An increasing number of Christian families across the US and many other parts of the world are experiencing the benefits and blessings of family-integrated, biblically-functioning churches. However, for some families, this is more of a desire than an actual reality because they live too far away (or in situations like here in New Zealand where there are very few family-integrated churches in existence). So what can a family do, when they belong to a non-family-integrated church, yet have valid concerns about the segregated model?

Here are 6 suggestions, followed by 2 radical options that may help your family experience some of the same benefits and blessings, even if a family-integrated church is not an option available to you at this time.

6 Ways To Have A Family Integrated Perspective In A Non-Family Integrated Church:

1. Understand The Difference Between Context And Content

Family-integration (or age-integration) is a pattern we see in Scripture, both implied and instructed (Deut 16:9-11, Deut 29:11, Exodus 12:21-27, Joshua 8:34-35, Ezra 10:1, Nehemiah 12:43, 2 Chronicles 20:13, Joel 2:15-16, Luke 12:46, Matthew 18:1-5). However, this has more to do with the necessary and assumed context of biblical discipleship within the local church – that of whole families and all ages worshipping/learning/fellowshipping together, more than it refers to the content.

Content is of vital importance. It must be considered and discussed when a person decides which local church they will attend (see point 2). But a problem occurs when the context is prioritized at the expense of content. For example, some families mistakenly think that age-integration alone will “fix” many of the problems and meet the needs they have as a family seeking to raise godly children. In doing so they may pay too little attention to the quality of content they are exposed to as a family. 

When you can have biblical content together with the biblical context of age-integrated gatherings – this most effectively serves God’s purpose for the local church. Age-integration only “works” for families when the parents are significantly engaged in the discipleship and spiritual nurturing of their children. An age-integrated environment helps to support and facilitate that process – but it will never be the cause of it.

2. Know What Makes A Healthy Church

It’s vital to understand the difference between essentials, and non-essentials when deciding whether a church is suitable or not. Although family-integration is very important, has an enormous impact on the culture of a church, and has a significant impact on discipleship - there are practices that are even more important and central to the mission of the local church. Is the Word of God preached accurately? Is the gospel central? Is Christ exalted? Does the church practice church discipline? Are there biblically qualified elders and deacons? These things are essential for a church to be considered a true church. However, age-integration has more to do with the biblical pattern true churches should follow in accordance with Scripture. So family-integration should be high up on the list - but if you gain family-integration at the expense of these essentials, you have actually taken a backward step.

3. Bring Your Family To God’s Word – Don’t Wait For Others To Do It For You

One of the blessings of being in an age-integrated church for families is the privilege of hearing the Word of God proclaimed together as a family. This encourages families to talk together about the sermon, discuss principles and application, and identify and share matters for prayer and growth. There’s no reason why this can’t happen in a non-age-integrated church. So how can families go about this?

An important initial step to take is to respectfully let your pastors know that you will be keeping your children with you during the service. This is not always easy for a family to do. If done unwisely it can cause unnecessary division and discord within a church. In some circumstances, it will be seen as a sign of resistance and even rebellion towards the church itself. However, if a loving, respectful and submissive approach is taken, and if parents are diligent to train their children to sit in church without causing a distraction, many pastors will be quite happy with this arrangement.

In addition to this, you can ask your pastor for the text/topic that he will be preaching on ahead of time – so you can study this together as a family before Sunday. This will certainly bless him, as it probably doesn’t happen that much! On a personal level, this practice of studying the text ahead of time has been a real blessing to our family. There’s something special about the sparkle in your child’s eyes as they look across to you mid-sermon with that “we talked about this didn’t we” look on their face.

Another option is to arrange a regular sermon review on Sunday afternoons/evenings or request to host an age-integrated bible study in your home to discuss the passage preached, and its application. Alternatively, you may volunteer to lead an age-integrated Sunday School class in your church. This can be a very life-giving time and helps families to “work in” the text to their lives.

4. Pray For Your Leaders And Church Family

Just because the pastor of your church didn’t change everything to suit you after you handed him that 10 part DVD series on age-integration 6 months ago after church – it doesn’t mean he is your enemy. Have you prayed for your pastor during the week as a family? Have you prayed that God would bless and lead him in His will? Have you prayed for him as he prepares to teach God’s Word on Sundays?

Knowing that his church members have been praying for him will be a blessing to him (particularly on Saturday evenings when he is preparing to teach God’s Word). Think of the practical help you would be giving him, and the encouragement he would receive from it.  

In addition to this – teaching our children, and modeling for our children how to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ (yes even the ones who do what we don’t and don’t do what we do!) is leading them in Christ-like compassion and conduct.

5. Find Ways Your Family Can Serve And Be A Blessing

It’s a far too common scenario: There is a conservative homeschooling family, “stuck” in a church that they mostly agree with on the essentials, but they are disengaged with the church. Their minority convictions on things such as home education, age-integration, music, and modesty have caused them to become critical, defensive, and apathetic towards their church family. They may use these differences as excuses to break fellowship, cause division, practice shunning, and even refuse to give tithes and offerings to the church. This is a serious mistake.

When you are in a church that is a true church according to Scripture - you must recognize that God has sovereignly placed you there. As long as you’re not compromising on the essentials of what makes a healthy church you should assume that this is the church He has ordained for you to be part of. Embracing this, rather than resenting it, will transform the way you live alongside the brothers and sisters in your church.

Spend some dedicated time thinking and praying about what you can do, and how you can serve that church. It is not necessary for you to participate in the “formal” ministry of the church. But you can be involved in simple yet effective things. Consider helping to clean at the church, fold bulletins, or do gardening at the church, or for the elderly/widows in your church family.

