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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Family Integration

If you know me well, you will not be surprised to hear that my heart and that of my husband's, is wrapped around the idea of family integrated worship (FIW). I am currently reading the above book and enjoying the pastor's humor as well as his message about families.

Our desire is that our boys would be with us during the entire church service, small group fellowships and other times of corporate worship (as opposed to a nursery, classroom, sunday school, etc.). Although there is nothing inherently wrong with these classes (my father has been a children's pastor for many years; my husband and I were youth leaders when we were first married), our main concern is that we have come to church to worship and the modern church culture tells us that we must separate at the door.

We are excited to have them with us during the music, prayer, communion, baptisms, and preaching because we see it is as not only great teaching moments, but also a lesson in discipline, respect, submission and responsibility. Will my two year old pick up on every part of the service? Not yet, but we are training through our inclusion that we want him to participate- and one day, as he matures, he will understand. We have had wonderful times to communion and fellowship together and it has sparked many conversations in our home.

Our children are social and love the friendships of children from our home group. I am not concerned that they are missing out on any Biblical truths or socialization because we have kept them out of the classrooms. We study the Word daily with them at home (as I know many do who have their children in church classes).

I have two VERY energetic little boys. It is not in their nature to sit still and be content to read quietly. When we first visited a FIW church about one year ago, I went away feeling quite discouraged. My oldest, then three years old, had rolled under the pews, did somersaults on the pews, and tried to write with crayon in every hymnal he could get his hands on. I was mortified, to say the least.

In the past year it has become very clear to me that I was expecting too much of them at that time. Not because of their ages, but because of their training. They were used to the toy filled nursery with sound proof walls; the gymnasium filled with games and loud play. They had never been required (by us) to sit still during a worship service; to learn to whisper instead of shout; to submit to their parental authority in the midst of other adults and children. Now, granted, we're not pushovers, but they were only 1 and 3, right? Could this truly be asked of obey and respect our authority? (I am not being sarcastic in this statement, but this was truly the cry of my reach what seemed impossible)

I found out that it is possible. Honestly, 100% possible. My boys are now 2 and almost 5 years of age; still very WILD and all boy! Do they always listen? Absolutely not. That is why, however, God has given us the blessing of discipline. Can I tell you the joy that is felt by both parent and child when there has been restoration after the sin?! A sunday school teacher does not have the authority or the time to discipline each child, obtain repentance and restore that child to a right spirit.

As I mentioned before, we do not attend a FIW church. We have been going there for approximately 7 months and we have many wonderful friends in our small group that have welcomed not only us, but our children to sit alongside them during our group discussions and Bible study. This is so encouraging and had made us feel so comfortable! (thank you!)

Many Christian families are going to choose to do many different things within their lives as the Lord directs and leads through wisdom and maturity. My desire is not to judge the motives of a fellow brother or sister in Christ as they do what they have prayerfully considered for their family, but rather to share our family's vision.

Have a wonderful week, friends!



Kimba said...

Thanks for posting this today. I recently read Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman. She deals with the same topic although she doesn't call it FIW. She had some really helpful tips for keeping your kids engaged during worship.

We feel strongly that we want our children to see worship as a gift and a privilege. Not something to be avoided until you're older or more mature.

But sometimes its easy to think that folks who practice this must just have really easy, quiet, compliant children. We, like you, have two small, occasionally WILD boys. Sometimes I leave worship feeling so discouraged. They didn't get anything out of it and neither did I.

Our church doesn't take a specific position on this issue although the only thing going on for kids during the service is a nursery for kids up to age three. We still allow our 20-month old to go there for at least part of the sermon but our 4-year old stays with us. We have a fairly long service so we're always trying to find a balance between keeping him engaged in the service and keeping him occupied so that he's quiet.

It's good to know that we're not alone.


Knit-Wit said...

I have not heard of this book or label for churches. Probably because we come from small towns and small churches so it is not a problem. Our kids have always sat with us through most if not all of the service.

Amanda Jo said...

I just found your blog through The Nester's - I am so glad I did! My pastor's wife and I run the nursery at our church and we have many of the members up in arms because we both (and the pastor) feel very strongly about our convictions when it comes to integrating children into our worship service. I'm happy to report that since we have taken over the responsibilities of the nursery committee we have integrated our 3s and 4s back into the church. We like to say "This is a family church and you children are welcome!"

Sometimes I feel like parents are just trying to snub their responsibilities or they (sadly) see their children as a burden or a hassle in the church service - although they would never word it just as I did.

These changes have had quite an effect on me, as well as my co-chairperson. I am the mother of a wild 4 year old boy who has some pretty significant behavioral disorders and he sits with us every Sunday. My pastor and his wife (she's my co-chair) have 4 children ages 8, 6, 2 and one that was born just after midnight this morning.

Sorry this is so long...I am very passionate about this topic.

Lisa said...

We also feel strongly about this. Our oldest, who is now getting ready to leave for college, did not participate in a youth group, but instead started serving with her dad on the Tech Team at our church. It has made a world of difference. Now, we are doing the same with our younger ones. They are learning service instead of being served!

Lisa Q.