

Julie Herbster's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
So the attitude should be something more like "you apply the Scriptures by dividing into age-based groups sometimes; we apply them by not ever dividing into age-based groups--you do your thing and we'll do ours."

I think this is a great conclusion to come to...but that doesn't seem to be what either side is doing. The "age/peer-segregated" people are troubled that the FIC people do not apply Scripture in the same way they do, and vice versa. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this fact seems to be evident in the original post of this thread, in your article about why churches should have "kid times," and in Baucham's writings (and other FIC writings) as well. And, as we all know, the FBFI actually drafted a "resolution" against the FIC movement not too long ago...That's part of what got all of the discussions going in our circles.

Quote:
But can we get to the heart of the controversy? I really think that the FIC movement (I've read Baucham's book and numerous articles on the subject) is mostly driven by alarm that so many young people seem to be leaving the church plus the conviction that age-grouping is to blame for this. This is the central thesis. The rest is an effort to borrow some biblical authority for the preferred solution.
But the "droves of young folks are leaving because of age-segreation" analysis relies heavily on "correlation = causation" thinking. (And there are some major gaps in the research as well: When these kids "leave," where do they go? How many return later? How do we know they are not just church-hopping, and getting counted as a loss more than once?)

I tend to think of this aspect of the issue more as a "common sense" thing. I think we can all agree that heavy reliance on "drawing kids in" and making church "exciting" to them by the use of methods/attractions which appeal to "their age group" is going to create a "me-centered" mentality in those kids, and when they find out that "big church" isn't nearly as exciting, they'll tend to look elsewhere for the entertainment they've come to equate with what "church" means to them. I agree with you that the FIC movement is somewhat reactionary to the excesses they have perceived in this area. The question for each church/pastor is whether or not they're guilty of this kind of excess that promotes a "me-centered" mentality.

Susan R's picture

Spiritually speaking, it is highly unlikely that one's 'learning level' correlates with one's age. Rather, you would separate new Christians from grounded Christians from those in training or being mentored for ministry. My parents required my brother and I to listen to Jay Vernon McGee and Spiros Zodhiates every day, as well as read through Oliver B. Greene's commentaries when we were still in elementary school. To say we were bored to near insanity in SS and YG is putting it mildly. Our age had nothing to do with our learning level. As a result, our dad pulled us out of SS and kid's clubs, since they were more occupied with pizza parties and Bible Baseball.

It's Pot-Meet-Kettle to dismiss the ideas of the FICM because they looked around at the exodus of young people and said, "What's wrong and how do we fix it?" Isn't that what we often do here at SI- look at what is wrong with the church in general and Fundamentalism in particular and say "How do we address these issues?" Haven't we 'blamed' Christian celebrity worship, KJVOism, and the whole IFBx enchilada as being a major problem, and we've thoroughly dismissed all such with rather definitive actions and language?

FICM advocates believe that age-segregated, fluffball SS classes and YGs are a major problem. IOW, it isn't just age-segregation that is an issue, but how we approach teaching Scriptural truth to young people. One (age-segregation) seems to beget the other (shallow if not silly material and presentations). And since doing away with both age-segregation and talking vegetables doesn't hurt anyone, why not dispense with the tomfoolery that often passes for Sunday School and kid's clubs?

And another thing- with all this talk of divisiveness, I'd like to point out that quite often and in my experience, in traditionally organized churches, any family that believes they need to do things 'differently' in order to better minister to the spiritual needs of their family are tagged as trouble-makers and unsupportive of the church's ministries and treated with disdain as one of 'those' people. For instance, if there are major issues to be worked through with the SS or kid's club materials, or a teacher is having problems that affect their ability or qualifications to teach, or the class dynamic is such where some rowdy kids suck all the spiritual oxygen out of the room- why should a parent ignore their conscience if they feel these problems are detrimental to their kids, especially if the church leadership is dragging their feet about dealing with the problem? Our children are not guinea pigs for someone's 'spiritual experiments'.

