Generation Cedar

Yes the very basic idea of family is under attack. And just like every other destructive notion, it is slowly creeping into the church unawares.

(Just yesterday, visiting a church, we were met at the door, and before it had even closed behind us, we were invited to usher our children over to the “children’s building–it rocks”. After a polite decline, she was insistent that they at least needed to go check it out because “it’s so much fun they’d be sure to want to come back”.)

I’m not going to dive off into the ins and outs of children’s ministry, but there is a subtle, well-meaning advancement of family separation in the church that I don’t see as a positive thing.

What does it all mean? What’s the whole purpose? What does it mean to be different people but functioning together under one agenda?

Obviously, we must first be convinced that families are God’s idea. I heard someone touting the “hyper-family” model not long ago. The accusation was that some circles put too much emphasis on family.

I’m left scratching my head on that one. To me it’s the same as saying we put too much emphasis on breathing.

Family is the framework on which all else if built. Strong families lead to strong churches. Then to strong communities, and then strong nations. If we miss the foundation, the rest will crumble.

From the foundations of the world, family was established. Even if a person is single, he was always a part of a family. Widows are a part of a family. Paul referred to Timothy as his son. The very language of Scripture teaches us the importance of family. (Christ is the Groom, the Bride is His church…God is our Father, and the Bible is full of parent/marriage analogies.)

I think it’s an understood that whatever we are given to do from Scripture is worked out through the family.

Why else the serious qualifications of church leaders in Timothy? A man is not to even be considered eligible to lead in the church if he hasn’t first successfully led his family.

But we’ve lost this. The church wants to divide the family, even in the realm of ministry. We want a ministry for each individual member, and we want Mom here, and Dad there, and children over there…we really need to try to see the importance of carrying out the Great Commission through the obvious structure of family.

Our agenda then? What is the chief end of man? “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. Then that’s also the chief end of family.

What is the greatest commandment? “Thou shalt the love the Lord God with all your heart, soul and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Then we do that as family.

What are we given to do?

  • “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Family.
  • “Be given to hospitality…distributing to the necessity of saints.” Natural family work.
  • “Go out and make disciples of all men.” (Discipleship is a walking alongside of people. There is no better way to do this than within the context of family. Because at any point one member of the family gives himself to discipling others on his own, he is no longer discipling/being discipled himself.)

We must see ourselves as members of one body, first as related family members, and then our families as an extension of the body of Christ.

It makes sense then why the father is to be the head. The wife his helper. The children extensions of that “command team”. We must all be on board with the same purpose and goals.

Financially, when families are operating under a team model, everyone is contributing to the making and saving of the family’s economy. Children are no longer viewed as leeches or liabilities. They are seen as assets who ultimately serve to improve the family’s economy.

Children should be viewed as “ambassadors” of their parent’s vision. And the vision is what holds it all together. When I know I am an integral part of a unit, I am valuable; I have purpose and am not just an individual out to fulfill my own selfish desires.

“That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as pillars, sculptured in palace style; that our barns may be full, supplying all kinds of produce; that our sheep may bring forth thousands in our fields…happy are the people who are in such a state; happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” Psalm 144:12-15

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27 Responses

  1. well said, kelly. I agree with you. The American church isn’t even close to be at risk of Deifying the family. Far from it!!

  2. as a side note, you had me worried when they said that their children’s program “rocks” – a phrase that totally smacks of worldliness

  3. My husband and I were just having a conversation about this. We have been attending the same church for over 3 years. People were constantly pushing us to send our kids into the nursery "class" and preschool "class". I write class, because I believe it is 95% play and maybe 5% learning…if that? Anyway, my husband and I are really feeling led that church is a time for family togetherness; we worship together, learn together, & fellowship together. It's good to know there are others who feel this way. Also,(sorry off the specific subject) I was told yesterday that my grandma thinks I am being "stupid and selfish" for homeschooling. She said "Schools are there for a reason", "won't it be nice to have her out of your hair", and I love this… "isn't it time to let her go, I mean she can't stay innocent forever"!!!! I am so sad that she feels this way, but I must press on. Sorry to vent.

  4. I look at this from another angle, one of protecting our children. We would do well to remember that predators depend on the fracturing/separating of families to find their victims. This not only goes for schooling and church services but extended families as well. This is one of the many reasons we keep our family together in as many situations as possible. Not just spiritual protection/teaching but physical protection too.

    Kimberly— I honestly cannot understand ANYONE who thinks it is their business to remark on how you raise your children. (even if it is grandma!)

  5. I just wrote a post about the family integrated church we found. Is there a family integrated church in your area, Kelly?

    I cannot begin to tell you how encouraged I am by this church model. Correct me if you already know but family integrated is a sort of new type of church where no one is split up by age.

