Family Ministry, Trading One Extreme for Another

There is a really good audio message on the “Centrality of the Home” over on, and I agree with MUCH of what Pastor Voddie Baucham preaches, however, I really struggle with his description of what is being called “FIC” or Family Integrated Churches. On this page he describes an FIC church as one that:

Family Integrated Churches come in all shapes, sizes and varieties.  There are FICs in virtually every denominational and theological tradition, and in most sections of the country.  While no two FICs are exactly alike, they do have certain distinctives in common.

Families Worship Together

If you’ve ever walked into a FIC during a worship service, perhaps the first thing that struck you was the fact that there were so many babies and small children in the service.  We have grown accustomed to the presence of children in the service, and the children grow accustomed to being a part of the worship experience.  No one will stop you at the door if you try to enter our service with your toddler.

No Systematic Age Segregation

One of the biggest distinctions of a FIC is the absence of age-graded ministries.  We do not have segregated youth ministry, or children’s ministry.  First, these ministries are not part of the biblical church model.  The Bible is clear on whose job it is to disciple children… parents.  Second, these ministries can work against the biblical mode.  Parents who are relieved of their discipleship duties tend to become dependent on those who have taken over the job.  Finally, these ministries have failed.  We are losing 75-88% of Evangelical teens by the end of their freshman year in college.  And as Dr. Alvin Reid has noticed, “The largest rise of youth professionals in history has been accompanied by a decline in youth evangelism effectiveness.”

Evangelism/Discipleship Through Homes

We teach parents to evangelize and disciple their children and their neighbors.  We emphasize the ministry of hospitality, family worship, catechism, and family discipleship.  Thus, instead of placing the burden on paid professionals to “do the work of the ministry,” we equip the saints to do it.

Education as a Key Component of Discipleship

Jesus said, “A pupil is not above his teacher, but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).  Whoever educates a child is discipling that child.  We work hard to help parents see the importance of Christian education, and to help them make biblical choices as it relates to this part of their children’s discipleship.

Man, oh man! I agree with of much of this, and yet, I think this is another case of Christians answering one extreme with another extreme. I get frustrated that the Church has such a hard time with balance. If something has a downside (and the current way we ‘do church’ has many) we often run 180 degrees in the opposite direction instead of addressing these issues. In the Forums, I find myself so many times having to politely say, the answer to a controversial issue is rarely (if ever) an either/or issue, but a both/and issue.

It is a bit of a stretch to say that age-graded ministries “aren’t biblical.” If they are, so are donuts and coffee, PowerPoint projected sermon outlines, and driving to church. There are many things we do today that work (or don’t work) that aren’t in the Bible. Not being in the Bible does NOT equal “unbiblical.” Theologians refer to that as a argument from silence. Something is only unbiblical if the Bible forbids it, not if the Bible merely fails to mention it. I suppose I can’t drink Mountain Dew any more, as it is unbiblical. Did you know that there was once a HOTLY DEBATED conflict over the use of microphones in church because they began as a worldly way to amplify sinful singing and music?!?!?!

Once again, I fear we are throwing out the baby with the bath water. YES! We have GOT to address the critcal issues of our ineffectiveness in the church. but the issues are cultural as well. The Dark Ages didn’t come about because we separated kids for age appropriate teaching. There are other forces at work too. There is no “system” or “program,” including FIC, that will ever make sure 100% off our kids stay true to our faith. There will always be free will, and broad will always be the road that leads to descruction and narrow the road to life and few who find it. This isn’t an excuse to be lazy, but it is a reality that impacts the Church and our efforts whether we advance in techniques or revert back to simplier times.

I would suggest that we DO NEED FAMILY INTEGRATED CHURCHES, but not at the expense of everything else that also has benefits. Someone recently commented via Twitter, “Jesus wouldn’t have sent the kids to children’s church, so neither should we.” It’s pretty bold to claim to know what Jesus would do now that specificly! (and a tab bit arrogant) We know much of what Jesus would do when it comes to character, but when it comes to tactical application of ministry, its cheating to claim Jesus on “my” side on any issue. I wouldn’t pretend to know whether Jesus would allow coffee in the auditorium, or a pastor to use a laser pointer, or a church to allow an Elvis impersonator to sing at a Fall Kick-Off. Nor do I think we can say whether he’d allow children’s church or Sunday School. To argue about this is to miss the point and bark up the wrong tree, which will only delay addressing the real issues that face the Church today.

Let’s stick to what we DO know – parents are to be the primary spiritual leaders of their children. AND, that the church often hinders that process. But what do we also know? Many kids do not have Christian parents, or many Christian parents need help depending on where they are on their own spiritual journey.

The most difficult reality of ministry is that we need BOTH – to challenge, equip and empower parents, and to help them, and to reach kids who don’t have the benefit of a believing parents.

A smart church neither ditches children’s ministry, nor depends fully on it to get the job done. I wish I could offer an easy solution, but unlike extremes, real answers are never easy, but they are worth it.

You may comment below, or Discuss in the Forum discussion.

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  1. Extreme positions blow apart churches. Thank you for the call for balance!

    Glen Woods’s last blog post..My Soul Clings to You, Lord

  2. I couldn’t agree more with the statement of balance. Also very nice job on breaking down the silent argument. I am still amazed that people argue that things are unbiblical that aren’t in the Bible. Very nice article.

    Matt McKee’s last blog post..2 Minute Tuesday: An Ode To No Bake Cookies

  3. Excellent article. I appreciate your heart for kids and families. I agree, we need to do more to promote parents teaching their kids at home. We also need to realize that sometimes we are the only spiritual trainers the kids will have. I would love it if ALL parents would teach their children and disciple them, but that is not the reality. For those who are trying, it is good and I think, right, for children’s ministers to help them by providing resources and training for raising godly kids. Great thoughts. Thanks for posting.

    Daniel Blankenship’s last blog post..Change a Child’s Life

  4. Karl,
    Thanks for bringing up this issue and doing it in a balanced way. I’ve been having this argument with others (and with myself) for at least 5 years. The best conclusion I’ve reached so far is this — both/and is the biblical position. There are biblical examples on both sides of the question, so we can confidently say we’re asking the wrong question.

    Bottom line – parents and churches can both (and must) do more to help kids know Jesus.

    Thanks for posting on this.

    Tony Kummer’s last blog post..Adam & Eve Disobey God (Fall of Man Bible Lesson For Kids)

  5. Thank you for this article. sometimes as you look ways to help solve issues in your ministries. You find a professional and you think they have all the answers. And you jump on their band wagon and forget what you know it true for your congregation. I like the idea of balance. I like reading about what others are doing in their churches but I don’t just change to what they are doing because they are successful.
    Thanks again

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