We left our church of eight years. I didn’t want to. It is a wonderful Bible teaching church with excellent preaching and worship. Yes, there were a couple of things we disagreed with doctrinally, but we knew the issues when we got there and didn’t see them as dividing issues. We still don’t.
My husband had, through listening to online and radio messages, heard of a family integrated church and was very interested to learn more. Me? I thought it sounded very strange and was not interested in the idea at all! I loved my children attending Sunday School and other children’s classes and wasn’t interested in giving that up.
Jason bought DVDs about the family integrated church movement and we watched them together and frankly they confirmed what I already believed. I did not agree that family integrated is the only biblical way to organize a church, though I didn’t see anything wrong with a church choosing to worship entirely as a family either. My husband and I debated the issues nightly.
Jason decided that he’d like to visit a family integrated church just to see what it was like. One night he looked online and got so excited he could hardly stand it. He found a church that not only was it family integrated, but also sounded like they believed like we do on those issues in which we disagreed with the church we went to. “You’ve got to check out this website!” my husband urged. I opened the site ready to tell my husband everything I didn’t like about it. Great attitude I know! But as I read all about the church, I had to admit I liked what I learned. Since moving to the big city, I have always missed the close fellowship of a small church family. From the website we learned that they had a fellowship meal every Sunday. I was still not convinced that I would like giving up the children’s classes, but my husband was so excited we visited the church that Sunday.
We loved the small fellowship of believers right away, but what surprised me the most was that my children loved it. Having them all sit still for the service was a challenge, but afterward they could sit with other kids to eat lunch. They even played games! It was actually much more fellowship than they received in the very organized kid’s programs. For one reason or another they all told us they didn’t really like their classes at church and could we please go back to “our new church.” I was shocked!
We thought and prayed about our decision for months as we completed our responsibilities and fulfilled our commitments. And then at the end of that time we joined this small group of believers. I would still say that I’m not on board with the family integrated movement as the only biblical way to organize a church, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with Sunday School in and of itself. But we are enjoying worshiping as a family and the fellowship of our new little church.
On a funny note, one day I sent my daughter out to get the mail. She came in with a lone envelope. “I think this is from our old church,” she said, “It says, ‘A new offer for an old friend. We want you back.'” It was in fact from Discover card!
We will continue to miss all of the people from the church we left, but we believe that we are where God wants us right now and that is what is most important.
I’m linked with Time Warp Wife, Women Living Well, A Holy Experience and Works for Me Wednesday.
My husband’s stock comment: “You can’t get all your squirrels up one tree.” It sounds like you weighed the differences sensibly and prayerfully and are in the right place for you for now.
RaShell S says
We are so thankful the Lird lead you to our little fellowship. It is a joy getting to know you and your family. 🙂
Thank you for this post. I just recently became convinced that being more family integrated is whats right for our family also. and am now dealing with those who dont understand that this is where god has led us(preacher and teachers). Its nice to hear that it worked out for you and your family. gives me encouragement that it will for us also. thank you.
Anytime you leave a church, it’s a big adjustment…but it sound like you thought and prayed it through and are settling into the change nicely. I do have to say, the kids’ voices in the matter were a key reason why we ended up changing. Good for you that you included their opinions in the mix. Its surprising how much He can direct us through the thoughts of our kids. Hope you continue to enjoy your church family. 🙂
Jim Heiling says
I have been thinking of you guys for some reason of late. I guess because I was going through my books in the basement and remembered the day gave away a lot of books to Jason. Hope he was able to get some benefit out of them. I would like to learn more about this movement. I will share more through email if you respond. Thanks
100% Grace, Jim Heiling
Susan Evans says
It sounds like you found the right church for your family!
Hi Esther! I know it’s hard to leave a church but glad that you found one you’re excited about. Our church is not family integrated, although I love the idea. It seems strange to come to church as a family and then separate.
Although our children sit with their parents during the church service, except for the babies and preschoolers. We have care for them at the request of their parents. But I’ve known people who have trained their little ones to sit in the service with them, and some of our parents DO keep their littles with them.
I am curious what kinds of classes do you have that the parents and children’s attend together? Or do you just have a service and no Sunday school at all?
Helene Smith says
We are part of a house church that is necessarily family integrated. One of the unexpected benefits is with no Sunday School to “rely” on we are more purposeful about teaching and worship with our children throughout the week! God bless you as you seek him.
What a great story! I especially like the part where you were all ready to tell Jason what was wrong with that church and then found that you liked it–I have been there many times on various decisions. It reminds me of that Genesis song that says, “I found out I’m wrong when I thought I was right.” It’s tempting to take pride in sticking to your original opinion, but usually admitting that you were wrong will make things more right in the end.
I don’t know that the family integrated model is the only Biblical one, but I do see some big advantages. At my church (Episcopal) it’s standard for babies to go to nursery and children to be in church just for the first hymn and opening prayers; then there is a blessing for them and they go to Sunday school; then they come back just before Communion, missing about 2/3 of the service. I wanted to keep my baby with me rather than in the nursery, but I was willing to let him go to Sunday school once he was 2. But he did not want to go. At first it was just because he wanted to be with me, but by his 3rd birthday he was showing interest in the service and in learning how to be a good Christian. He’s almost 8 now and still doesn’t pay attention to every bit, but he’s doing a LOT better than the kids who go to Sunday school–all their parents are struggling with the kids acting up in church or wanting to read something totally unrelated to avoid boredom. I feel that the separate children’s program gives the impression that regular church is NOT of interest to kids, and the parents reinforce this by bringing toys and even snacks to keep their 2-year-olds “busy” when they’re in the service so they won’t “disrupt” the adults’ experience…and then they complain as the kids get older that they can’t get them to give up bringing activities or to comprehend what church is about! It’s particularly upsetting to me to see a 12-year-old come in just in time for the consecration of the bread and wine but sit there reading Harry Potter while it’s happening, then go up and receive Communion–she has not prepared her heart to accept that amazing gift; she’s just going through the motions!
I understand that as a mom who’s with the kids a lot, you’d welcome the opportunity to send them to children’s activities while you have a more adult and focused worship experience. But I believe that sharing spiritual experiences helps to bring the family together and that God can reach us even when we’re “distracted” by being with our children.
Warren Baldwin says
I have not heard of a church organized like this, at least by this designation. I’ll have to look it up.
shari lynne @ Faith Filled Food For Moms and Grandmothers says
We have attended many different kinds of churchs over the years and the church you describe is one we have attended. We loved it 🙂 There are so many different ways to worship and so many different kinds of churchs…I’m so glad that you are attending one that your whole fam can enjoy Esther 🙂
So glad you’ve found such a warm, biblically sound fellowship. And it’s so important that our children be connected and love church, especially as they enter their teen years. Visiting from Be Not Weary today 🙂
Haha I know how you feel – sometimes it’s hard to embrace change as it’s happening, but if you’re open minded it can definitely be a good thing!!
Have you ever considered becoming Catholic?