  6. I, too, have noted an unhealthy separation of families in churches. There was one point at which the nursery worker at our church (who is no longer there) would really pressure us to put our 2 boys in there. It always irked me – especially after I kindly explained that we preferred keeping them with us.
    Yeah, they get antsy halfway through the sermon, but I’d much rather have them learning alongside us than not knowing what their learning (ie.what bad habits they’re picking up from other little kids)

  7. I JUST finished reading Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham to my husband… wow! Just finished it… like 3 seconds ago.
    Dr. Baucham talks in depth about the same things Kelly is talking about in this post!
    I very highly recommend for wives to read it to their husbands.
    My husband has enjoyed this so much even though he isn’t an avid reader himself. It has really built our resolve to work together on this thing called parenting! 🙂

  8. Kelly,

    This is very interesting to me. My husband and 2 year old went to a church and they told us that in general children were not allowed in the main church but allowed us to go on in. The 2 year old stirred a couple of times and the usher came and whispered to my husband that if the child stirred again he would have to ask us to leave.

  9. Kelly,
    My name is Wendy Clark and I heard about your blog from my friend Rebekah Hixon. I have enjoyed reading about your family and your thoughts. I have a question about discipleship. I too believe our number priority in discipleship should be our children (Deut 5), but I am confused about your statement about discipleship outside the home. Do you think we should also walk along side new Christians and disciple them? Thank you for your time. I hope we get to meet one day! Wendy Clark

  10. “…family integrated is a sort of new type of church where no one is split up by age.”

    I’m glad to see the evangelical church is figuring this one out. In liturgical churches, you almost never see the kids being separated from parents for “kids church” or Sunday school. I’m Lutheran, and there’s a nursery for the small children, if the parents choose to utilize it, but almost nobody does. We have education hour between services, where there are children’s classes and adult classes, and children are of course invited to participate in the adult classes if the parents wish. Every member of the family, no matter how small, should be involved in community worship!

    I also think that sitting through the worship service is a great way to teach young kids self control and patience. Yes, it can be hard for a small one to be good for a whole hour or more, but it’s a good skill to learn, and good fruits to cultivate in our little ones.

  11. Catherine R.,

    Yes, we attend a family-integrated church with the whole family worshipping together.

    It has been incredible. Sometimes it takes stepping out of a certain model to even realize some of the disadvantages of it.

    FI worship places the father back into spiritual responsibility as the leader, and also the children learn how to worship in spirit and in truth.

    There are too many benefits to even list…and sometimes, it just takes experiencing it to understand the importance of it.

  12. Wendy,

    Welcome! What I was saying about discipleship outside the home is that there is a misconception about The Great Commission; the church has come to think in terms of programs and individualized approaches for reaching the lost.

    I’m suggesting that the GC involves primarily the family. If churches were encouraging families to welcome others into their homes (basic hospitality), the discipleship becomes a natural process.

    In other words, reaching the lost doesn’t have to be so structured and organized, and it shouldn’t exclude the family unit (i.e. Dad goes to teach the minstry class at church, etc. apart from his family.)

    Discipleship is living out a natural model–families loving and serving together–and bringing others alongside us to encourage, mentor and minister to them.

    Hope that makes sense.

  13. Oh Kelly, I SO needed to read this post today…it is truly an answer to prayer.
    My hubby and I are looking for a family integrated church in our area (Columbus, OH) and would prefer to find one before our little one is born in October! There is a new church plant from our current church (which is totally NOT family integrated in any way!) and we were very interested in it as we had met with the man (and his family) who will be the lead pastor of it and we had the opportunity to discuss about FIC with him and he was even reading FDF by Voddie Baucham (as kim m. has mentioned, I agree it is a GREAT, eye-opening book full of truth!). We were so excited to hear about his ideas for the church and attended the first few meetings. Well, unfortunately we have been extremely disappointed as he/the church planting team have decided to sort of be a little more like an FIC, but not fully embrace it. My husband just met with him this morning and it sounds like there are some encouraging things about this church, but at the same time it is a huge let down for us. They will be doing the normal split up everybody based on age, etc.

    So anyway, this morning I cried out to God asking Him to send me encouragement that we are believing the right things about family and church, etc. and doing the right thing in looking for an FIC, or to show me where we are wrong in our thinking or putting the wrong emphasis on what we are looking for in a church (hmm…I hope that made sense!). Well I have found much encouragement in your words today and it has given me and my husband (I read this post to him as well) more confidence to keep pursuing such a church and hang tight to these things that God has been revealing to us about family and church.

    Thank you so much! I seem to find never-ending encouragement on your blog 🙂


  14. Your post made some excellent points. I agree that families need to be integrated together – that the father/husband is the head of the household and the mother/wife is the helpmeet – the families need to be able to worship together as a unit.