Hospitality is another great opportunity to serve the people in the church. But don’t use this as an opportunity to “preach your convictions”, but to genuinely love and care for others who are different to you. Listen to their stories, and ask how you can be praying for them. It won’t take long to find ways to serve if you have the heart to serve.

Lastly, one of the most effective ways in which your family can serve the church is by doing your part to fulfill the Great Commission. There are countless ways in which you can get involved in sharing the gospel with the lost – through hospitality, out on the streets, community outreach, mail-drops, etc. Very few pastors will fail to see the blessing your family is to the church if you get out there and share the gospel. It won’t be easy, but it’s so good to “normalize” this practice for our children in obedience to God’s call. 

6. Know When, And How To Communicate Your Concerns To Your Pastor

Your pastor has many settled convictions, opinions, and ideas in his mind. He receives many suggestions from the members of his church. And guess what – they all think what they have to say is the most important! It’s not a pastor’s role to lead a church according to the majority view, the loudest voice or squeakiest wheel. Instead, he must walk in the fear of God, seek the Lord, and yet be open to the fact that God will use others in his life to shape and mold the ministry he has been called to.

Speak to your pastor/leadership, but do it right. As a pastor, I’ve had people come to me over the years with their ideas (and tapes, books, and DVD’s!). They come with strong suggestions about what we should be doing as a church, and how we should be doing it. It’s pretty obvious whether they’re coming in a spirit of humility, and desiring the best for the church as a whole - or whether they just want to migrate the church towards their convictions. 

After prayer, and more prayer – arrange a suitable time to meet with your pastor. Be like Nehemiah who prayed for 3-5 months before he came to King Artaxerxes to ask him for resources to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Be well prepared, and use this time to respectfully share your convictions (from Scripture) and concerns about age-segregation, but also the blessings and benefits of age-integration. Unless there’s a real openness to hear more I wouldn’t make any suggestions or pass on any resources. If he has concerns or misunderstandings, point him to the NCFIC’s “Declaration for the Complementary Roles of Church and Family” if these seems appropriate. You could also have a printed page that lists various books or website links that your pastor can choose to look at in his own time, or not. Don’t rule out the passing on of a resource (such as Weed in the Church), but be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and respectful to your pastor’s time and season.

Then, I would conclude by making it clear to your pastor what you appreciate about the church. Affirm your desire to support and serve the church. Finally, reassure him that after this time you won’t be pushing the subject of age-integration again. Make it clear to him that this is not the first step in your mission to attack the church for being age-segregated. These things will go a long way to preserving good relationships, avoiding division and maintaining unity. 

2 Radical Options That Give You No Excuse To Abandon Church Altogether:

Unfortunately, some families will still think their only option is to abandon the local church altogether, either because they cannot find a family integrated church, or because there’s a legitimate concern over the absence of essentials in the churches they have considered. 

Rather than pull out of the local church, I want to suggest 2 radical options that I believe every family should consider before making a decision that Scripture warns us against (Heb 10:24-25).

1. Move To A Good Church – No Matter How Far Away!

I know this seems extreme to some, and in certain situations (caring for sick or elderly parents for example) it still may not be possible. However, when we consider the saints of old, or the Puritans for example - and the lengths they went to, and sacrifices they made to experience healthy, biblical church life – we have little excuse to make our own exceptions. Let’s face it – most people in this situation won’t need to move to another country – but it may require a significant sacrifice to position our family in a healthy, biblically functioning church, which long term will only prove to be a worthwhile blessing. We need to be firmly planted in a local church. If you can’t find one nearby, consider going wherever you need to, to find one.

2. Start A Church Right Where You Are!

For some families, the solution they are seeking is right before their eyes. A bunch of people meeting together for fellowship and a bible study is not a church. However, a biblical church doesn’t have to meet in a building. A true church simply needs to have biblically qualified elders and follow the pattern of Scripture for the local church.

Is this something your family could consider? Are you a father reading this who meets the qualifications of an elder (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Tim 3:1-7, 1 Peter 5:1-4)? Could you not gather with other families in prayerful consideration of planting a church, allowing time for your suitability to be affirmed by other mature believers? Could you not engage in passionate and purposeful evangelism, bringing the gospel to the lost in your community – and then disciple them?

If it doesn’t look like such an option is on the horizon, why not get a vision for the future? Are you raising up your sons, to be potential solutions to the problem you are facing in your day? Will they be equipped to lead a church, preach the Word, and share the gospel? There are many possibilities to be prayerfully considered. Are you daughters being nurtured with a clear vision for God’s purpose in the local church? Would they be suitably prepared to be the wife of a pastor or the mother of a pastor should this be God’s will for them?

God does and will continue to work with imperfect people in imperfect situations. There will never be a perfect church, but we can do many things in our generation, to prepare the next generation to strive towards a more biblical and therefore true church. When we look at the Scriptures we see the pattern for the church is that of biblically qualified elders and deacons walking in the fear of God, preaching the pure Word of God, exalting Christ, practicing loving church discipline, and teaching all ages together all things that Christ has spoken. When this takes place, you will see more spiritually healthy and spiritually strong, believers, living in sweet fellowship together, and being equipped to go into the world and reach the lost for Christ’s glory.


Of course, there are many issues, and situations this article hasn’t covered, in relation to the dilemma many families face. The fact is, there are far more family-integrated minded families than there are family-integrated churches. However, it may just be that although you feel you need to change your circumstances, God may just want to bless you with a change of perspective.

