Together on Purpose

KINGSJSv3Here at King’s Church, we practice “Family Integrated Worship,” where families attend our Sunday worship service together (rather than children or teens attending their own meetings separate from their parents). The only exception we see to this (both now and in the future) is to provide a safe place for the under 3’s in a nursery. However, we do not wish to segregate older children and teens from the rest of the congregation – sending them off to different rooms or buildings. Instead, on earth, as it is in heaven, young and old together, with one voice in unity, we the gathered people of God seek to proclaim His praises and hear His word together.

We do not make the claim that our way of worshiping is the only valid way to do Church on the Lord’s Day. Indeed, we believe there are times when it is entirely appropriate for specialized ministry to take place. One Biblical example of this is that older women are exhorted to teach the younger women (Titus 2:3-5), which presumably means that men are excluded from such a gathering.

However, while in no way wishing to be divisive or suggest, even for a moment, that we are the only Church in town obeying God, we practice “Family Integrated Worship” because of certain convictions we have.

At church together.

At church together.


As we examine the Biblical data we find that throughout the centuries, this has been the normal way in which the people of God have gathered. This is clear from both the Old and New Testaments.

Deuteronomy 31: 11-13 reads, “When all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

Joshua 8:35 says, “There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.”

Ezra 10: 1 While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly.

These and other scriptures testify to the fact that when God’s people assembled, it was normal for children to be included.

In the New Testament, children were present during Christ’s preaching and teaching ministry (Matthew 14:13-21).

When Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus, he included a message for the children (Eph. 6:1-3). In doing so, a clear assumption was in his mind; that when his letter was read to the gathered Church, children would be present in the service to hear it. The same assumption can be found in Colossians 3:20, where we read, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”

In recent decades, many have practiced a very different model for doing Church, something called “age segregated worship” where the family is split up, fragmented and isolated from each other in the service. We have now had a great deal of time to assess the long term effects and fruit of such ministry. The results are in and what we have observed has not been good. While church growth did occur, at least initially in the short term; when teens become adults we see a severe lack of participation in the life of the local church. The percentage of teens in youth ministry who make the transition to regular, ongoing participation in the local Church as adults, is alarmingly low. That is tragic and heart breaking!

In the light of this, we need to ask an important question:

Could it be that the model we have used may be a big factor in this?

More at this link.

Family Integrated Church

kidsinchurchJeff Durbin, pastor of Apologia Church, Tempe writes the following:

Why does Apologia Church do ‘Family Integrated Worship’? It creates difficulties, we have lost people because of it (too hard), and it slows down church growth. Here are a few reasons:

1. We believe that God’s Word ought to be the foundation for how we worship God.

2. We don’t believe that we have the right to be creative or novel in corporate worship. God’s Word not only tells us “why” we worship God but “how” we ought to do it.

3. Throughout the Scriptures, God gives us a pattern and model in terms of gathering for worship. Children were present during the Passover meal and during various feasts (Ex. 12:1-4; 16:9-17), children were taught the Law of God and were called to keep the Sabbath holy (this included corporate worship: Exodus 20), whole families (including children) were commanded to listen to the reading of the Law (Deuteronomy 31:9-13), nursing children were a part of the called assembly (Joel 2:13), in Paul’s letters (which were read during worship) he has specific words to children (with the assumption that children were present in the corporate gathering for worship; Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20), and children were present during Christ’s preaching and teaching (Matthew 14:13-21).

4. God created human-beings to worship Him. That’s our ultimate purpose. It is during the corporate gathering (what some call “big church”) that we sing praises to God, hear the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, and witness and participate in the ordinances of the church. The Bible gives clear instruction that we are to do these things including how we are to do them. We are convinced that it is not appropriate to create (in a novel way) a second form (little church) that functions apart from the normative instruction of how we are to worship.

5. Children witness how we are to worship God and hear the faithful proclamation of the Word during corporate worship in a way that is very, very different than the common separated model. One of the great joys of my own ministry is watching small-children holding their parent’s hand with one hand and raising the other to God as they sing together.

Objections:

1. Children are distracting.
Yes, they are. That doesn’t give us a license to ignore the clear pattern of Scripture for how corporate worship is to be done. Further, we should give grace to children and patiently instruct them on how to show reverence to the worship of God. This is an excellent opportunity to work on our own hearts and make a commitment to train children on how to worship God. It’s hard work. There’s no question about that. How we respond to this says much more about us than it does about noisy children.

God called noisy, crying, booger-picking kids into His sacred assemblies. He is apparently fine with it and wants it. We should too. Sanctification is a process in which our hearts desires are conformed to His.

2. Children are not capable of understanding.
Respectfully, this is one of the weakest arguments I have encountered. The Bible has many examples of instruction to children and Jesus called us not to forbid children from coming to Him to learn from Him. When I hear this objection, it grieves me. Many Muslim children are encouraged to memorize the entire Quran at very young ages. We need to trust the clarity of God’s Word, the power of God’s Spirit, and we should believe that God is able to communicate His truth (even the deep things) to small children. We should be allowing our children to wrestle with the deep things of God from a young age. We ought to teach our children to be rigorous in their thinking for the glory of God. That isn’t to say that we don’t bring things to their level, it’s to say that we shouldn’t be comfortable with constantly dumbing-down the faith for young children. This, I believe, will ultimately hurt them. Could it be that this is the means of how so many professing young “believers” end up abandoning the faith when challenged with some of the weakest and worst arguments when they get to college? Further, what do we think is the best model for creating a pattern of life that our children learn from infancy: seeing their parents participate in corporate worship or being separated from their parents so as to not see it?

Finally, there are lots of things that many adults don’t fully grasp from the pulpit. Do we then create new programs and church structures for all of the people who just want the “easy stuff”?

3. They disrupt the service.
Again, God is very comfortable with this. He invited these little noise-makers. If it is a severe problem, then commit to a period of time in which through love, patience, and discipline we train them to not disrupt the worship of God. This has a sanctifying effect on them and us. It takes time. Be patient with them.

Let me ask this question: If Jesus showed up for worship on a Sunday, would we separate our children from service?

4. I just need a break.
This, again, says more about our own hearts than it does about children in service. Also, what is worship about? Is it about us or God? Again, He invites them. Why don’t we?

Finally, it’s important to remember that “getting a break” so that “I” can worship means that there’s a group of people who don’t get to worship and get fed so that they can watch my kids and “I” can worship.

5. They will get bored.
Then spend time talking with them about the blessing of knowing God and hearing His Word. This is an excellent opportunity to teach our children about the blessing of God’s Word and the grace of God in giving it TO US! This is an opportunity to talk about what was taught during the message and apply it to our lives. We should model a life-long pursuit of hunger for the things of God. Teach your children to develop a taste for the things of God. Reverence for God’s Word is both taught and caught.

Worshiping God is a privilege and flows from the grace of God. Children should be taught this from a very early age.