What is family integration?
Family integration is the embodiment of the belief that the most basic context for the believers which make up Christ’s church is the family. Additionally, it is founded on the principle that God has ordained the family as the most fundamental institution of all human society. When families break down, so do cultures and nations.
Family integration strives to create a church whose practices and ordinances strengthen families. If a church is populated by weak or loosely bound families, then sooner or later, the church will struggle and falter. What structure can withsand the challenges of our world with a foundation that is crumbling?
In light of this need to preserve and protect the family, Grace Family Church has decided not to offer a separate Sunday School or children’s church. Why would we do this? The absence of Sunday School or children’s church means that families sing together, pray together, learn together, and grow together. Everything is done with and through families. We think this is the best form of youth ministry and discipleship training.
Additionally, we encourage family members to grow within their Biblically defined roles by providing specific teaching and opportunities to put into practice the lessons learned. It is this kind of family-based spiritual development that we believe enables families to live out the discipleship principles taught in Deuteronomy 6.
Why family integration?
J. Richard Fugate comments on this disconnectedness in What the Bible says about Child Training:
“This [generation] gap exists only to the extent that parents do not inculcate their standards into their children. A child who is totally left to himself will develop a set of standards based on his own will and nature plus any outside influences he may have accepted. These influences are those whom he has accepted for his own authorities, such as: teachers, celebrities, members of his peer group, or dynamic leaders of some cause. His self-imposed standards separate him from his parents; and, as they gradually lose control, the gap widens.”
We believe the generation gap is widened with the age-based segregation and fragmentation common in most churches today. The typical family experience on Sunday morning is one filled with separate classes, separate social influences, and many times separate worship experiences. In the age-segregated experience, children are constantly bombarded with competing influences which often seem more compelling and attractive than mom and dad. How can parents compete? We believe they shouldn’t have to.
Family integrated churches recognize the need to protect families from being broken apart so that the parents remain the primary influence in the children’s lives. When the hearts of the children are turned toward their parents, true discipleship can happen, and the key to a multi-generational vision for Christ’s church is established.
How is this possible?
Family integration runs counter to the prevailing winds in our culture. Everywhere you look, temptations exist to break away from God’s design for the family and for His church. It is a daunting task to think about rejecting cultural norms where appropriate and walking in a way that may seem a bit peculiar.
Many of us have not grown up in churches where family unity is protected and preserved, and such an emphasis on the family requires the parents and the children to pursue their Biblical roles with great perseverance. In a church where programs and age-segregated minstries aren’t there, the parents are the only ones left to take the leads in discipleship and training. This is unusual territory for many of us because so much of our spiritual and educational experiences have historically been characterized by turning our children over to the “the experts”. However, no one knows or loves children more than their parents, and God commands parents to take the lead in whole life discipleship in places like Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6. Therefore, we focus on equipping the family to function as God intended. Fathers are exhorted to lead and teach. Mothers are encouraged to support and nurture. Children are trained to respect authority and be service minded.But we can’t do it alone. A family integrated church is essentially a “family of families”. In a fashion similar to family unity, we strive to build a community of believers who share the vision of extending God?s Kingdom through the generations. Just as openness and honesty is critical within a family, so also is it vital for a church body.
When churches comprised of strong families extend their influence throughout our society, God will be glorified, and the world can be changed.
Family Integration Info
You can find out more about Family Integrated Churches by visiting the National Center for Family Integrated Churches.