There is alot to be said for sitting with one's children in church and watching their faces as the Truth is presented. One can often spot problems that heretofore were unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of every day life. And yet those parents will be summarily dismissed as 'isolationists' or some such nonsense because of the concrete entrenchment of peer-segregated organization in churches. Oh yeah- like that attitude's got 'spiritual discernment' written all over it. :/

Julie Herbster's picture

Susan R wrote:
Spiritually speaking, it is highly unlikely that one's 'learning level' correlates with one's age. Rather, you would separate new Christians from grounded Christians from those in training or being mentored for ministry. My parents required my brother and I to listen to Jay Vernon McGee and Spiros Zodhiates every day, as well as read through Oliver B. Greene's commentaries when we were still in elementary school. To say we were bored to near insanity in SS and YG is putting it mildly. Our age had nothing to do with our learning level. As a result, our dad pulled us out of SS and kid's clubs, since they were more occupied with pizza parties and Bible Baseball.

Good point, Susan. One could object that "well, that's not the norm for most kids/families"...but shouldn't it be? And shouldn't our churches be concerned with promoting a culture in which families are encouraged to "step it up" in this way at home instead of relying on others to do their job for them? As you've said, a church should definitely provide for the kids whose parents aren't in the picture spiritually...the fledgling Christians who aren't getting the basics taught at home.

Now, I will quibble a bit with your statement that it is "highly unlikely" that one's learning level correlates with one's age. For example, in our church (a church in which parents are committed to a high level of involvement at home), the kids in my children's Sunday school class are pretty much on the same level of learning and comprehension. So, dh and I really see their SS experience as a positive thing. But, at the same time, we have enjoyed the freedom to pull them out for special studies in the adult class--like the recent study on the minor prophets that correlates with some things we're talking about at home. Our church understands and encourages flexibility in these areas, and we're thankful for that.

Quote:
FICM advocates believe that age-segregated, fluffball SS classes and YGs are a major problem. IOW, it isn't just age-segregation that is an issue, but how we approach teaching Scriptural truth to young people. One (age-segregation) seems to beget the other (shallow if not silly material and presentations). And since doing away with both age-segregation and talking vegetables doesn't hurt anyone, why not dispense with the tomfoolery that often passes for Sunday School and kid's clubs?

Thanks for better articulating what I was trying to say earlier. I would say that another obvious solution would be to provide SS materials that aren't silly and shallow.

Quote:
There is alot to be said for sitting with one's children in church and watching their faces as the Truth is presented. One can often spot problems that heretofore were unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of every day life. And yet those parents will be summarily dismissed as 'isolationists' or some such nonsense because of the concrete entrenchment of peer-segregated organization in churches. Oh yeah- like that attitude's got 'spiritual discernment' written all over it. :/

True. I'm so glad that I've never been part of a church that fosters this kind of attitude. Even the "age-segregated" churches I've attended have been supportive of parents who make "different" decisions for their kids.

Susan R's picture

Julie Herbster wrote:

Now, I will quibble a bit with your statement that it is "highly unlikely" that one's learning level correlates with one's age.

I agree that when we are talking about children, there is some degree to which age will correlate with learning level, simply because most kids are engaged with learning basic skills like reading. But peer or age segregation isn't usually confined to children's SS, but YG, singles, senior citizens, etc... Those groups are definitely not going to have any significant degree of correlation between age and spiritual maturity. Also, some kids are precocious learners, and to leave them in a class far below their abilities pretty much guarantees mental stagnation. If parents feel they must constantly compensate for a lack of quality or support from SS, why shouldn't they seek a better solution?

It isn't as if there are lots of choices out there for people who want a higher quality of spiritual teaching and interaction in church. In our area, most churches (and every single one that we've visited so far) are in the same rut, 'cause "that's the way we do it, furthermore that's the way we've always done it." (Harold Leake) Churches are bowing to popular demand- when families walk into a church for the first time, their initial questions are along the lines of "What do you have for the kids?" So churches have classes that meet the average parent's expectations, instead of first meeting Scriptural principles of sober study, line upon line, precept upon precept- and let the chips fall where they may.

The church has confused the Great Commission with the idea that we need to "pack 'em in, whatever it takes".

