Posts Tagged ‘family-integrated’

Pros and Cons of Family-Integrated Churches

Sunday, July 4th, 2010


I am ashamed to admit that this morning I was so furious that I gathered my children and left in the middle of the church service. I’ve never done that before because I love church with all my heart and soul. But today I just didn’t have the energy to clock in all the work that was required in a family-integrated church. My husband wasn’t there because he was in the Czech Republic on a missions trip, so that also factored in.

Don’t get me wrong. The vast majority of the time, my children are completely silent and perfect. It’s true. I sometimes forget that they’re even there as I listen to the church sermon. (A family-integrated church has no Sunday school for the children, so the children sit with their parents during the entire church service.)

The fact that my children are completely self-controlled for an hour and a half is a miracle in itself if you understood the energetic nature of my children. This is one of the benefits of family-integrated churches. If the children can be completely silent and self-controlled for a full hour and a half during a church service, they are capable of being self-controlled in any circumstance. It is a good character quality to have at any age.

Another benefit of having a family-integrated church is that there is no negative peer pressure. Peer age segregation that happens in the schools is one reason many people homeschool their children. Sunday schools, and especially youth groups, have worldly conversation, and most youth groups have teenagers who are sleeping around, smoking, and rebellious to parents. The attitudes rub off on the other teenagers, who are then no better off than if they had gone to school.

Families also learn from the same passage in Scripture. There is a more mature message, and if your children are truly saved, many of them can have steak to eat spiritually instead of watery milk that is served in many Sunday schools.

Then there is the fact that many Sunday school teachers aren’t screened very well. I’m not just talking about sexual molestation. (This actually happened at one church I attended.) I’m also talking about the fact that most teachers don’t know the Word of God at a level where they should be teaching.

For example, when I was a child, my Sunday school teacher told me that Jesus sinned when He didn’t go with His parents when He was twelve. (He was at the temple instead.) The teacher told me this was the only time Jesus ever sinned. At the time I knew this was ludicrous, but I respected authority and didn’t speak up. I think I might have been six years old at the time. Nobody cares who teaches your children. Since they’re not paid, a church is happy if someone (anyone) volunteers.

So I find myself in a family-integrated church, and I’m really grateful, and I love all the people here so deeply. But sometimes I find myself wishing for a break, where I can be completely refreshed because I have no responsibilities next to me. I get so much more out of the sermon when my children are sick at home. (My spouse and I take turns going to church if the children are sick). And even though I teach my children the Bible at home, I find myself wishing that the children could learn a Bible lesson on their own level instead of being forced to sit through a boring (because it is above-their-heads) sermon that goes on and on (since time is perceived differently with young children).

It’s possible that if children sit through so many tiresome sermons, it might be ingrained in their minds that they never want to go to church again when they are out on their own. Why endure that when it can be avoided? So their love for church might not endure in such circumstances. I always try to alleviate this problem by allowing the children to have clipboards with paper and a pencil so that they can doodle, and the time goes by faster. For my toddlers and preschoolers, I always had a bag of goodies that included crayons, a small coloring book, picture books about God, and a story Bible.

So what happened this morning? My sons got the giggles. They were distracting people away from the sermon. Something they were drawing was hilarious. I saw it, and if we were at home, I would have laughed, too. The drawing was of a camping scene with lots of mayhem happening. But my boys just wouldn’t stop laughing. Another son started drawing a hilarious camping scene also, and I calmly took away his clipboard. That son burst into tears because he wasn’t finished with the drawing. I whispered for him to stop crying, but he cried on and on. People were looking over at us, wondering what on earth was going on. I finally was so exhausted by trying to control my children that I whispered that we were leaving. We all walked out.

Out in the car, I’m ashamed to say that I yelled at my children. “I must have poked you 10 times,” I said to one son. “If I poke you once, that means you are doing something wrong. 10 times?! Really?! And you,” I turned to another son, “I know that your pencil broke. You don’t have to keep showing me over and over. You are old enough to listen to the sermon. If the pencil is broken, it’s broken. And you,” I said to my smallest son, “How come you wouldn’t stop crying? This is just ridiculous!! Everyone is taking a nap when we get home. And it’s not over until I say so!”

When we pulled into the driveway, I was fully aware that I had sinned and was ruled by my flesh and not the Spirit. If I wasn’t clued in, I should have noticed when the kids were wailing. I asked God to forgive me. I felt remorse. I had commended my daughter, who had done a good job during the sermon. As the children changed out of their church clothes, I went to each of my sons, one by one, to ask forgiveness. Each of them said they were sorry for the way they had acted. We hugged.

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