Further Information:

The National Centre for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC) -

Family Integrated Churches of Australia and New Zealand (FICANZ) –

Well, welcome. This is a conversation with pastors from different parts of the United States and even around the world. And I'm Scott Brown. I'm a pastor at Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina. And I'm also the director of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches and Jason dome is also with us in North Carolina Jason Jason you're the pastor of Sovereign Redeemer Community Church in Youngsville, North Carolina, and then down below we have Craig Houston who is a pastor at Westside Baptist Church in Bremerton, Washington, And then finally way on the other side of the planet we have Chris Baines who is the pastor of Redemption Church in Christ Church New Zealand.

So glad to have you guys here and what a blessing it is just to be able to share a few minutes together. We've been laboring together for many years together and it really is a joy to be able to do this. So first of all, I'd like you to sort of frame the conversation. We want to talk about people who can't find or have difficulty finding good churches in their areas. Now, here's here are a couple of things that really bind us together.

We all have a great conviction that there is a significant need for winds of Reformation in the church today, that we live in a time where it's imperative that the Lord raises up men of the Word of God to bring the voice of God into the church and to return the church to biblical order because we believe that you know the embracing of Scripture is the most important matter. Embracing the very words of Jesus Christ in the church is the most life-giving thing and it's what we must do. We also recognize that many churches are kind of locked into a pragmatic, you know, reinvented Samaritan do-your-own-thing, you know, worship mashup where there's all the church can tend to be a circus and a place where entertainment is central and the word of God is not central. So it makes it hard for faithful families who really want biblically ordered church life. The other thing that I think also we agree on is that there really is a revival of biblical church life in America today and we're really grateful for it and it's happening in many, many places in Christianity.

So there are so many hopeful signs. As a result, there are biblically ordered churches that are available for people, but at the same time there are families that are kind of languishing because they can't find biblically ordered churches. Many families are looking for an age integrated kind of worship experience and discipleship experience. And it can be difficult to find. Especially, Chris, for you, who live on the other side of the planet in New Zealand.

It seems like people in your region have a little bit more difficult time. Now, I wanna sort of throw down a couple of assumptions just to sort of get us going, and then we'll just open it up for discussion. But the first assumption I want to bring is that fathers are absolutely responsible for providing their families with local church life. Biblical preaching, the reading of scripture, the preaching of the gospel, the singing of the saints, fellowship, evangelism, discipline, and biblical ordinances of the church are indispensable for family life. Fathers are sinning when they do not provide their families with biblically ordered churches.

So that's one assumption. We feel very strongly about that. And our message to fathers is don't deprive your family of a local church with all of its issues and problems and weaknesses and things like that and it's and its beauties and as it preaches the Word of God. At the same time there are churches that are harmful. They're entertainment driven, they foster unbiblical life, and it can be difficult.

So what's a family supposed to do? I know, Chris, while all of us struggle with this question that comes from families, you might struggle with it a little bit more because of the geographical breadth that people have to deal with. But all of us get questions like this, hey, I can't find a good church, what am I supposed to do? So that's the question. Want to commend the article that Chris wrote, having a family integrated perspective in a non-family integrated church.

And it's something that in the Pacific Northwest, where I minister in the Seattle metro area, there's a need for faithful Christ honoring gospel church. I'm thankful that There are many of them, but we are the least church state in the Union. So in comparison to being in North Carolina or other places, it's not like you can just throw a stone and hit the next church. There is more sparse than that. We have had over the years, in fact just this Sunday alone, we had two families, one in the morning and one in the evening during our evening church on the lawn during the summer.

We have an outdoor service and fellowship meal and one of them drove like an hour and a half from the north side of Seattle. Then one family has been visiting from Seattle which is, you know, an hour to get here and I've told them, I said, you know, this is really... You're welcome, we're glad you're here, but it's too far. You need to be in a church that's more local to your context. And I think there's things that they're looking for or longing for in a family integrated church.

And I'm always concerned, and not necessarily these two families, when somebody says there are no churches that I can go to in their 30 mile radius, that can be true, but probably rarely is. There may not be a family integrated church, but there may be a church that's gospel focused, which is obviously primarily in Portland. Important, not in Portland, hopefully there are two, but important. And when I talk to people about looking for a church one of the things besides gospel and a sound doctrinal statement is you can have a church that has sound doctrine in their statement but how it's manifested there's there's a coldness there's no love of Christ there's no genuine like warmth that's emanating from the people as you gather for worship, regardless of whether it's a family-integrated church or not. That's something where there's a disconnect between sound doctrine and sound practice, from the orthodoxy to the orthopraxy, and I think that's something that in my mind I want to go to a church, and I would encourage my own children as they're moving places to go to a church that not only has sound doctrine but has a real warmth of Christianity that is Christ-like and flowing out.

And then to encourage families that you can be of a mindset of family integrated, like that's your heart, and be in a church that's not their model, And yet many churches are today much warmer to a family saying, I would like to have my family worship with me. And they say, no problem. My family just took a 10, 000 mile trip on a sabbatical in March and April. We visited a variety of churches and not once did we have them tell us, you can't have your children in here. And so that was a beautiful thing.

And that was a wide spectrum from a very, very staid kind of, you say, conservative congregation. We visited a megachurch, an African American megachurch. We visited different contexts, and every time we were warmly welcomed and so I was really grateful for that. And I think that represents somewhat of a change over the last decade and a half. 15 years ago in lots of churches you you would be thought very poorly of if you brought your children into worship.

