It is our heart’s desire to follow God’s defined patterns for our lives. As we look through the Bible, we find that God places great value on family. In the very beginning, He designed the family as the first and foremost grouping of people. In the New Testament, we find specific instruction regarding the function of families, requirements of leaders defined in terms of how well they lead their families, and descriptions of the church using the concept of family as the model.
At New Life Christian Church, we want to encourage people to follow God closely regarding this very important God-created institution. From what we see in scripture, we perceive that it is a critical component of God’s design and desire for this world.
In order to explain our concept of a family integrated church, we come at it from three perspectives:
We have also come up with this video:
It is important to note that we do not elevate the concept of family integration above the tenets of our faith. However, we do believe that God has defined it as the best model for our interaction with one another.
What is it?
It seems there are as many definitions for family integrated churches as there are groups who use the term. At New Life Christian Church, our model is defined by three components: 1) God’s plan for our families, 2) A multi-generational perspective, and 3) A way of life.
God’s plan for our families
God created the concept of family and made it a central component of our lives. God intended family to be the primary relational model for people. Rather than accepting man-made models that disintegrate the family within the church, we are trying to follow God’s model as closely as we can.
A multi-generational perspective
When was the last time that you considered your life from a multi-generational perspective? How will your decisions and actions affect the following generations of your family?
God has already determined and communicated a plan for you to follow:
9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” (Deuteronomy 4:9-10 NIV)
1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you. 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:1-7 NIV)
5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. 7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. (Psalm 78:5-7 NIV)
A way of life
At New Life Christian Church, it is our vision that the integration of the family is a way of life. We work to make the day by day spiritual growth, life transformation, and the service of our God a family affair.
The common mistake many people make is thinking that a Family Integrated Church is simply one where the Sunday morning worship service includes all members of a family; where mom, dad, and all the kids sit together.
There are two reasons for this misunderstanding.
The first is the misuse of the word “church”. Sometimes, this word is used to refer to the building. Sometimes, it evokes a simple picture of the normal Sunday morning activities. Neither is the intent of the word that we find in the Bible. Because it is so common to misuse the word, it becomes a “reflex” to misuse it even when we KNOW the correct meaning. To put it plainly, the concept of the word found in the Bible is that it is a reference to a group of people.
The second reason is that the Sunday morning worship service may be the most commonly visible part of a local church. After all, this may be the most consistent time that we see each other and typically the first impression of a church for visitors.
These two perspectives have led many to this erroneously narrow definition of the concept. However, a Family Integrated Church is not simply one where the integration happens on Sunday mornings. The integration should happen as an everyday way of life.
Why do we do it?
The contemporary disintegrated church model is a relatively recent development. Most of us who have been around the church since our childhoods and are at least 40 years old remember how our families spent much more time together than families do today. We ate meals together, played together, read Bible stories together, prayed together, and worshiped God together; we lived our lives as a family.
This isn’t simply an old-fashioned concept of a by-gone era which should be replaced by modern implementations. It is God’s plan for families which is intended to repeat from generation to generation; a plan that increases the rate of “success” in passing God’s best from generation to generation.
Following God’s plan
In an attempt to make improvements, contemporary churches have created, developed, and/or implemented models, programs, and methods that have effectively resulted in disintegrating the family. It would seem that there has been no intended malice in this process. These steps have been taken by well-intended people who were genuinely trying to improve the workings of the church.
However, God has already provided the best model. God’s model places the responsibility of passing His truth to children squarely on the shoulders of the parents.
18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18,19 NIV)
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”-which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4 NIV)
The relationship between parents and children in this process is critical. If we adopt models that devalue, limit, and/or replace this relationship, we are effectively saying that we are smarter and, therefore, have a better idea than God.
Using a model that repeats
As we see in scripture, it is God’s intent for children, grandchildren, and beyond to be taught His truth and to live according to it. The Creator knows the power of an example. If children are shown by their parents that it is important and possible to live according to the will of God, they will be more likely to incorporate that pattern into their own lives. They will also see and understand their responsibilities to their children… and so on.
Increasing the success rate
Many studies show that the greatest majority of young people in their teens and early twenties, who have been actively involved in a church as children, are permanently leaving Christianity. Perhaps a big part of that failure rate has to do with the results of models that disintegrate the family.
If a child’s experience in religious matters is one where mom and dad are not involved with her and that there is no discernable example of a significant change in mom’s and dad’s life, why would a she believe that there is any truth or any relevance to what she is being taught? If mom and dad aren’t dealing with it as though it mattered to them, why should she act differently?
On the other hand, how likely is it that the child will accept the truth as important and relevant if the parents are fully committed to it themselves and clearly interested in her development in it?
How do we implement it?
We understand this may be a major change to the “norm” for most people. Therefore, we want to make sure you know what to expect with regards to how we implement this.
The best way that we can help each other in this process is to equip parents to take on their God-given responsibilities with their own children, include teaching and disciplining them.
First of all, we know that it is important for young parents and parents who are new to this model to have Godly examples. We have families who want to humbly serve in this fashion.
The next component is encouragement. Taking on this level of responsibility in your family can be daunting. It is critical for the church to encourage people as they submit to God’s plan and make a commitment to this important work.
An important component in the process of equipping parents is to make sure that they have the tools they need to succeed. This can be as simple as making sure parents have access to sets of scripture readings to go through with their children on a weekly basis.
Lastly, parents need opportunities to practice this concept in many different settings. At New Life, we are committed to providing families these opportunities.
We worship together as whole families. It is beautiful to watch as children come to understand and experience what it means to truly worship God as they observe their parents worshiping God.
We know that having everyone together will create opportunities for some noise and slight distractions. This, quite frankly, is an inherent aspect of being a family. However, we do expect parents to keep their children from becoming overly noisy and creating a major distraction.
It is very important for children to see their parents studying God’s Word and to participate with them in that process. Our primary mid-week Bible study is for the whole family.
We search out options to serve the community that allow whole families to be involved.