Family Integration, which includes, among other things, the view that the family should not be separated in the meetings of the church, is a position we believe any church has the right to hold if it wishes. This short statement is a clarification concerning Christ Fellowship’s view of family integration and the meetings of our church.
There is much to appreciate about certain ministries that promote family integration, but we have chosen at present not to practice strict family integration in our meetings. We do believe that fathers (and mothers) have a unique role in relation to the family and that it is ultimately their job to make sure that their children are taught the things of God. We are also aware of the many problems resulting from some church youth groups and age-graded activities. We know that family integration is an attempt to correct these trends. However, we are not convinced that God requires that there be no meetings of children, youth, or women apart from the entire family (or the father) being present.
In a typical week in our home congregations, we will have 30 minutes of teaching for children in a different room of the home where the meeting takes place. Parents are welcome to be in the room for this teaching. We emphasize Scripture memory and basic Bible truths for our children. Our men and women also alternate in six to eight week studies on Wednesday evenings. The youth meet simultaneously on these evenings in another part of the home. This two hour period for our youth has proven to be exceptionally beneficial, and a number have been deeply changed by it. We also have retreats, mission trips, conference trips, camps, or other special events for our youth and/or adults.
Some congregations provide preschool nurseries for a portion of their Sunday meeting; the larger gathering of all our congregations includes a preschool nursery as well. These preschool nurseries are optional for members, and we do encourage parents, as much as is possible, to keep their children in our meetings. Parents must keep in mind the listening needs of the group and respect for their pastors (who have spent long hours in preparation) by making efforts to watch over their children closely, or use the preschool nursery option when provided.
Our closeness as a church, the smallness of the groups, and the confidence we have in our leaders make age-specific meetings profitable with little, if any, of the troubles which often accompany such meetings in some churches. If that were to change, the elders would act correctively since they have concerns similar to those of elders who lead family integrated churches.
Our home congregation model, the strong emphasis on a regenerate church membership, and attentive pastoral oversight provide for a well-protected atmosphere for our families. Thankfully, many of the issues that often confront children’s ministries or youth groups are not present in our situation. We believe that a strict family integration policy overreacts to the problems and places a “hedge around the law” beyond that which is required by God in the Bible. We believe that we have been given liberty to follow God in the use of some gender or age-specific meetings, while pursuing both the strength of the home and the effectiveness of the church.
Those who are convinced that a total family integrated approach is a biblical requirement for church meetings may find Christ Fellowship less than satisfactory, even though we have a healthy family emphasis. We all agree that Christ and Paul, as well as other Bible authors, consistently place love as the highest of priorities for a local church. We labor at this unity and love by being together as often as possible. Avoidance of important meetings works contrary to this core commitment of our church. By not gathering in strategic age or gender-specific gatherings, some families may only be with us on Sundays, far less than is desirable to reach our goal. Our membership agreement states that all members must enthusiastically support the meetings of the church with their attendance. To join Christ Fellowship without involving family members in some of these key meetings, therefore, may create an undesirable church experience by removing much of the relational aspect from it. We intend to be more than merely Sunday attenders.
Although they may not intend this, a family’s persistence on this issue may also dishearten other members since those families would necessarily be unenthusiastic about some of our important gatherings. The elders do not wish to tamper with an individual family’s convictions, yet we are responsible to help shape a unified and cooperative fellowship of believers. We believe that a judicious use of age or gender-specific meetings can be helpful for spiritual growth in our context whenever God leads the church through the elders to conduct them. We pray that our church will act responsibly within the liberty God has granted us.