That has seemed to change broadly in evangelicalism and I think we should really be encouraged by that. I mean I remember 15-20 years ago you know families were getting kicked out of churches because they were, because they didn't want to send their children to the children's church. I don't, I hardly ever hear of that happening anymore. We had been that family, not as members, but just even visiting for a church service and to be told, your children aren't welcome here. And I would like to say that I always responded with a gracious spirit, but I probably was sometimes more forceful by nature.

And, you know, kind of quoted a few scriptures like Jesus said, suffer the little children and forbid them not, for such is the greatest the kingdom of heaven, and my children are going to be sitting with me, thank you sir. Or something like that, probably not the best model of grace, but it is true. I think there is a broad, at least a warming, not necessarily to what they have as an idea of we're gonna change to be family-integrated in all of our approach, but a warming to, hey, if a parent or a family wants to sit together and worship, this shouldn't be looked at as a problem. Right. I think, just to touch on the contrast between the situation over here in New Zealand and Australia compared to the States, I think it'd be true to say that we all share the common problem which essentially is there are more families who desire home integrated biblically ordered churches than there are actual churches available.

I think the difference that we feel here is that just by the size of the states compared to particularly us in New Zealand, there are more families who do find that in the state than we would have over here. So the loss is probably felt more because there's so few and therefore there's so few people you can relate to and other churches you can relate to are doing the same thing. There may be many that aren't, but there's so few churches that you can find a relation to in that way. So essentially what happens is New Zealand is made up of a few major cities and smaller towns and lots of smaller communities. So sometimes it's hard for families to find a church, let alone any kind of, you know, agents-grade, biblically-ordered church.

So we in New Zealand, we've been very blessed by resources, by encouragement, excuse me, that have come from the States. And so it's increased the desire for what is happening over there for that revival. And then there's a frustration because people can't find this. They look and there's nothing in their vicinity. So they have resources, they obtain, they watch things on the internet.

They desire it, but they assume then there isn't one here, so therefore we can't be part of a church. And that's the problem I think that we're trying to address is so many fans will check out because they'll say there is no church that's suited for us And I guess as well what we're trying to encourage people to avoid is thinking that the age-integrated Context in itself will maybe fix, you know all the situations they want fixed in their family. And yet they might compromise, as we've touched on, on other essentials. They might compromise on doctrine, they might compromise on leadership because they just want to be together in church. But there's other factors to consider.

And then talking about that the other way around, it's very important for the children, obviously, to be with their parents. Over here, I think we do have those situations where there's such a push in youth ministry still and like the mainstream churches that you can be perceived and I know some other families, some homeschooling families have experienced this. If you pull your children away from that, you're coming against the church's mission. The church is so excited about their youth program and you're now against that so you're quenching the spirit, you're resisting the work of God and that can be hard for families to deal with and be in that situation. That still can happen here too brother but obviously where you're at in some ways and I know there's a bigger issue with regards to the need for just gospel-centered churches, Christ-centered churches in New Zealand and Australia, but I think that in some ways, 15, 16 years ago, in the American church context, I think that there would have been by and large a lot of the same sins or response when people would attend the church that They're not loyal if they're not in all the programs or they're not loyal to the church if they don't embrace the youth ministry during the worship service, things of that nature.

And I think some of those things in some contexts are still there, most definitely. But in other places I think there's been a warming to that, being present together in worship. In the church where I serve, we were planted six years ago, we've been family integrated since the very start and so we're relatively well established and a number of families have have moved in some cases from far away to be part of our church because of this distinctive that we're family integrated. I think they would all tell you two things. They've all found these two things to be true.

First, that they brought their problems with them. In other words, our environment will give you an opportunity to advance in family discipleship, but if you're looking for a cure-all, we've not proven to be that for anybody. And secondly, they find a church that has a lot of their normal problems, and so you can look at this thing from the outside and put expectations on it that really don't apply to any church, whether the family integrated or not. And so I think family integration helps by not having programs that would divert a father from his core responsibilities, a father and mother from their core responsibilities to disciple their children, but it's no cure-all, that's for sure. And any family integrated church that you go to is going to have its own set of problems like any other church you might go to.

It just becomes another form of humanism to think, if I could just get in the right family integrated church, then all of my problems go away. It's kind of like all these kids need in this neighborhood is they just need a better education. If they had a better education, they would be successful. Though there are definitely influences that we can have from different circumstances in our life, the reality of this humanism is not going to solve it. Like just putting yourself in the right environment doesn't solve all those problems just like Jason said with regards to people coming thinking this is the cure-all for every problem they've ever had.

I just need to be in a family integrated church and that's wrongheaded in its belief. One of the reasons for doing this article was because we really want to encourage families that there are lots of options they may not have considered and they may think we're not near a family integrated church we can't be a part of one so therefore we should put out of the church and it excites me to share with families the different ways they can have this this mindset this perspective yet in a family in sorry in a church that isn't actually age-integrated or family-integrated. I think obviously first it's important for them to know what makes a healthy church, the biblically qualified elders, that the gospel is central, that Christ has been exalted. Those essential aspects of the church. But Craig, when you touched on the aspect of fathers, it's so true because we transitioned, as I believe you did, from being a non-family integrated church about eight, nine years ago to being a age integrated church, from removing the Sunday school.

And it was a difficult transition in some ways, but a blessed transition, we've never looked back. And it's so normal for us now, but one of the things that is immediately noticeable when you make that transition is that responsibility upon the fathers. They suddenly realize, they may have acknowledged, yes, I'm responsible for my children's discipleship, send them off to a Sunday school, send them off to youth group, but all of a sudden it becomes a real reality that the children are right there and the father has that responsibility to engage them and to include them. So some of the criticisms we had at that point were, you know, my child is bored, but they don't like it, so we need to go to another church. And so we would encourage these fathers, as it's so important that your life lived for Christ is that which will hold your family together.