I also agree that the obvious solution is to provide quality materials. But if one MUST have age-segregated SS for kids, one should separate 'churched' kids from 'unchurched' kids, for lack of a better description. The idea that kids won't pay attention without balloons and candy is a myth. Even kids raised on a steady diet of television will pay attention to a teacher who possesses actual teaching skills and knows how to engage a child's curiosity and interest, and foster understanding. It is also obvious that in any traditional classroom situation, the squeaky wheel, ie rowdy kid, gets the grease, or attention. If they do not have involved and responsive parents, the teacher has no choice but to sacrifice the needs of the many for the need of the one.

I've been teaching for 31 years- in schools both public and Christian, in SS, YGs and junior church, to churched kids and 'bus' kids. The most important qualities successful teachers possess (other than depth of Bible knowledge and spiritual maturity) are verbal skills and an affinity for children. Many churches, IMO, have compensated for a lack of gifted workers with material 'guaranteed' to hold their interest because it is presented in a primarily entertaining fashion, instead of saying "If we can't do it right, we simply won't do it at all". We should continue with an integrated congregation until spiritually knowledgeable and mature members are available to teach, instead of staffing SS classes with warm bodies that have a pulse because of the pressure to 'have stuff for the kids' or 'have a dynamic singles ministry'- which is Christianese for an acceptable, spiritualized dating service.

Larry's picture

Karl S wrote:
For instance, Dr. Brown ... does not attempt to answer the argument from Scripture that he himself acknowledged ("...At the same time, he points to examples in Scripture where families worshiped together as the normal pattern").
Didn't Dr. Brown merely recognize that the argument existed, not that it was an "argument from Scripture" or a valid argument? Recognizing existence of an argument is not the same as recognizing validity. A valid argument needs to be answered. But that is not necessarily true about all arguments.

For my part, I can't recall that many examples of a family worshiping together in the church. In fact, I don't recall any at the moment. Maybe someone can refresh my memory here. Where does the NT show families worshiping together in church services?

Susan R wrote:
Spiritually speaking, it is highly unlikely that one's 'learning level' correlates with one's age.
Isn't it pretty well established that, regardless of material being taught, elementary age minds work differently than adult minds. The structures of thinking are different, so while the material may be the same, the method of teaching probably isn't. This is why, in cases of mental disability, we might say someone "has the mind of a 6 year old." That's not about what they know, but about how capable they are of learning.

Perhaps the silence of the Bible on things like this is a matter of common grace sensibility. It is well accepted that people of different ages do not learn in the same way, and that at different ages different material is taught. It's why Jesus is able to talk about the simple faith of a child, or Peter the babe on milk, or Paul children tossed about as waves on the sea. The reason why the age metaphors makes sense is because there is a reality that they appeal to that everyone knows. This seems a fairly explicit denial of the principle you are trying to invoke, because in none of those cases does the age in the metaphor correspond to the age of the hearer.

To me, Hebrews 5:12ff. is explicit that there are differing levels of teaching required and expected, and different people in the church to be doing that. And the image used is one of physical age/physical maturity (milk vs. meat).

So this may be an area where the children of darkness are wiser than some of the children of light.

Consider for instance the existence of God: The way that a five year old thinks about that is completely different than the way a 25 year old thinks about that. It's why "the impossibility of the contrary" would not be good with six year olds, but very good with a 25 year old, even if they are at the same "spiritual age."

(That is not any kind of defense for what actually goes on in the name of education today broadly speaking.)

I wonder if 1 Tim 3:15 might need more attention here. At the risk of sounding like a heretic, as I read the NT, it seems that God did not give the responsibility of truth propagation and defense to fathers in their families (though he instructs fathers to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord). He gave it to the church. He never calls the family the "pillar and support of the truth." He does call the church that.

I haven't been in ministry long (only about eighteen and a half years, including a two year seminary break), but I have seen enough fathers to know that I don't want them having the primary say in their children's lives without drastic changes, and those changes will take too long to hang their children out to dry until it takes place. I think it is significant that God gave the primary responsibility of teaching and defending truth to the church with recognized and qualified elders to teach others to do the work of ministry (which includes teaching others; cf. Heb 5:12ff.).

