In family-integrated, or as I like to say, age-integrated churches, we believe that it is the normal pattern and precedent of the Bible to include all ages in the corporate worship of God. The New Testament letters assume that all ages, including children, are present in the assembly. The New Testament letters were meant to be read to the congregation, and some of them specifically address different age groups, such as children and parents, in the same setting (Ephesians is a good example), assuming that they are all there together. There are no youth groups or children’s churches in the Bible. No matter how you spin it, they just aren’t there. Do with that what you will, the fact remains.
The consistent teaching and principle of Scripture is that parents are responsible to teach and train their children in the way that they should go, from Deuteronomy, to Proverbs, to Ephesians, and everywhere in between. So when it comes to the worship of God on the Lord’s Day, why do we think any different? The worship of God is the most important thing Christian parents must teach their children. Therefore it is highly important that children not be taken off to another room to play, or be taught by someone else, during church. Parents are to teach and train their children to worship God with God’s people, and children learn to do that by being with their parents, as they help them understand the things going on. I give this background for those reading this who may not be familiar with age-integration in church; but my primary purpose is to give reminders and encouragements to those parents who do attend such churches, like my church.
So when the Scripture is being read, or songs being sung, or prayers being prayed, or sermons being preached, or communion being had, the parent is to quietly communicate what is going on to their child, so that the child understands the importance behind what is taking place. The parent is to teach and train their children how we are to conduct ourselves during each different element of corporate worship. Age-integration does not simply mean that all ages are present in corporate worship; but it means that parents and adults are actively teaching, training, and modeling how we worship God together as God’s people. An age-integrated church where parents are not actively teaching and training their children, is missing the point of what it means to be age-integrated. The point of family integration is not simply that our kids are not with someone else. But rather, that we the parents are their teachers, and they are learning with us, on the job as it were, like an apprentice.
No, the kids won’t understand everything that is being preached or sung, but they will understand some things. Most of all, they will understand what you think and how you feel about what is going on, by observing you. They will understand whether or not you have reverence for the Word of God, or whether you sing with all your heart, and whether you take seriously the teaching and preaching.
No, the kids won’t understand everything that is being preached or sung, but they will understand some things. By God’s grace they will hear week in and week out, their desperate need for Jesus because of their sin. By God’s grace they will observe adults singing their hearts out to the Lord. By God’s grace they will understand that church is not all about them, nor is it all about the adults, but rather that it is all about God. By God’s grace they will feel and see their need for Christ as the bread and the cup is passed by them each week.
Being a parent at a family integrated church, does not simply mean that you have these parental responsibilities during worship. There will often being all kinds of questions after worship, by which you have a great opportunity to teach your kids. This can of course happen at any church, but the benefit of family integrated churches is that the parent knows exactly what it is that his or her child was taught. Therefore you can understand the context better to explain things better. But it is not just post-church time, but also pre-church time that may take some effort. There are times when it is necessary to prepare your kids for what will happen on Sunday and how they are to act. Family worship during the week is a perfect opportunity to train your kids the Lord’s Day. For example, teaching them to listen when the Word is being read and taught. Or teaching them the hymns you will be singing, so they can more fully participate (especially if they can’t read the words).
Being a parent is not necessarily easy in an age-integrated church. It takes a consistent effort each and every week. But parents, these are the souls of your precious children we are talking about. Why would we give anything less than all our efforts and energy to teach them what it is to worship God with God’s people? Surely every Christian parent would say that it is worth it to see them come to know Christ as a byproduct of your consistent hard work in training them up in the ways of God.
So parents, commit and recommit over and over again the blood, sweat, and tears, in giving your all to the glory of God in the lives and eternity of your children, that they may come to know the Lord to be their God, that however they treat you, they may be able to look back and realize the gospel labors that poured out of your soul on their behalf.