thatmom

real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

pros and cons of the family-integrated church model, part one

I thought it would be a great idea to offer a few thoughts on the growing family integrated church movement after reading Wade Burleson’s recent article and also Cindy Kunsman’s thoughts about this movement over the past few weeks. I want to encourage good discussion here and hope anyone who is interested in this topic will feel free to discuss it. As always, I don’t mind anonymous comments as long as they come along with a real e-mail address and civility.

Having attempted to integrate our own family’s preferences and convictions into church life, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not, over the past 24 years, I fully understand why homeschooling families would love to find a church home where their lifestyle is not only accepted but is also the standard. Let’s face it, once you begin taking the responsibility for academically educating your own children, as a parent you begin to see all of the areas of your life where the Lord has called you to take responsibility for your family and your home. As you put into practice family worship, discipleship of your own children, caring for the needs of extended family, etc, you begin to see how the bureaucracy of the local church, especially if it can’t accommodate your own convictions, can become burdensome and frustrating. It only seems natural to turn to the family-integrated church model and many homeschooling families do just that.

Growing both in the number of churches and in membership, these churches have been established to meet the particular needs of homeschooling families and will eventually be available in most areas of the country. In fact, the National Center for Family Integrated Churches, established only 5 years ago, currently lists 657 churches and claims a membership of 1677 families who desire to further their mission.

While this organization does not represent all those who wish to follow a family-integrated approach to church life, they certainly have had tremendous influence through their conferences and publications. Founder and leader of the NCFIC, Doug Phillips, considered one of the most popular homeschooling speakers around the country today, promotes this off-shoot of his Vision Forum ministry while at homeschooling conferences along with other voices for pro-family-integrated worship such as Voddie Baucham, a SBC-ordained pastor, and Kevin Swanson, ordained in the OPC.

Not associated with Phillips but also a founder of what he calls “home-discipleship churches,” former church planter with the CRC, Pastor Henry Reyenga, is the head of the Christian Leaders Institute that seeks to launch churches and to prepare young men for leadership within those congregations. In recent years he has established his own denomination that reflects his family discipleship priorities and interpretations of Christian education.

His is not the first group to do go out on his own to form churches with this family emphasis. James McDonald, founder of Family Reformation Ministries and pastor with the Covenant Presbyterian Church, left the RPCGA and starting his own denomination, one that reflects his convictions about home education and paedo-communion, both views not necessarily advanced, and sometimes discouraged or forbidden, within traditional churches.

In contrast to the traditional structure found in most denominations and eschewing the long-established polity in most conventional churches, NCFIC churches each struggle to carve out their own paths and even theology based on the premise that homeschooling is the best and most biblical lifestyle for Christian parents. Placing fathers in leadership of these churches is to be the norm. To this end, the NCFIC mission statement says that they “deny/reject two unbiblical extremes of our day, authoritarian, one-man leadership/one-man ministry that impedes the biblical functioning of the body, and leaderless house churches that disregard the biblical necessity of elders.”

Further, claiming to follow in the footsteps of 17th and 18th century pastors Richard Baxter, John Bunyon, Matthew Henry, and Jonathan Edwards, all great men in history who stressed the importance of fathers discipling and catechizing their own children, the NCFIC seeks to provide tools for men training their own families and believes this is the means for seeing future generations of Christians.

While I whole-heartedly believe that fathers are to be instrumental in the discipleship of their children and while I appreciate so many of the reasons homeschooling families have for leaving their traditional churches, I have come to see some flaws within the family-integrated church movement that I think need to be addressed if it is to have the success so many homeschooling families are hoping to experience. In the next few blog articles I will be looking at some of the things I really like about family-integrated churches and at some of my concerns and am looking forward to some great discussion here.

(to be continued)

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11 Comments»

  KellyH wrote @

Hi Karen!

You are more than familiar with our struggle and search for a church home. We agree there are problems with family integrated churches. We are currently attending a local church, but are constantly frustrated by it. I personally feel like an outsider, only one of two families that homeschool (the other family being long time friends of ours). Homeschooling is tolerated, but not accepted. The majority of wives and mothers in the church work outside the home. (me and the other hs mom don’t, alongwith a handful of older women).

