Family Integrated Only Church?

Family Integrated Only Church: Can I send my child to Sunday school?

Prerequisites for this post:
  1. I believe that fathers and mothers are the primary disciple makers of their children.
  2. Fathers in particular must not only oversee their children's education and discipleship but should be intimately involved in it.
  3. I believe that the Lord's Day public worship should be multigenerational.  People of all ages, children and adults, should worship together and sit under the preaching of the word. I don't like unnecessarily separating children from families in the church's main gathering.
  4. I used to be a youth pastor and saw all of youth ministry's failings. The term "youth group" now makes me uncomfortable as the program tends to be led by an unqualified but biblically knowledgeable young man(often slightly older than those he leads) who uses games and his cool factor to disciple teenagers.

That said, I do not support the Family Integrated Church model that prohibits age or sex-segregated ministries and discipleship classes. Not only is this model potentially divisive and legalistic, but it can also be unwise.

There are good reasons for why the church should take special care in discipling children and teenagers, and there are good reasons for why a father, in obedience to my second prerequisite, would want his children to participate in age and/or sex-segregated discipleship ministries. Contrary to the claim that the father would be shirking responsibility and simply outsourcing his work, a wise father should consider the following reasons for having his children involved in these ministries:

  1. Part of the father's spiritual responsibility is integrating his family into the church. There will come a day when the children will not be under his roof anymore. They will leave the nuclear family, but there will never come a day in which his children should leave the Church. They may move on to another local church, but a Christian never outgrows the church. Fathers should teach their children to love the church, not shelter them from it.
  2. Fathers should teach their children that they have other fathers and mothers. They have spiritual fathers and mothers in the church. A strong church will have godly men and women that a father will want his children to grow to know, love, respect, and learn from. A church needs to be careful that any age/sex-segregated programs are led by those who can justly be called fathers and mothers. Pastors should oversee this work and not just hand it off carelessly. Fathers should be careful in the church they select to be a part of.
  3. A father will recognize his own strengths and weaknesses and want his children to learn from other men and women who have strengths that he does not have. I want my children to have opportunities to grow beyond where I am.
  4. Sometimes, a young person will not seem to grasp something that a father is teaching, but as soon as they hear it from another source, they heartedly take it up. A wise father will want godly men and women reinforcing the work that he is doing.
  5. Sometimes, a young person will feel more confident to share struggles with those who are not their parents. A parent wants to have the hearts of their children and wants to be confided in, but even with the best of parental relationships, they still need other trustworthy men and women to confide in. This is good. It goes back to the first two reasons.
  6. Your children need opportunities to practice the law of love outside of their own family. Most family-integrated only families are homeschooled as well. While socialization is an overused weapon against homeschooling, it is still a reality that the Christian faith is meant to be practiced with others. Patience, kindness, gentleness, fortitude, self-control, love, peace, and goodness are attributes that we practice in and among God's people.
  7. One of the reasons you might oppose age-segregated groups is peer pressure, the influence of sinful young people on others. This could certainly be a problem. It's one reason that would not send my children to public school. It is not wise to let children have long hours of unguarded influence from non-Christian peers. The Bible says "Bad company corrupts good morals." On the other hand, the flip side of this is true as well. A wise father will want his children to have friendships and acquaintances with other Christian children. Most church ministries are an hour or two at best, therefore avoiding the issue of children spending long hours of unguarded influence. It is good for young people to develop camaraderie in Christ in the church that can last for years as they mature and take their place as mothers and fathers in the church.

There are plenty of other reasons why a father in keeping with his duty to be the primary disciple-maker would see age/sex-segregated ministries as helpful for his family. Family-integrated teaching that forbids these types of ministries binds the father's conscience and removes from him a tool that could be used for the spiritual betterment of his family.