***Note: Due to several responses to this post that made me go back and reread and rethink, I published a later post that better clarifies some of my thoughts. Please keep searching my blog. You can find it under Books I’m Reading, and it’s called In Response.
This is an excellent book by Voddie Baucham that provides lots of food for thought for parents who desire to not only raise their children, but disciple into mature believers as well. Some of his ideas will be a little (or maybe a lot) far-fetched for some (or maybe most) readers, but I’m right there with him as far as philosophy goes. The main disciplers of children are not to be youth pastors, children’s pastors, or teachers, even if these people are very godly and doing a great job. The main disciplers of children are to be parents, and we can not just delegate that responsibility to someone else and check it off of our list. He advocates strongly having a regular family worship time in the home, which is something that we try to do and have been trying to do since Abigail turned two. Unfortunately, we are very hit and miss, especially with Clay’s working hours, and we have not given this the priority that it demands. As he and his wife are homeschoolers, it is no surprise that he is also a strong advocate of homeschooling. I was able to read these sections guilt-free, but to be fair, someone who does not homeschool may not like the strength of his passion on this subject. However, while he does note that not everyone does or can homeschool, he cautions everyone to seriously examine the matter biblically and practically and make an informed, well-prayed-over decision for their family, instead of just defaulting to the educational status quo, or tossing out lame excuses like, “I could never homeschool my children, I don’t have the right temperament for that,” or “My kids and I couldn’t stand each other if we spent all day every day together,” which I hear moms say to me personally all the time.
Then you find out what his real passion is, and that is family integrated church. A simple definition of family integrated church would be a church that encourages families to worship together. Period. No age-segragated Sunday school. No youth group. No children’s church. No nursery. Children intermingling with adults in every facet of church. I know, I know, most of you are immediately turned off by that idea. I think it sounds wonderful philosophically, but just for honesty’s sake, all practical questions aside as to how that would really work, there is a selfish part of me that cries, “But I love those two hours when someone else is taking care of my kids!!” Most people are negative toward this, and one reason, to put it bluntly, is because they don’t want to put up with the extra noise and effort this would involve during worship or Bible study. But a careful look at such Scriptures as Titus 2, where the older are exhorted to train up the younger, is pretty convincing. When is this being done when the younger are always in another room or another building? My husband and I have leaned toward the philosophy of family integration for some time, and in the early days of dreaming about our church plant, we encountered lots of strange looks and shocked comments as we talked about this radical idea, some from people that I know are going to be reading this. That’s okay. We know that many people close to us think we’re kind of out there on some issues. But I love this idea of family integration. It strikes a chord in my soul. I don’t want my kids going to talk to some youth pastor when they’re older and have questions. I want them coming to me. I want to experience worship with my children and then teenagers sitting beside me, worshipping along with me, not across the parking lot watching videos and puppet shows and eating animal crackers. Yes, there will be bumps in the road as they are learning what worship is and how one acts during a worship setting. But who better to teach them than Clay and myself? (Another book, Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman, is an excellent resource for how to train your kids to participate in a worship service from a very young age.)
Anyone who just absolutely cannot give this idea a fair chance needs a serious dose of statistics. Survey after survey shows the alarming numbers of teens who were raised in Christian homes and evangelical churches, who leave the church and the faith soon after high school. Never seen one of these surveys? Okay, picture the youth group at your church ten years ago. If you’re from a small town, you probably know where a lot of those people are right now. Are they in church? I can go down the list of the people that I graduated with that never missed a Sunday, and even the kids that were in our youth group while Clay was youth pastor, that now show absolutely no church involvement whatsoever. Obviously, youth groups don’t exactly work.
Okay, I’ll step down off my soapbox now, but I will encourage you to read this book. Even if you have no interest in learning more about this idea for yourself, or if your kids are grown or whatever. At the very least, if you’ve got more than a passing interest in my family, it will give you a framework for why we do some of the things that we’re now convicted to do. You may not agree with us completely, but you may understand us a little better. Two immediate changes that we’re committed to make (Clay just finished this book too, so we’re all fired up together): 1) A renewed and strengthened commitment to family worship time. This will take some creativity with Clay’s crazy schedule, but we’ll get creative. 2) We’re going to drop out of the choir and take our older two girls to worship with us and start training them in worship and spending that time together as a family. This is a baby step, as a true family integrated church would have even babies together with families, and we’re going to leave Elisabeth in the nursery, and the children would be with adults in Bible study as well, and we’ll take ours back to their classrooms after worship while we go to Bible study. But it’s the step we’re going to take right now.
I highly recommend this book, and I highly recommend reading it with an open mind. It will make you think, at least.