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What Our Family Integrated Church Looks Like (Part 2)

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Faith's Firm Foundation: What Our Family Integrated Church Looks Like (Part 2)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What Our Family Integrated Church Looks Like (Part 2)

Not quite what Ours is like!
This is Part 2 of a 2-part series (Click on What Our Family Integrated Church Looks Like to read Part 1) on our Family Integrated Church and what it looks like, prompted by Amy's posting about what her Family Integrated Church looks like, over at Raising Arrows.  I encourage you to check out what she's written!
I told you I would explain more about it, and that I would answer any questions you might have.  These are common questions which we've heard over the years.

What Programs Do You Have?
We have no "programs."  We hope that this allows families to spend more time together, and less time in age-segregated "church" activities.  Families are encouraged, under the leadership of the father, to follow the Holy Spirit's leading in how, where and when they minister and serve.  If the Lord lays some need or ministry on the heart of a family, they are encouraged to pursue it.

 Some examples of ministries that families are involved in:

Nursing Home Ministry:  A couple of families go to visit and lead a hymnsing every other week; and at Christmas half a dozen families do a special, informal Christmas program there, and bring gifts to the residents.
Marie Sandvik Center:  Singing, visiting, serving at this center for homeless and destitute
Street-preaching:  a number of families did regular street-preaching in the inner city and various other areas for a time.
Handing out tracts:  Our church provides tracts and other materials which a number of families distribute
Family Music Ministry:  More than one family is involved in this kind of ministry, but one of them has become quite professional, and even has produced a CD

Volunteering with a local community AWANA program: Though our church does not run it, many of our families have helped over the years with a local community AWANA program.
Child Evangelism Fellowship ministry:  A number of families have children who were trained and worked with Backyard Bible Clubs, after-school Bible Clubs, and did other ministry with CEF.
Girls Prayer Gathering: Fellowship and Prayer
Bible Studies, Seminars, Conferences:  Families and individuals have organized and hosted many Men's, Women's, Girls' and Boys' Bible Studies, conferences, etc., over the years.  When someone feels so led, they are encouraged to go for it!
A Family of musicians at the Veterans Dinner
Young People serving the Veterans and their guests
Our church is very supportive (with prayer, people, resources, attending and providing financial support) when a family has a ministry.

If You Don't Have Any Programs, How Do You
Evangelize, Teach and Have any Fellowship?
The families themselves teach and evangelize their own children and those who they are in contact with.  Individuals and families share Christ. We occasionally host an all-church event, especially those which will strengthen or encourage families.

Family Fellowship a number of years ago
As for fellowship, we are a very hospitable church, with families inviting others over for dinner, for prayer times, for parties, gatherings, etc.  There are many serving opportunities, and people tend to like to do these in groups of families.  It's just easier.  So, fellowship happens.  One of our elders' family hosts a VERY large monthly gathering at his home on 80 acres during the summer months.  It's called "Family Fellowship" and it was started to provide fellowship and discipleship for families who did not, for one reason or another, have the encouragement of likeminded and edifying fellowship.  I would guess that 300-400 people attend Family Fellowship each month (not just from our church).
Moms and daughters serving at a shower

Girls Prayer Gathering
Girls Prayer Gathering

Young men awaiting their turn to serve at the Veterans Dinner
Cornerstone also has a few "traditions."  They are not carved in stone, meaning just because we did them the last three years, doesn't mean we have to do them this year. 

  • Christmas Celebration Sunday:  The only Sunday in the year when we have "special music," there are a few Christmas numbers by families or groups:  instrumental and vocal.  Christmas Caroling and Chili Supper in the afternoon includes putting together gifts (Bibles, Creation DVDs, chocolates, Christian books and materials, tracts, etc.) to be distributed to the homes in this tiny community where the groups of carolers sing.
  • 4th of July Celebration:  This was a LARGE event (attracting hundreds of people) with an outreach emphasis, which Cornerstone hosted for a few years (it was begun by one family, and then it grew).  This event was discontinued this past year.

One of our 3 elders and his family on the arrival of their adopted daughter

We do not have a Nursery, Sunday School or Youth Group.  We have families.  The father is expected, and encouraged and equipped, to be the head and leader of his family. He, along with his wife, is responsible to train up his children to love the Lord Jesus Christ and to disciple them.  Fathers are encouraged, discipled and helped so that they may be prepared to lead their families.  It's a goal of our church.  Much teaching, by word and example, testimony and prayer, takes place on Sunday mornings.  Among those who attend our church, there are abundant examples to show the way.  There are older dads to talk to, to look up to, and to follow.  There are resources made available:  books, tapes, CDs, DVDs.  The men have prayer partners.  There's a yearly Men's Breakfast and teaching time.

By the way, all the families in our church Homeschool (I think).  (It's not a requirement--that's just how it happened--but that means they're likeminded in taking the responsibility for the spiritual and educational training of their children.)

Isn't It Chaos With All Those Children In The Service?
(Wish I had a picture of all the kids!!)  It goes surprisingly well.  There is the steady stream of taking little ones to the bathroom, and babies and toddlers do cry, and in the back of the room there are always little ones being walked back and forth to quiet them, by moms, dads or older siblings.  But that's alright; you get used to it.  Following the service, during the Fellowship time, if the weather is conducive, children play outside.  There is a ball field next to the community center where they can play.

