I'll keep using this blog to chronicle CRCC Lessons Learned with respect to Family Integrated worship services. This is when a church tries to keep families together during worship, regardless of age or stage of life. You can see previous posts below:
More Lessons Learned, 2014
Today, I'm again reflecting on all we've been through, now for about four years or so, on this wonderful path of attempting to bring families together. The honeymoon phase has long worn off and tough work has certainly begun. By the grace of God we are still tracking along, but here are some "in the trenches" lessons:
1. It's Hard
Introducing such a ministry model to visiting people is a real challenge as most folks aren't used to this anymore. Overcoming the "yall don't have a youth ministry?" question is not easy. In fact we do....Parents and Family! Will they give us time to help them see it? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. This can be hard as we love people!
2. It's Messy
Sometimes noisy, sometimes exhausting for parents, sometimes you just want to sit and not be bothered. Yep...it can be all that. Yet Christ calls the children to Himself. Yet every instance of corporate worship in Scripture included the children. Yet each child isn't a nuisance; he or she is just as welcome as anyone else! So if it is messy, it's a worthwhile mess. :)
3. It's Not Convenient
Oh the temptation to just leave the children at home!! :) The struggle with the littlest ones! I know. My 3 year old is a HANDFUL! I think one day they'll name a hurricane after her! :) BUT...is bringing up any child in the fear and admonition of the Lord "convenient?"
4. It has a way of putting family "on blast"
If something is wrong at home...it shows. This was one consequence I didn't really see coming. For example, back to my three year old. My wife and I are working hard to help her bring her "out of control" inclinations under control at home, and it shows sometimes at church....loudly! On a more serious note, a church so family-focused can sometimes be guilty of "questioning with good intentions:"
- "Hey Sis...where is your husband today?" "Hey Brother, I haven't seen your teenager in awhile..is everything ok?" Etc.
Sometimes it's easier to find another church than face those well-intended, brotherly love type questions. No easy answers here. May Christ give us love, grace, and wisdom! And then there is what parents find out about their own children:
- "Wow, my son/daughter isn't worshipping at all, isn't paying attention, and doesn't at all look interested in the things of God, even at home during family worship. But didn't he/she walk an isle a few years ago?"
5. It's WORTH IT!
Ha! You didn't think we were turning back did you? LOL. Yes, despite the challenges, we remain committed to this model...because it is the only one we see in Scripture. God MEANT for families to be together during His worship. Of course, we'll not speak ill of any church doing it differently; that's between them and our King, and we love them! But for us, the FRUIT FAR outweighs the pain.
Just this last Sunday, my son's "church grandparents" returned to church after a couple of weeks due to illness. My son, who is almost two, upon seeing them, did a serious double take and jumped into their laps, there to stay for the duration of the service. Even at two, he received their ministering love, instruction, and comfort and they received his (the unconditional love of a precious little boy) as Christ was worshipped. As usual, my wife cried her tears of joy. My oldest child served at the door as a hostess with "her" church grandmommy, looking forward to it the entire day before, bugging me endlessly about it. :)
All over the church, fathers and mothers are sitting with, worshipping with, observing, praying with, serving with, and learning with their children. Singles, seniors, and so-called nuclear families are all ONE family. (Or at least that is the goal!)
And then there is the new interest our parents have taken in their children's education. There is a surging love of life, born and unborn. There is a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood beyond any we've experienced....
Oh yes...we'll keep pressing on...by the Grace of Almighty God.
Soli Deo Gloria