After reading some of the responses to my book review on Family Driven Faith, and rereading my original post, I feel the need to clarify a few things:
1) Let me just say that I still agree wholeheartedly with his philosophy as far as families worshipping together. Now, this does not mean that I will never send my kids to any kind of group activity with kids their own age, or that I will never let them be influenced by other adults. I’m not sure how Baucham’s church operates, but when Clay and I had dreamed about this type of church, we envisioned a church with age-integrated worship and even a few (not all) classes, yes. But we realized that age-segregated Sunday school or Bible study still has important benefits for all ages that should not be overlooked. And we also envisioned extra times when parents or other adults in the church would take the initiative to coordinate and chaperone kid and teen activities outside of regular church hours. These would be great times for children and youth to be together, being mentored by other adults, studying and discussing topics that are relevant to them at their stage of life, and just building good relationships. So I’m not saying that I want my kids with me and only with me all the time, or that I don’t want them in groups at times with other kids their own age talking about age-relevant issues. I’m sorry if it came across that way.
2) Another issue is that I don’t think people give kids enough credit. Abigail sits still through an entire worship service without making hardly a peep, and most of the time she has no clue what is going on. But she is learning things, as well. She is learning self-control, to sit still even when things are not entertaining to her. She is learning the songs and the routine involved with a worship service. And little by little, she’ll start to pick up things from the prayers and sermons as well. Then, when she’s in middle school, high school, or college, whatever age the kids join the adults at any given church, she won’t have to have a harsh adjustment to “big” church, which could leave a negative taste in her mouth toward worship services after spending so many years in a kid-focused service. If children are taught from the beginning, they will learn and act appropriately even if they don’t understand what’s going on. Now, some questions will always be raised here. One, what about kids who don’t come with their parents? In this case, a wonderful solution would be for an adult with no or grown children to step in and take over the role of training that child. Now that child has a mentor that could be very special to them, and that adult has a new and very rewarding place of service. Also, what about parents who serve during the worship service, like as musicians or in the choir? In this case, there could be a couple solutions. For us, we gave up the choir for the more important (in our eyes) task of training our children. Or one parent could sit with the kids while the other one serves. I don’t have all the answers for every situation, but I do know that a sad truth is, that in a lot of churches, at least the ones I’ve seen, “children’s church” does absolutely nothing to train children in worship. They may color, sing, eat snacks, play games, watch skits or puppets, but that does nothing to help them know what’s expected when they finally graduate to “big” church, and then they get a culture shock, and after years of the hour being focused on them instead of them focusing on God, it’s no wonder most older kids and teenagers think the worship service is boring.
3) Next, I think that I really lean more toward a happy medium, but one that is closer to integration than segregation. As I said in my original post, we are taking our kids to the worship service, but not to our Sunday school classes. Lots of good things can go on in children and youth Sunday school, depending on the teacher, and my children have grown to love their teachers each year. And it’s good for the adults to have a time for serious, in-depth Bible study, where topics may be discussed that are not appropriate for children. Also, we won’t expect our children to sit through the entire worship service until they are 4 or 5; right now, Abigail stays the whole time and I take Catherine to her class right before the sermon. She gets to participate in the songs, prayers, and offering, all of which are aspects of worship that a three year old can understand. And as I stated above, I think there need to be times, especially for middle and high school, and maybe even college, when they are in a group of peers and trusted adults and can discuss biblically the issues that are specific to their age, like modesty, dating/courtship, and being a bold witness on campus. So, I will say that I think a blend of integration and segregation would be my ideal. HOWEVER, I will unashamedly say that most churches are way too segregated. The church body, while not made up solely of families, is itself one big family, and if someone goes to church and never has significant interaction with anyone outside of his or her age range or life situation, then the family as a whole will suffer. We need elderly, middle age, young singles, young marrieds, college age, teens, kids, preschoolers, married with kids, married without kids, divorced, widowed, everyone mingling and interacting with each other, more than just at the occasional potluck meal. Each group can learn much from the other, and would become incredibly stunted in their spiritual growth if they remain in their own little bubble, as is the trend these days with all the special-focus groups that are popping up all over the place. Another point from which I will not back down, is that a full and separate children and youth ministry could make it way too easy for parents to delegate their responsibility of training up their children to the paid staff member in charge of that age group. There will be times in my kids’ lives, I’m sure, that they will find guidance, comfort, or spiritual support from adults other than their dad and me. And this is good. They need to have spiritual mentors and guides other than us. But who is to be the primary adult guide for them? We are. When my husband was a youth pastor, there were several instances of parents asking him to talk to their kids about spiritual or moral issues, and they had not even done so themselves first. They just asked him because he was the youth pastor, so that was his job, not theirs. This is a danger in a church that does not do everything they can to equip the parents to disciple their own children. As I said in the other post, I want my kids coming to me to talk first and foremost, and then hopefully the guidance that we give them as we’ve prayed over and invested in their lives, would then be supplemented if they choose next to go to someone else as well. But as issues crop up in my kids that I think need addressing, they will be addressed by Clay and myself. We may encourage a mentoring relationship secondarily, but it is our role first and foremost.
4) Finally, I will say that the church that I’ve described and have envisioned in my mind, does not exist in most places. I understand that a lot of this is in a dream world. The church I attend now is not like this, my home church is not like this, no church I’ve ever been a part of is like this. So we will adapt our ideals as best we can to the church we’re in at the time. In order for this type of integration to take place, the entire church would have to be on board. And since a booming children’s or youth or singles or college ministry is a huge trend and goal in church life today, I don’t really look for a big rise in age-integrated churches anytime soon. But it really gives one something to think about, doesn’t it? And for those of you who still just do not agree with me or my views, that’s perfectly fine. I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, that the beauty of Christian liberty is that we can disagree in love without barriers in our relationships. Feel free to think I’m weird for my views (frankly, sometimes I think I’m weird myself), just don’t let it come between us.