    However, I don’t see what’s so wrong about individual ministries. I don’t see what’s wrong with mothers or wives having a bible study or even husbands/fathers.I think that it would be fine for children as well, but the parents should be able to participate (maybe that is what you are talking about – letting families members have the option of participating and not being FORCED to go into an area based on age or gender?).

    I think most churches have nurseries or “pre-school classes” because they feel that children might get bored with a long sermon for adults, and that they want to give them something “fun” to do. I don’t know if this is the best course of action, but I don’t think their intentions are evil, maybe just a little misguided?

    I have to agree with what one blogger said about the children’s classes being more about activities than learning. I have participated in some of these types of classes in the past, and most of the time, the children are singing, coloring, playing games, etc. just to “keep them busy” until their parents are done with “their adult church.” Ha! When I think about it, this sounds more like daycare than a children’s ministry (I used to work in daycare, ugh! I’m SO glad I don’t have to do THAT anymore!).

    BTW, I am sorry that you were forced to put your children in a children’s ministry. Once you said, “No,” your request should have been respected.

  15. I loved this post! My Dh and I decided when my five year old son was 18m old to begin worshipping together as a family.
    The people at our church have learned to expect it, but we are the only ones who do it.
    The world sneaks into our churches so subtly that people who are “asleep” or “not watching” barely notice it until it smacks us in the face.
    My mom is appalled that we will not be sending our children to youth group when they come of age. Even though my oldest is only 11 I have heard the lectures of how they will rebel and not know how to function in the real world… all because we don’t want to send them to youth camp?! Seems to me like most young people who rebel and leave the faith had a great time at youth camp!
    Thanks for this post. I love the V. Bauchman book. I was so refreshed as DH and I read it together. He called it a well in a dry desert for us. How true!

  16. Mrs. Lady Sofia,

    Let me be sure to restate what I said earlier…these are, I believe, ALWAYS well-intentioned programs. And often there is nothing wrong with the program itself.

    It’s more of a mindset. I’m researching a little since this seems to be a topic of interest, because the practice of age segregation can be directly related to Darwinistic thinking.

    The programs are no doubt constructed with the best of intentions; we’ve just failed to think biblically, and instead taken our cues from the world…yet again.

  17. Amy W.,

    Thanks for encouraging ME! I pray the Lord will lead and guide your husband and you in this area.

  18. I love taking my kids to the worship service (or as we call it, the worship “meeting”). I think it is wonderful for them to be a part of it. But what do you think about having a Sunday school for the kids that takes place before or after the worship service? My church has a Thursday night “Sunday school” for the kids at someone’s house, which follows a regular Sunday school format (story, craft, singing, snack). I do not see anything wrong with this! Nor do I see anything wrong with youth groups. How can it be wrong for your children and teens to spend time with other likeminded children and teens? Especially if they are not homeschooled. I realize that some youth groups can have problems, and it would be up to the parent to decide whether their own church has a wholesome youth group or not. I know for me, youth group was the place that I really grew in my faith. It really helped me to know that there were other kids out there who thought the way I did. I guess I just don’t see anything wrong with my kids being taught by someone else – it only reinforces what I am teaching them at home.

  19. Laura,

    Here again, I’m not necessarily making a sweeping statement that “all programs or children’s ministries are bad”. Nor am I denying the helpful and effective outcomes that many people personally experience.

    My personal opinion rests on these things:

    1. The more programs and ministries that are geared for segregated groups, not matter how noble or effective, the more effort goes into those, and less aimed at building families where the father is the primary spiritual leader.

    2. When the church focuses on spiritual discipleship of the individual, (especially if they do a good job), many parents abdicate their responsibility to be the primary teachers of their children. Regardless of what children are learning at church, it is still a pragmatic approach; it is still biblically the parents’ responsibility.

    And in the case where the parents aren’t doing it (which is often the argument for the programs), I think the church needs to be focusing on the remedy to that more important dilemma. Building from the ground up.

    3. Youth ministry has demonstrated a miserable failure rate in the long-term spirtual growth of teens. There are certainly effective programs, and God can assuredly use any vehichle to bring people to Him, but again, the overall principle, to me, is not a biblical one. (Peer dependency is another BIG factor that could be a topic all by itself!)

  20. This is a great topic! I am so glad that I am not the only one who wants my child(ren) with me during church! We recently changed churches due partially to this issue. We wanted our then-newborn with us for a few weeks (in a Sunday School class); we were bullied into putting her in the nursery long before I was ready. I was “scolded” publicly several times by the (female) teacher and a couple of class members about how I needed to get over it.

    This was about the time my mind began to change about a lot of things, including the way we view children and the role of women in the home and in the church. God really opened my eyes through this experience.