It's you engaging and investing in your children, your attitude towards church that will change that. So in a church where it's not family integrated, fathers can still very much bring the word to their family. They can do things like study the text if they can find out ahead of time that the church is going to preach on the Sunday. They can talk about that with their family afterwards. All of those components are things that happen in a family integrated church and can happen when someone's not part of the family integrated church because it's concerned within the family and the father's role.

So I think there are many options that we're considering that families can actually employ if they really cannot be part of an age integrated church. Well yeah, you know, families have absolute control over, you know, 98% of their schedule of the hours of the week. And so the family shouldn't think that church life is the only lever, you know, in their family, but they have enormous control. I've always maintained I'd rather have somebody go to a church where the gospel is central, where the Word of God is preached and there's good preaching that's not family integrated than go to a family integrated church where the preaching is weak and there's very little sense of biblical order in that church. I'd much rather have, I would personally rather go to a church that's not family integrated if I had a choice of one that didn't really have very solid preaching for my wife and for my children.

I'm under the conviction that our wives need good preaching and it's really critical that they get it and we have to be the ones to help them get it. But so let's talk about sort of triage here. What are some of the things that are indispensable in a church and When do you find the wisdom or what are the conditions under which you decide you just need to move and go somewhere else? I think one of the non-negotiables for any healthy church would be accurate handling of the Word of God, real careful but passionate preaching so that what you're getting fed is good for your soul. In this article that Chris has written, he has a whole section on context versus content.

Context being things like family integration, what is the model for the church, like how do you go about this, but content is what are you being fed there. Context would be how you're being fed. Content would be what you're being fed. And the point that he makes is to prioritize context, how you're being fed over content, what you're being fed is a big mistake. Yeah.

I think that can be a challenge for people with, as I said, here, it's sometimes difficult. Families are struggling to find churches where they take the word of God seriously, let alone where there's age integration. Also, that can be a real challenge. But it isn't something that can be compromised. And you do hear people say sometimes, yeah, it's a neat church, the people are really neat.

They don't really teach from the Bible, but they're all really nice people. Well, What would you say to the father who comes to you and says, well, the preaching over at that church is really good, but that youth group is really dangerous and I've got a 16 and a 17 year old and it scares me. What do you say to them? Amen. Can I just say as far as You said Scott, being in a church that was sound biblically was most important?

And I just wanna wholeheartedly say amen and amen to that because it's not that being able to worship together as families is unimportant, it's very important. I think it is, it's not just a preference, I think it's a biblical pattern that we can follow. It's also historic. I always think about the simplicity of, ever since church buildings were being built in the third century or whatever the claim is. You can look throughout history and until the 20th century when a church building was built, it was just basically one big room where everybody went and gathered together for worship.

So there's both a biblical historical argument for the benefit of worshiping together. And that's really kind of where our church, we came from having all these programs, literally Sunday school, Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night had a children's program at the same time as the corporate gathering, obviously besides Sunday school, they had a children's Sunday school. And it was a several year process just try to slow and methodical was my approach and to deprogram a lot of the things and allow some of the programs and events to be laid to rest gracefully and with dignity with a lot of the leaders who poured their heart into it. But at the same time, you know, first it was Sunday night became all just families gathering together. And then Sunday morning, and then we ended up moving in our church basically moved our Sunday school Bible studies to Wednesday night and we still have those and it's something that you know Scott you and I talked about this before in our church My strong conviction is not that you can never gather people together, whether it's a group of men or a group of women, or even gathering a group of children together to instruct them or teach them.

It's just that the culture of modern-day Christianity came to be where Sunday school, youth group, and all those things, they became merged in with the same time as the worship service, so all the adults went to worship, and all the kids and teenagers, and then student ministries until they're 28, you know, went into their own areas to have their own services. And my strong conviction was we need to get back to worshiping together as families. And a church may do other things that is not even mandated in the sense of like we have to do this in Scripture. I believe the Lord's Day gathering as the people of God is mandated. And so if I was in that church, it was a solid church, but I didn't like what the youth ministry was doing, and it was a worldly environment.

It wasn't just like gathering the youth for a real serious Bible study and time of encouragement. It was entertainment. I would just say, hey, if that's the only church in town or on the island, right, go to that church, be engaged in that church, and in the worship of the church, be together as a family, participate in the things that you can in good conscience, but then don't feel bad to say, I'm not going to have my kids in Sunday school if that's not your desire. By the way, I failed to mention that though we do in our church on Wednesday night have Bible classes up to age 12, 13 and up, we're all in different adult Bible classes and we have, at the same time we do like training in American Sign Language because we have interpretation for the deaf at all of our services and Bible studies. So we have different things, a variety of things going on that we can use to teach, but we always tell families, if you want your whole family to be together for Sunday school on Wednesday night, you're welcome to.

So there's no prohibition even with that. But that's kind of the model that we've followed and kind of transitioning from a very programmatic church with a good heart for people to a church that we gather morning and evening on the Lord's Day. It's family, you know, families worshiping together and then on the midweek we do have a variety of those kind of classes. No, I really appreciated that Craig. I mean, our proposition has always been from the very beginning, we think churches that are comprehensively or systematically age segregated really defy the biblical pattern, but there are different ways to gather people together.

