What is a Family Integrated Church? Many people have no clue since very few have experienced them.
Is Challies’ definition correct?
These leaders claim that the Bible clearly teaches that we must not age segregate. Ever.
… the claims of FIC extend far beyond Sunday school. The film even suggests (not too subtly) that allowing your children to participate in any kind of program led by someone other than the father is a way in which you turn their hearts away from the father and toward someone else.
… making family integration the pivotal and central doctrine for the church.
… It’s a destructive message
Does this describe a FIC?
By no means.
Family Integrated Churches come in all types, many denominations and there are sound Biblical ones and there are ones who peddle a false gospel.
The only accurate definition for a FIC is that worship and Bible study is characterized by all ages being together.
But does that mean they can never have separate activities?
Of course, not. If that was the case then they would be guilty of legalism. There is no real time frame that fits every FIC. Some always meet together; some usually meet together and a few just offer the option of meeting together.
Just as being a Family Integrated Family is a matter of the heart being a Family Integrated Church is a matter of the heart. It isn’t a set of dos and don’ts that bind us. It is actually the freedom to worship the Lord with your family.
FIC typically means that when the church is gathered together, the whole body of the church is gathered. No one portion of the church is shunted off to separate classes or separate worship services. But if there is a need there might still be individual classes or studies. For example: There might be a men’s meeting or a ladies meeting where the topic is not deemed suitable for young children. But that would be rare, can’t think of any we’ve had. Typically if we are having a special women’s meeting the women and all the girls over 12 are welcome. Twelve is just a general age range of transitioning the children to the adults. The younger children and the boys would then be with their Fathers. Then the same for the Men and older boys as needed. The idea though is that the children are still with a parent and under their authority.
The film even suggests (not too subtly) that allowing your children to participate in any kind of program led by someone other than the father is a way in which you turn their hearts away from the father and toward someone else.
Really now, if you take that to the logical conclusion then the mothers wouldn’t be allowed to lead their children in school or home. Grandfather wouldn’t be allowed to teach the boys to fish. Grandmother couldn’t teach the girls to quilt. However, when youth are spending more time with a youth leader than with their own father, you will risk some serious problems. This similar thing happens often in divorce situations. Maybe the father has the children one weekend a month. Often he takes the kids to the movies, out to eat, to the park, maybe buys them something they want; yet he rarely deals with the tough issues; the discipline, the school work, chores. Mom is the one left with the tough decisions and she can’t cater to the children each weekend. See how Dad could easily become the favorite while mom is complained about. Now apply that to youth groups. The youth leader takes the kids places, feeds them their favorite food, and supplies opportunities for friends to be together while requiring nothing in return.
I have no vested interest in converting others to a family integrated model of church. It is not a salvation issue although essentially it can be related to one’s theology. However, it is important to share with others so that they can study the issue themselves. If a person chooses then to reject it, that is between them and the Lord. But most have not even considered the issue or worse rejected it based on flawed information.
There is a wide range of ecclesiology represented in FIC. There is no one view of church that can be pegged on every FIC. Generally though all do subscribe to the father’s being the spiritual leader but even in that, how it is lived out is totally different in each church and even in families of the same church.
There are several “loud and belligerent” women who have left some seemingly extreme FIC and attack any semblance of the idea everywhere. They are busybodies (1 Timothy 5:13) running to and fro leaving comments and writing diatribes against FIC. Challies had a few of those folks comment on his post. Some have rejected Christianity and many have divorced because they rejected an extreme FIC, patriarchy, quiverful, dominionistic “cult” with false teaching for lack of a better word. The same extremes of false teaching happens in segregated churches also just often not as “loudly”. However, they may not have even been in such flawed churches after all. You never know. When someone rejects the faith they often exaggerate problems and issues to validate their rejection.
There will always be extremes to watch out for. As long as a person continues to go back to the Scripture comparing everything to that one plumb line we may stray at times but we will always come back to the center at some point. Sometimes it takes the extreme to see where just a little skew in the direction at one point can lead us way off track in the future. Think the airplane flying .5 degrees off course and how far off course they will eventually be.
Just as all age-segregated churches would not want to be characterized by Peanut Butter Evangelism non age-segregated churches should not be characterized by the worst of FIC. FIC does not necessarily include what is characterized by the terms Patriarchy or Quiverful. There are some churches that combine all three but the majority do not at least to the extreme level. Yet the average person would lump my church in that mix. Because we do have family integration, fathers are the head of the home, and a majority allow God to direct their child bearing.
While many FIC homeschool, homeschooling and FIC do not have to go together. Our church has homeschool children and public schooled children. The even more surprising fact to some is that our FIC church has young single adults, senior adults, and young marrieds without children. Many people think that FIC’s tend to only have large homeschooling families.
We have older couples, single youth, married childless couples, working wives, homeschool children, public school children, large families, small families, divorced families and we welcome any combination of the above. Yet no matter what, fathers will be encouraged to lead and disciple their families. We do not have separate classes. We meet together for Bible study prior to the worship service. Yet we have two elders and one of them does not homeschool and his wife works fulltime outside the home. Most of our church activities are family oriented. We have our cookouts together. The elders playing football right along with the youth and children. The whole family goes to Six Flags together as a church group. Birthday parties are family celebrations. The children are studying the formation of the English Bible right along with the adults. They ask good questions and are filling out the study sheets. They aren’t learning Noah took two animals into the ark for the 100th time.
I know many other churches that are FIC. Some are churches that meet at homes. Others are churches which strive for a more Acts type model with everyone sharing together and no actual preacher preaching a sermon. One church I know has an integrated SS and worship time yet offers children’s catechism classes.
… making family integration the pivotal and central doctrine for the church.
I’m sure there are churches that have made family integration the main focus; however, I haven’t seen any. Family integration is the means to an end. It is not the end itself. Our goal as a church should be to worship the Lord in a manner He desires, to teach the believers and to go and make disciples of all nations.
I’ve been in both age segregated and FIC types of churches, even grew up in youth groups. Neither model is perfect nor will they ever be perfect here on earth. Nothing we do will guarantee that our children are among the elect in the last days. I am confident in God’s Sovereignty and that He will do what is best for each of us. However, even so, I will work diligently to be obedient and do the absolute best I can to have my children taught God’s Word in a sound Biblical manner. That for me means homeschooling, being home with my children, supervising outside influences (media, internet, friends, and teachers), a family integrated church and a sound Biblical church. FIC in a sound Biblical Church is the best church model I know for my children to hear God’s Word outside the home and if it is ever not sound we are there to hear it and to discuss the matter with our children.