This is admittedly odd. Most churches separate the parents from the children and teens, and then they divide the children by grade level. So why the family-integrated model? Why do something different?
Let me be clear that the Bible does not mandate a model of ministry to youth and children. Although the Bible has no record of age-segregated ministry, it does not forbid it. Therefore this is a wisdom issue. What's the wisest approach to discipling children and students? What's the most effective approach?
To answer this question, let's look at two facts, and two problems.
Fact #1: The church's primary mission is to reach its own children. Jesus commissioned the church to makes disciples of all nations. So where should we start? How about in our own homes! It would be a tragedy for the church to reach the nations but fail to reach its own children.
Problem #1: The church is LOSING most of its kids to the world. Studies show that between 60-80% of kids who grow up in church end up spiritually disengaged after high school -- not praying, reading the Bible, or going to church. Apparently most churches, and most Christian parents are not good at reaching their own kids. That leads us to Fact #2.
Fact #2: Parents are called to disciple their kids. According to Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Ephesians 6:4, parents are not merely called to get someone to disciple their kids, they are called to do the discipling themselves. This makes sense. Parents are the most effective at discipling their own kids. Parents are the best at getting their kids to sit still and listen. Parents know best how to communicate to their kids. Parents know best how to tell if their kids are comprehending. And kids love and trust their parents more than anyone else, so they are more likely to believe their parents than anyone else.
Problem #2: Most parents are NOT discipling their kids. In my experience, 95% of Christian parents are not discipling their kids at home. This means they are not sitting down with their kids on a regular basis for organized, structured Bible teaching (picture Sunday school at the dinner table). It's no wonder that the church is failing to reach the next generation. You reap what you sow!So what can we do about these problems? That's where the family-integrated church comes in. Here are four ways the family-integrated church solves the problems above.
4 Advantages of Family-Integrated Church
First, the family-integrated church is more effective at motivating parents to disciple their kids at home. How? Parents are more likely to disciple their kids if the church is not doing it for them. This is common sense. If you stop feeding a dog, it will start hunting for its own food. If there's no lifeguard on duty, parents are more likely to watch out for their own kids. If the church stops discipling kids for parents, parents are more likely to disciple their kids themselves. The family-integrated model does not do for parents what they should be doing themselves.
Second, the family-integrated church is more effective at equipping parents to disciple their kids. In the traditional church, the parent's role is reduced to transportation -- drop the kids off so that someone else can teach them the Bible. With the family-integrated model, the parent's role dramatically increases. First, parents TEACH their kids the Bible at home. Second, parents set the EXAMPLE for how to behave in church -- how to sing, how to pray, how to listen to a sermon, how to participate in a Bible Study, how to volunteer, etc. Third, parents OBSERVE their child's behavior in church so that they can know how to better teach them at home.
Third, the family-integrated church is more effective at discipling parents. Parents are pushed to set a good example in church because their kids are watching. Teaching their kids at home helps parents to learn the Bible. Teaching also pushes parents to practice what they preach, because nobody listens to a hypocrite. The family-integrated church also helps parents learn how to parent, because it pushes them to learn how to control their kids in order to keep them from being a distraction in church. (If you can keep your kids still and quiet in church, then you can get them to do pretty much anything!)
Fourth, the family-integrated church provides a more effective environment for discipling kids. First, kids behave and listen better when they are sitting next to their parents. Second, kids learn mature character better in a room full of mature adults than a room full of immature kids. Third, because kids participate with the adults, they are taught that they are the church of today rather than the church of the future, and this pushes them to get serious about Christ now rather than wait for adulthood.
It's not the only way to do church, but I believe the family-integrated church is the best way. And if you will join us, I'm confident that you will come to feel the same way.