One of the things that we would say is, the worship of God is critical that it's age-integrated. When the whole church do wonders together, that, you know, is it appropriate to have a children's church? Our answer is absolutely not. But there are other ways to disciple the church. Is the church systematically segregated?

We think that's wrong. Beyond that, you know, elders are given the responsibility to craft a ministry to the people to be a blessing to them and that can take different shape. I think in answer to your previous question as well, so much of it comes down to the heart between a father and his children. So you have a situation where there's a, maybe the preaching's okay, but there's a youth group. I remember a situation a couple of years ago where a man visited, he'd perhaps come to some new convictions about age integration, but his family for quite some time had been part of a church where his daughter was part of a youth group, and he wanted to move away from that.

But somebody said to me, why don't you go and speak to him and counsel him because what he needs to know is he needs to just rip his daughter out of that youth group and his wife and needs to bring them to our church. And I said, well, that's not the counselor that would actually give that father right now. The counselor would give that father is maybe for some weeks he needs to drive his daughter to the youth group and back again. He needs to talk to her. He needs to engage with her.

He needs to understand. He needs to talk about what's going on because I sensed there was a distance there and seek to win her heart and seek to build the affections he has with his daughter so that he can build a foundation of why before he brings this new what and this conviction that he suddenly got and you need to get out of that equal youth group. For that daughter, there's a lot of sense of identity and there's a social connection there. So my counsel, had I spoke to him, would have been to create that in the home, create a much bigger yes before you're going to say no. And I think that is so important.

So in a context where the preaching is good and it's solid, but there is a youth group, a family can function, putting their children aside from that youth group, but not to avoid, not at all to avoid, but to an affectionate, loving, exciting Christian life where the child is not thinking every week I just want to be in that youth group I'm missing it there's such a void. Fathers need to live in such a way that there's no chance to miss that void because family life is so exciting anyway. That's really good and in similar ways to kind of how in a church that has people that have been dedicated to a programmatic approach that by the way they were encouraged like this is right, this is good, this is what we should be doing, like to just jerk it away all of a sudden, oftentimes they can think, well, what value in work has the last 20 years been of my ministry? And to work gingerly and carefully and to let them see the blessing and the benefit of the new, why they may be still involved with something they've been doing for a season.

And that's where that transition can come in. And not provoking your children under wrath is really important. And sometimes people who are struggling in their family, and they're looking for answers, and they come across maybe the NCFIC website and all of a sudden this is what we need and they do abrupt changes, but oftentimes that is a pattern that they've fulfilled in other areas too and it does provoke children and sometimes a wife to wrath if they're not careful to have the heart. So I really appreciate that, Chris. It's really a good piece of counsel.

Let's give some direct counsel to that family that's out in the middle of nowhere. So I think, you know, number one, we would encourage them to do some triage and prioritization and ask what's what is absolutely critical in a church? And is family integration the most important issue in a church? And our answer is not necessarily. It really depends on that church.

And we would secondly, we would encourage families to squeeze every ounce of good out of whatever is good in that church and be involved in the church in really blessed ways. What are some other things you would say? Well, I think on the more radical end to a family who's really out in the middle of nowhere, and there really are no biblically ordered churches around them, and people move for jobs all the time, to think that it would be unthinkable to move for a church. It's not the right way. I think the spiritual environments that we have our families in is even more important than providing and having a job.

So if you would move for a job in order to provide, you should be willing to move if you really are in a place where there are no biblically ordered churches. You know, William Gogue, the English Puritan who wrote His tome on family life, which really was the most popular book on family life for about 200 years. He talks about fathers who have their wives, you know, way out in the middle of nowhere. They live on farms away from everybody. He chastises them.

He rebukes them and he says, you need to get your wife in a church. And he says, if that requires moving, then you should move. I remember hearing a more recent preacher, Vody Baucom saying that, I think about almost 10 years ago, saying, you know, you homeschoolers love to idolize the pilgrims and talking about what they do, but you won't go to the next county to attend church. And it was kind of a sharp goad, but one that probably a lot of people needed to hear, to be willing to sacrifice for the church, instead of kind of just skipping out on church and saying, well, we're just going to gather in our home, we're going to have church at home where oftentimes it was just like family devotions or family gathering or gathering together with three, you know, homeschool families that you think you agree on everything and you have a homeschool co-op on a Sunday meeting, and that's not a church. That's not the assembly of the believer.

So being willing to move is something that shouldn't be hastily done, but if there truly is no other option that can be worked amicably with another solid church that allows you to worship and gather as a family with the church body, then don't be afraid to move for the cause of Christ and his church. He is willing to die for it. I think we should be willing to live for it in such a way that we can be in a healthy church. I think too, that The same would be my encouragement for somebody who is in a healthy church. This is kind of the flip side of the conversation.

But you shouldn't just move hastily because you get a job promotion or another opportunity. If you have a beautiful church family, a beautiful church life that you're involved in that's biblical and robust, you should not just assume that wherever you're going to move because you got a job opportunity, there's going to be that there. And that should be a priority in finding out even more so than whether or not you can get a job. Kind of flipped in the situation around, right, it should be considered in that way as well. Yeah, I think we would really encourage people to prioritize local church life above almost everything.

So that, we've dealt with the situation of the family that lives really far away and there really aren't churches. We would just say, you probably should think about moving. Then you have people who live in areas where there are churches, there may not be family integrated churches of the exact flavor that they're looking for, but there is some good preaching in the area. What would we say to them? And I'll just start off.