I Could Never Make My Kids Sit Still and Be Quiet For Two Hours!
You might be amazed what your child could do, if that was the expected behavior, and other children in the church were doing it and you had older moms who could give you tips on how to accomplish it!  Children will often rise to the occasion!  However, no one in their right mind would expect that every child is going to sit perfectly still, not making a peep for 2 hours every Sunday!  There are plenty of hymns, which give an opportunity to stand and stretch your legs.  Training in sitting quietly for short periods of time, then longer ones, goes on at home.  Children sometimes have to be taken out, for instruction and discipline.  The example of older siblings, and other families who have succeeded in training their children very well, is a strong inducement and encouragement.  Peer influence can be a GOOD thing.  

Church Staff

Mike (one of our 3 elders) and wife, Chris
We don't have any staff--paid, that is!  Our 3 elders all have full-time jobs or own their own businesses.  They have meetings once a month after church, and conduct business, and prepare sermons in their "spare" time.  As for other jobs that need to be done:  everyone pitches in, pretty much, whenever there's a need.  We have no bulletin, newsletter, etc., or Pastor, so no church secretary.  No janitorial staff of our own, because we rent our facility for $50/week and leave it cleaned up when we go.

Mark (one of our 3 elders) and wife, Lynn

Serving (because there's no staff)
Families serve together.  Opportunities abound.  I would love to take a video (maybe I will!) of what happens after a service is over.  From the littlest to the oldest, they really get busy!  Little guys who can barely see over them, carrying a tall stack of hymnals, collected from the chairs, weave through a sea of people to put them away in our storage cabinet.  Musicians put away instruments, microphones, stands. Middle to older boys stack folding chairs, and move 15-20 long wooden tables into place, with chairs around them, for "Fellowship time." Meanwhile, 3 families (all families, except those with only small children, are put on a rotating schedule) who are assigned to serve in the kitchen are setting up paper products, bagels and toppings, cutting up fruit and putting out carrots, coffee, tea, etc. on the counter.  Following fellowship time, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, and washing up serving utensils takes place.

Events such as Bridal and Baby Showers are a time when we can "expect" all the middle to older girls to serve, both the food and the guests, and help in the kitchen.  They are always willing, Bless Them!  It is a combination of work and socialization and a fun time for them!
Baby Shower

Because we have no paid staff, no full-time pastor, and no building--and our weekly rental expense is so low!--we are able to give generously to missions.  The philosophy of our leadership is to give the majority of the tithes and offerings taken in to missions.  They screen and choose missionaries that we can be greatly involved with by being their primary and major financial supporters and those who we will also be able to physically go and help in service on the mission field.

The idea is for our church to KNOW our missionaries, to have them come to our church and visit us in our homes on furloughs, and to have many of the church people have the opportunity to go and serve with them on short-term mission trips.  That we would have a long-term relationship with them, and our children would grow up knowing personally the missionaries whom we support.  We are blessed to support 5 or 6 missionary families in this way.  This is a means of encouraging missions in the hearts of the children, because they meet real people, real families--"just like me"--who are missionaries in far away places, and near, and hear testimonies of how people are hearing the gospel, being saved, and God is meeting their needs through the missionary and the financial and physical support our church provides.

Telling about all that goes on in a Family Integrated Church--well, this ended up quite long!  And there's much more I could have said!  Would you like to hear how it works with no nursery?  Why we don't have a Youth Group?  What we do about meals and help for new moms, or people in the hospital?  How we do baptisms? Membership?  Who does the church directory or don't we have one?  What we did when our church outgrew our facility--and we didn't want to leave?  What the elders' wives are responsible for, and how we figure out other responsibilities?  How do things get communicated without a bulletin or newsletter??  What about a Prayer Chain?

Seriously:  What do you think? Would you like to hear more, or have you heard enough?  Any questions about what I've already told you?  It's unbelievably difficult to describe and explain, at least for me, so that you will understand, something which is so foreign to most people, and they've never seen.  And to try not to make us sound "weird"! 

So, I hope this has been a little helpful?  
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Anonymous Phyllis said...

I'll take more information.

February 8, 2011 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

Ok, Phyllis! But you may live to regret that decision! :)
Wendy (I will try to become more succinct!)

February 8, 2011 at 6:42 PM  
Blogger Jamie~ said...

My heart is crying out for this! We're part of a church that's considered "family-integrated", but it's nothing like this. We're praying and trusting that God is going to take us to where we need to be in His time. What a blessing your chuch must be!

February 8, 2011 at 6:56 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

My heart cried out, too, for something like this, for many years! God had to change me in many ways, and trusting Him for His perfect ways in His perfect timing was part of what I needed to learn better. You're doing just the best thing to pray and trust that He will take you where you need to be in His perfect timing. I will pray, too.
P.S. How long til baby comes, Jamie?

February 8, 2011 at 9:41 PM  
Blogger Jamie~ said...

Almost there! Woohoo! I have less than four weeks, but all of my babies come early. Knowing that, I'm feeling extremely impatient. I'm really ready to get the show on the road, but keeping him healthy is number one priority (of course). Thanks for the prayers!

February 9, 2011 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Wendy said...

How exciting! I'll be praying for a good labor and delivery and a healthy, normal wonderful baby.
"May this child love you, Lord, from an early age and walk with You all his days."
Blessings, Jamie, to you and your family!

February 9, 2011 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

Such a wonderful church family.

February 9, 2011 at 1:31 PM  

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