    The baby thing was only part of a larger issue, and we are now members of a very family-friendly church. Not family-integrated yet, but almost. There are children’s classes and a nursery, but they are also welcome in the adult classes (and worship). It is a world of difference. Big families are common and are viewed positively, unlike our previous situation.

    Thank you for your posts, Kelly. Finding this blog helped me during a situation where everyone around us was telling us we were crazy.

  21. I talk about this on my blog a bit. In fact, I posted a little about it today. Our church has no programs at all. Everyone stays together for all meetings and events. No Sunday School, no nursery no children’s church. My kids are learning how to worship with everyone else. They even help get everything set up before service and they help put everything away after service. They are learning how to serve others by doing. We love having our kids together with us for the whole service.

  22. Kelly, I began commenting on your post hours ago. It became apparent very quickly that I couldn’t leave what was becoming more of a book in your comment section.

    I so agree with what you’ve had to say, and I’ve elaborated a bit about how God dealt with our family in this matter, even using the scripture you shared.

    You can find me on my soapbox for this particular topic at Under the SON

  23. Understandable Sandy! Even with my small book (I do so try to keep it short!) there is so much more to say. Thanks for the thoughtful post at your place.

  24. I truly appreciate your approach to this and other issues Biblically. I am struggling with one thing, though. The main reason we have a children’s ministry at our church is to serve as an outreach. We have buses that go out and pick up kids from all over town whose parents are not teaching them anything Biblical at home. These children then have the opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ and have a choice about salvation. Many times, a child will get saved, act differently, and then the whole family begins to attend. I agree that families can and should approach the GC as a unit, not individuals. Where do the unsaved fit into the Integrated Family model? I can see where adults may come and feel comfortable, but obviously a youngster would feel out of place without their family. It is not that i disagree, I just want to understand where this church model includes an outreach to the unsaved and unchurched. I honestly think it sounds somewhat selfish to focus so much on your own family only and not the bigger picture. I would love to know what your thoughts and biblical basis for this specific instance. I am not trying to debate at all, I just want to know more about where you are coming from specifically concerning reaching the lost. Jesus left his own family at the age of 12 to speak with the people in the Temple. He also left them as an adult to minister to the least of the society in that day. Is that not an example we should follow? The way I believe it to be, is if you put your service to the Lord first, He will preserve and protect your family. And when I say service, i do not mean going to a ladies luncheon and leaving your kids with a sitter. I mean going out and reaching out to the lost through visitation and other programs, while they are in the care of Grandma. When appropriate they can go along. Or, in the case of church, they will be in their Sunday school class while you teach a class which includes many unsaved children who do not have the opportunity to learn from Christian parents at home. What are your thoughts?

  25. Jennie,

    Your question is a very important one that I’m glad you raised.

    My limited understanding reasons this way…

    Seems our focus for reaching the lost needs to be more long term, aiming for lasting, solid results. While the outreach programs may elicit faster, larger responses, often the “results” are not lasting. Especially if children are going back to a home with no Christian discipleship. (This is not to discount the occasional instance where the child is converted and the parents follow…but I think this is rare.)

    Going back to the Bible for our model, we don’t see any evidence of programs at all. You brought up Jesus’ ministry. As I said earlier, his ministry was discipleship. He lived and let people walk beside him, watching and learning from his life. It was simple and powerful.

    I think if families discipled families…imagine basic hospitality, where Christian families are opening their homes to their non-Christian neighbors, just welcoming and loving them, letting the fruit of their lives speak of Christ and his love, that is what ultimately draws people to Himself. (Or even just the presence of families anywhere they go…)

    Families living out truth, demonstrating what a godly marriage looks look, children who honor their parents and are kind to one another, a home that exudes peace and joy, is this not what the world longs for?

    This is why I’m always talking about the need for Christians to be different; insted of becoming like the world to draw them, what if we draw them by our difference?

    This is really a long and complicated issue. We could talk about why the church is succumbing to so many pitfalls the world is– (divorce, teen promiscuity, drug use, etc.)…I submit that our methods are not working. Instead of converting the lost, we’re losing our own.

    This is just a brief overview and I’ve not done a very thorough job explaining it (anyone else feel free to assist!)

    But I hope some of that made sense.

    By the way, I’m fully aware that there are good programs where lives are being changed. I’m not discounting that. I just think our efforts would be much better placed in undergirding the family and trying to reach the parents (especially the father) for a lasting, generation-changing approach.

    Furthermore, can any program, no matter its postivie results, warrant the church taking over the parents’ job? It’s really church beauracracy. Think about the government’s way of handling things…they try to patch up the wounds instead of going to the root of the ailment. Aren’t we just as guilty? No program is better than focusing on the underlying problem–it’s the parents we need to be reaching.

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