Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Multi-generational considerations and the Family Integrated Church

I shared with you last time that the sufficiency of Scripture must be foundational in every family integrated church (FIC). Many people feel more comfortable when seminary-trained men and women, or at least long-time, battle-hardened, mature believers are doing all the teaching within the church family. Sound doctrine is of crucial importance, so it’s not an ungrounded fear. But, again, with the Bible available for all, if we will be diligent to read our Bibles, pray for the Holy Spirit to help us to understand what we read, sit under the preaching of a sound expositor of the Word, and seek out godly counsel, any of us can teach our children. I hope I didn’t give you the impression that only FICs hold this high view of the Bible, because I know many (if only it were all!) churches do value God’s Word in this way. What I attempted to communicate is the drafting into the ministry, so to speak, of parents in a FIC. I know there are many, such as myself, who are faithful to teach Sunday school in age-segregated classes, or serve the church in another capacity, but I think the statistic is something like 5% on average of church attendees (and these mostly women) in churches make this commitment, whereas 95% of church attendees do not take an active role in the church. This means that most parents either do not feel equipped or inclined to teach their kids the Bible. This is what you do not see in a FIC. Within a FIC all parents embrace their role of instructing their children in spiritual matters. And the parents in turn have elders in their church that they look to for guidance and instruction. This is what I love most about the FIC model. Can you imagine being joined together into a church family full of people committed to the equipping of parents to train their children up in the admonition of the Lord? It almost makes you excited to see what the Lord will do in the next generation of the church. And speaking of generation, this brings us to today’s post.

The church is made up of believers of all different ages and walks of life. Have you ever watched Little House on the Prairie and noticed how they all worshipped in church together and then afterwards the kids (of all ages) would run around and play while the adults (of all ages, single and married) fellowshipped as well? This is a beautiful picture of a FIC. Children began being segregated by age for school around 150 years ago and Sunday school rapidly followed suit. I could devote a whole post on the history of the Sunday school movement and debate about its effectiveness, but I’d rather direct you to Doug Phillip’s blog for that and move on to what concerns me about age-segregation in the church.

The first problem I see with age-segregation in the church is that it isn’t in the Bible. Now I realize that going down this road might make us start questioning a whole bunch of other church practices, but let’s just stay on this for now. Acts 2:17 acknowledges sons, daughters, young men, old men, and women, but there are no distinctions of age, other than young versus old. Titus 2 also divides men and women into young and old. In the context of Titus 2 godly older men and older women are to be about the ministry of discipling younger men and women respectively. Many assume Titus 2 is referring to “older” or “younger” in the faith. That may be part of it, but I think it has more to do with the fact that older Christians (regardless of how long they’ve been believers) have life experience and wisdom to offer their younger counterparts.
This brings me to my next problem with age-segregation in the church. How can older women teach younger women and how can older men influence younger men if never the twain shall meet in church?
My husband and I met in a mega church in Dallas. We were “plugged-in” to the college and career class of this mega church and I honestly had little to no interaction with anyone outside of that class! I also participated in a “young adult” Bible Study Fellowship class for a couple of years. Other than the pastor of the church and the teaching leaders of the BSF class, I was completely surrounded by people of my age and single the ENTIRE time I lived in Dallas. After my husband and I married, he became an associate pastor at another mega church in the area of, guess what, the college and career class. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful for where the Lord had me. I met my husband after all! We also made lifelong friends there. BUT, I regret the many lessons we had to learn the hard way when we were new to marriage. I regret the narrow perspective we had surrounded by singles in our own age range.

Family-integrated churches provide a unique (in this church culture) opportunity for believers of all ages, married or single, to worship and fellowship together. It’s much more likely that you will seek out an “older” woman in your church for wisdom, if you know her. And what a wonderful blessing seniors can be to children and vice versa. I love seeing our 3 year old son interact with a couple of the ladies in our church who use walkers. They’ve spoiled him so that he always expects a ride on their walkers after church! I love that my 10 year old son sits next to my dad during church and that my mom helps my girls take notes. What a blessing that our children worship with my parents, my husband’s parents, and my grandmother! Scriptures acknowledge that older and younger believers have something to offer one another and this cannot be fully realized when they go their separate ways every time the church door is open.

Hebrew boys were considered to be men when they turned 13. We consider 18 the age of adulthood, and that is a very loose consideration. I taught in a local university for a few years and the 18 year olds I encountered did not seem very mature to me. They’re a far cry from the young men of our country 65 years ago who won World War II for us. There’s something about our culture that is delaying the maturation of our children. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but it seems to me that our insistence upon segregating our kids at school and church could play a part. How will my 10 year old son grow into a godly 16 year old if he never sees what that looks like? God places us into a church family so they can be just that to us, family. The spiritual gifts outlined in 1 Corinthians 12 and elsewhere in the New Testament show how the body of the church is made up of many parts that function together. How likely is it that a single Sunday school class of similar aged people with similar interests will represent a sampling of all the spiritual gifts? It doesn’t seem likely to me. For the health of the church we’re supposed to work together, help one another, build one another up, warn one another, etc. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

The multi-generational aspect of the FIC is all-inclusive and promotes more healthy, diverse relationships than can be made in an age-segregated church. What’s more, this multi-generational appreciation extends beyond the present. God works through families that span generations. So often we’re tempted to only see the here and now. FICs encourage believers to see a purpose for their lives that extends beyond their own lifetime. We’ve lost sight of this concept of legacy in our culture and would do well to recover it.

God has given to each of us individual gifts, which along with our spiritual maturity and life experiences provide us each with a unique opportunity to minister to others in our church. If segregation by age and marital status doesn’t improve the health of the church or the sanctification of the individual believers, then why do we do it? Perhaps it’s time we question this relatively recent church practice and return to the way church was done hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Not all progress is progress if you know what I mean.


  1. Celee! Wow! there is no way I could ever put it better than that. I don't even think I need to read all those books now, you just made such excellent points. Of course, I already agreed with you so that helped :)
    Seriously though Celee, well put. The closing line of that post was my favorite.

  2. Thanks, Valerie. You are so sweet! I hope I'm doing each point justice. Books have been written about each of my posts so it's hard to boil it down to the essentials. I'm glad it made sense.



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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.