I would say, pile into a church, be a huge blessing to that pastor, track his preaching, be talking to him about what he's preaching on, have your entire family all wrapped up in his preaching. At least do that and and and then build relationships in that church. Practice hospitality. You don't have to have a program to practice hospitality and you don't have to participate in every program either. But the question is can you be a gigantic blessing in that church and maybe not send your children to that raging youth group that scares you so much?

Can you do that? It might be more difficult than some churches than others, but I would just encourage families to really get wrapped around whatever is good in that local church and be a huge blessing to it. In that situation Scott our attitude is so important in the way that we treat other brothers and sisters in Christ. Something that's been such a blessing to me to see in the last year has been two families who live in different parts of New Zealand, quite away from us. And both of these families had developed very strong convictions about family integration and it's what they desired for their family they realized that there was a loss because it hadn't happened before they could see the benefits and they were just sold out to it in a sense but their approach was so encouraging What they did was they found that they were part of the best churches they could find as far as the teaching and being biblically ordered and they invested their lives in that church.

They were respectful towards the pastor, towards the leadership, they loved the people, they served, They just gave everything and it was frustrating at times because they so desired to have this sort of age-integrated context. They did keep their children in with them during the services but they spoke, communicated respectfully to the pastor. It was difficult at times because again they look like they were perhaps going against or looking better than the other families in the church but they persisted they continued to love and serve and love and serve. In both of these incidents what I've seen is just recently the pastor considers these families to be caught in the church, he would entrust himself to them. And in one of those churches they're even considering, very seriously considering to make a transition to age integration and so much of that has occurred because it's been a patient, loving, respectful approach and they've gleaned what they can in the essentials and they haven't just gone in the attack mode towards that church.

So I'm really encouraged. It's two success stories I see where the attitude has won the day and it shows you that you can make it work in a church when they're not age integrated. Amen. You know, one of the things that I really appreciated how you Go ahead, Craig. No, go ahead.

I just really appreciated Chris's response both on the call here as well as in his article about how to approach those pastors. There is no pastor that I know that if a family who maybe has some different approach to wanting their kids to be in worship, but they're dedicated and supportive and encouraging others and praying with others and having people for hospitality, and they're not doing it as a tool to try to get their way. They're just doing it because they really love Christ and they love others. Let's be honest, that kind of Christian, even in a non-family integrated church, is not always the norm. And it's just a huge breath of fresh air when you have a family that's willing to be serving and engaging in the congregational life and no pastor is going to frown on that And rather than kind of going in and being a thorn in the flesh and like, I want you to change this and you to do this, it's really more of an impact through influence of doing what Scripture teaches.

And I think that's a powerful tool to engage with the pastors, the leaders, the elders of a church, the deacons, and just be the kind that everybody says, hey, we know we can count on that family. And then that kind of influence comes from the bubbling up of all the positives and not a negative demand of this is what I want kind of a hostile takeover approach. Yeah, somebody said yeah you got to go in there and out love them, out serve them, out bless them, out hospitalize them and you know give your whole heart to be in a blessing in that church and if on the other hand you sometimes have men they're rebellious, they reject everything they hear, they can't exist under authority, they're nitpickers, and they can't survive in an environment where there are a few things that they don't exactly agree with. And that's often the big problem, is that you have people that are just too picky. And so they're going to pick that church apart.

Now, I mean, we're all pastors. We understand how flawed our churches are. And how hard it is to have people who are unsatisfiable. They're just really hard to shepherd and they're no fun. They're like the ones that are referred to it, you know, in Hebrews, it's just not profitable for anybody because of that.

So, you know, families have to check their spirit. Are they, are they, do they have a critical spirit? And they'll be, those people will be the same even when they're in a family or church because it's ultimately it's a sin issue that they have a besetting sin in their life that they are spiritualizing over wanting family integration but really the issue is they're not going to be satisfied and they're not going to be correctable in anything typically. I think one of the key areas in which a family can serve a church, you know, if they're not age-integrated, it's really underestimated, is in the area of evangelism. I think so often as family integrated churches, we get misunderstood as being seen as inward.

They think that we are family focused, that we want to shut our families inside our family integrated churches and shut the world outside. And it's such a misunderstanding as family integrated churches, we know that we gather together as families for the whole purpose of worshiping God and being equipped to have an outward focus and go into the world and so I would say to families often the work of evangelism you can devote your family no pastor is going to get upset because there's a family in his church who are always going out and sharing the gospel and seeking to win souls for Christ into his church. The pastor's not gonna get frustrated with that. And that's the way that as a family, we can be serving or we can reach the lost. And even in the context, going back slightly to being completely out in the what-whats, as we call it here, away from any church, if you can't change that situation, then you can be militant in evangelism.

You can go out and share the gospel because then a church may be planted where you are so that there's no excuse There's no reason for us to not do that And I think some of our families they need to be encouraged to not be inward focused that isn't our Aim, but to be outward focused and give your children a passion for reaching the lost with the Gospel. One other option that you brought up and it's an option that is very important And that's the possibility of planting a new church, Chris. And I think that there's a couple things. Obviously, just gathering with like-minded people because you like each other isn't a church. And that needs to be clear.

You need to have biblical order and qualified men to serve as elders and deacons, but obviously I think having sound doctrine, those things kind of settled, but one of the beauties of a family-integrated church or an age-integrated church is that it's very simple and I think that's one of the beauties that it is more easily duplicated than a church that has to have all the programs to kind of meet all the needs, that it doesn't take as much, you could say, infrastructure to establish a church that, point number one, we're gonna start gathering on the Lord's day and preaching the word and praying and participating in singing and worshipping the Lord, and all the elements of biblical worship of the Lord's Supper and baptism, things of that nature, that this is what we're going to do. We're going to gather together. You don't have to have all of the systems in place that a lot of church planting ministries do today. It's a lot simpler. It's truly a simple church.