Yes, fathers should be teaching their children. But so should the church, and the church is the primary NT truth teacher, isn't it? At least in the NT text?

The idea that a church has appropriate age segregated teaching does not mean fathers don't teach at home. Here's another heretical statement for you: It is commonly said by some that the church should support what goes on at home. Again 1 Tim 3:15 seems to contradict that. The home should support what is going on in the church. I have seen enough homes that I do not want the church to support what goes on there. Out of all the declarations, images, and metaphors for the church in the NT, one image not used is anything that communicates an instrument of support for parents. Again, heretical I know. But what does the NT actually teach?

Larry's picture

Quote:
YG, singles, senior citizens, etc
I think this is a great illustration because it identifies three groups at distinctly different places in their lives. If teaching is the mere transfer of information, then you can teach them all together. If teaching involve the application of truth to life, then segregation is important because the needs of young twenty-something singles on their own are different then the needs of retired senior citizens and living at home high-schoolers. Throw young parents with infants and toddlers in the mix, alongside of middle-aged empty nesters, you add to complexity. Simplifying this into "one size fits all" doesn't fit anyone. I think it can tend to undermine the importance of biblical preaching.

Quote:
If parents feel they must constantly compensate for a lack of quality or support from SS, why shouldn't they seek a better solution?
But remember, it's not just about your child. There are children in that SS class who would be greatly ministered to by the presence of your child. And in fact, every teacher would likely prefer the involvement of the more mature children. It can undermine the necessity of ministry even by your children in a class that they are "above." When someone takes their child out of a class, it doesn't just affect the child. It affects the others in there as well.

I think, with no direct reflection on anyone here intended, that this is part of the problem ... We have a very individually centered Christianity that thinks about "What's best for me?" or "What's best for my kids?" We don't think enough about what's best for others. And yes, other children can be blessed by your children participating in church functions.

How is Susan's question any different than the person who walks in and says "What do you have for my family?" It still seems consumer oriented ... what's best for me or my child as an individual. It doesn't seem community oriented.

Susan R's picture

First, I don't think the situation calls for either/or. The church and family are symbiotic. A pastor is not even qualified to lead a church without his family in order.

Second, responsibility before God eventually comes down to the individual. Pastors will answer for the church, dads will answer for their homes, children will answer for themselves. These spheres of authority should also be recognized as to where they overlap, and where they don't.

Third, I've seen enough of what goes on in churches to not want a church to dictate what goes on in my home.

What the NT actually teaches is that the leadership has their ducks in a row first, and THEN they can lead the church. When that becomes SOP, give me a holler.

Edited to add: When it comes to teaching specific groups that are in 'different places' in their lives, how would a congregation not benefit? People do not live in a vacuum or only with their particular demographic. For instance, I'm 46, I have a 10 yob, 13 yog, 15 yob, and 23 yo son. My widowed mother, who is 84, lives with us. Why would I not benefit from hearing preaching that applies to a single person, or elderly widow? How do I learn to better minister to other 'groups' than by hearing how to apply truths to those people?

Susan R's picture

Larry wrote:
But remember, it's not just about your child. There are children in that SS class who would be greatly ministered to by the presence of your child. And in fact, every teacher would likely prefer the involvement of the more mature children. It can undermine the necessity of ministry even by your children in a class that they are "above." When someone takes their child out of a class, it doesn't just affect the child. It affects the others in there as well.

I think, with no direct reflection on anyone here intended, that this is part of the problem ... We have a very individually centered Christianity that thinks about "What's best for me?" or "What's best for my kids?" We don't think enough about what's best for others. And yes, other children can be blessed by your children participating in church functions.

How is Susan's question any different than the person who walks in and says "What do you have for my family?" It still seems consumer oriented ... what's best for me or my child as an individual. It doesn't seem community oriented.


But I think this line of thinking is scary, and it is exactly what I was talking about earlier. If parents make a decision as to how to best minister to their own child, they are 'selfish' or 'isolationist'.

If SS were the only place a person could minister to others, I'd buy the argument. But it ain't, so I don't.

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