If you wanna put it in that terminology. And I think that's a good thing for duplication and uh uh just having men that are called and and gifted for that I think is really vitally important. Okay so let's let's just kind of go around the horn and and and just sort of give your your last piece of advice to that guy who's out in the middle of nowhere and maybe just by summarizing your own thoughts about it. Jason, why don't we start with you? Well, we spend a lot of time talking about how family integration isn't the priority of what you think in a church, but having said that, I've experienced firsthand the blessings of what it means when a church strips away all of the other things that often get in the way of family discipleship as it should be done.

And so I would encourage people to seek out a context and then that context might be a church that is just not hostile. You having your children with it, that might be enough as the preaching is great, the doctrine is great, the discipleship is great. They practice church discipline, they're serious about the word of God, that might be enough. But if you don't have those essential things in place, the blessings that my family has experienced as a result of having a focus on family discipleship that helps me as a father and encourages me as a father and pushes me forward as a father to, you know, pour my life into the spiritual welfare of my family. Those blessings are significant.

So None of us are minimizing those who say go for that get it if you can Absolutely Craig, what about you? Um, I would say and this may not be exactly the same for the New Zealand culture, but we live in a commuter culture, and especially in the Seattle metro area, and that I would say, if you're willing to drive five days a week, an hour commute, and there really is no biblically ordered church there or family integrated church to take part in, then within reason, I'll say, make the sacrifice on the Lord's day, because Christ's church is vitally important to your life and to your family and being in a biblical church is worth the sacrifice. It's more important than your job because it has eternal value in the lives of your family and that would be something to me. Make Christ's church the preeminent anchor point on your schedule for your family, and then make the sacrifice, even if you make a day of it, and pack a cooler to go to church and have lunch afterwards in a park. We have families that do that.

That's better than either laying out of church altogether because you can't find the one that fits the things that you desire or if there really is legitimately no even solid gospel preaching church in your places that you live. Amen. Chris, how about you? I just want to reiterate what Jason said. Let's emphasize the blessing in our transition.

It was difficult for the older children because they went through the transition, but our younger children, it's so normal to them now. It is such a blessing to fellowship with our children and churches. It's such a blessing to see that twinkle in their eye when you've gone through the passage and you look across at your child and there's a connection with the text and what's happening. Our kids have just been filling in some booklets studying the minor prophets and sometimes adults will be like minor prophets that's heavy and our kids are excited about it, I love seeing that so it's such a blessing. I would say to the fathers, to the families out there in the middle of nowhere, to really challenge them with the fact that church is not an option.

To really consider the doctrine of the priority of the local church. Maybe there's some fathers who might be listening to this now who in a proactive sense can make a difference because they're considering a job or a career move they're considering it happens all the time you know people move away we see it often and then they email back and say pray for us we're trying to find a good church it's really hard I would say if that's you right now stop, consider, pray, look at the scriptures, understand what God says. Not what we say but what God says about the priority of the local church and be radical about it and either move to one if you can. Just do what you can to move your family to one. Consider how that might be important.

Or as we've talked about, play about starting a church. Play about getting involved in evangelism and seeing a church planted. But please don't rest with the attitude that you can strike the local church off your list. It is essential we must do what we can to not deprive our families. Amen.

Can I say one thing about the beauty of our church? I want to, for some reason I just came hopefully there. I want to just say the beauty of what has happened in our church in the last 15 years with worshiping together as families is that we're a family. And the idea, I know it's had pushback in different quarters, but in a rightly understood way to be a family as a church of families of all different kinds. This Sunday, We had a baby dedication and as a single dad, and as just a beautiful thing to say, this man, he's just weeping afterwards.

And in the evening came back just so thankful, testified when we had men testify on Sunday night of God's goodness and putting him in this church. And to see children playing together, people in our church, they don't leave and we don't try to get them to leave. After the morning service, they're there for an hour or two. And the evening service is the same thing. And they're just, you know, the parents are talking together, the children are playing together, and people are just enjoying one another.

Outdoor services, kids hanging in apple trees in our yard, and those are things that I know they're going to look back on, remembering the fondness of their time together with God's people in the church. And that's something that oftentimes doesn't happen in your typical church of get there for an hour and 15 minutes, get your program and get home. And I'm so thankful that I get to serve and be a part of and then my family gets to be a part of a family integrated church. Amen and I'll just close with you know a final comment and that is Our encouragement is make the Church of Jesus Christ the center of your life. It's the center of God's program in the world.

And Jesus Christ shed his blood for his church. And by the way, this church is full of all kinds of messed up people. And we shouldn't be so proud and exclude ourselves from being part of the Church of Jesus Christ. We should be in churches, we should be washing the feet of the saints, we should be like Barnabas giving of our resources, We should be exercising our gifts in a local church. And if you're not in a local church, go get in one.

Get in one as quick as you can and help your family understand that your world isn't the only world, that there's a bigger world and they need to be a part of it and they also need to be servants in that world of a local church. And take steps if you're not involved in a local church. God has put his church in the world for every one of his children. He has designed to gather people into local assemblies so that they might experience a little of the various elements of the kingdom of heaven. Well guys, thank you so much.

I really appreciate you taking the time and I pray that maybe perhaps some of the fruit of this conversation is that there might be more people out there serving in the Church of Jesus Christ. Thanks for being a part of us. Thank you. Bye bye.