At a couple of the family integrated churches we have attended, hs is the norm. Not totally, but the majority. Mom being home most of the time is the norm. While I’m not arguing this point, it is a different life than a working mom who sends her kids to school. There is NO community for us at our current church. The lifestyles are different. There isn’t any opportunity for connection with anyone else.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. This has been a trying couple of months. I’m looking forward to reading your blog posts.

KellyH

[…] September 10, 2008 in Uncategorized From “thatmom” Karen Campbell’s new post entitled “The Pros and Cons of the Family-Integrated Church Model, Part One“: […]

  Cindy K wrote @

Alright,

All these wordpress trackback posts here are my fault. I just created a wordpress blog to keep track of the history and beliefs of the FIC, linking to many posts here on thatmom.

feel free to visit…

http://www.familyintegratedcritique.wordpress.com

  Lin wrote @

It is becoming increasingly harder to find a church at all. They are either seeker, emergent or patriarchal. Most are jobs programs for the hirlings and wolves. Could be why so many are opting for home church these days.

  Cindy K wrote @

Or why, apart from Federal Vision even, why people are returning to the Catholic Church. Functionally, you go to worship, you know what you’re getting in for and they leave you alone for the most part. They are pro-life. They are pro-family. If you desire to live a holy life anyway, you don’t feel as clobbered by guilt as you do in some of these other evangelical churches. If you want to be very involved in ministry, generally there is a place for both men and women. If you don’t find something that readily matches your gifts, they leave you alone.

  thatmom wrote @

Kelly, I certainly can relate to what you are saying. I have experienced my share of loneliness being the only stay at home mom in a sea of working moms who do, you are correct, have a different way of approaching many things. I have also, as I will be sharing in the days to come, experienced the loneliness of being in a church full of homeschoolers who have elevated non-essentials and personal preferences to the positions of “sound doctrine” and honestly found it to be even worse!

We need to get together with you and Jeff for dinner again one of these days. Or maybe we could all meet for a picnic someplace in between you guys and us? I would love to see your little ones again!

  peaceofchange wrote @

Our experience has been a little different as my husband was usually the pastor at the churches we attended. Now that he isn’t a pastor anymore, we have struggled with where to worship. We have spent the last year and a half at a different church almost every Sunday. We settled at one church for about 5 months…a typical SBC church and a member of the liberal side of the denomination here in TX. We actually liked the pastor and felt that his sermons were right on, but like Kelly, we were the ONLY HS family in the church…and although I have read that when congregants aren’t overly friendly it is actually healthy…we weren’t spoken to for 5 months…except by the greeters. So, we find ourselves now at a mega-seeker friendly church where we can go and “fringe”. We just sing, listen to the sermon and go home and do what we always do…disciple our children and worship together…but, it does get lonely. It’s hard not to believe that something MUST be wrong with us.

  Moorea wrote @

I have been HS for 13 years.
I have been part of a church for 18 years where I have almost seen it ALL- every type of homeschool family, working mom family, they all come and go or stay. Our pastor for 25 years had 8 kids, all HS.
Our non-denomination church (Calvary Chapel) does not normally allow children in the service for any reason, but each pastor has the room to do as he pleases in this area. Ours believed that the kids should be in church at least through worship, but they could go to Sunday school if they wanted.
I believe that because of this policy, many families of different structures are able to flourish because there is no legalism about it.
I am sincerely saying that we have seen almost every kind of family, and the only thing that is able to break through the public/ homeschool, working mom/ stay at home mom tension wall is service together in the church- kids working there to help clean, build, paint, help in outreaches to the community, babysit, etc. If you teach your children to love the body and to serve, you will be teaching them not to be fearful of being different. That fear is not from God, it is man made and is wrong. You are brethren in Christ.
When we serve together, we bond together.
However, it is not easy, I know.

  thatmom wrote @

“They are either seeker, emergent or patriarchal. ”

This is so concise and true! My son is looking for a church home and it is so discouraging. He said that one that he visited had a sermon that was “like a really long Christian bumper sticker.”

  thatmom wrote @

Moorea, I really welcome your insights here. I agree that working together to build the kingdom is central and, as my story goes on, you will see why when this doesn’t happen and the Gospel isn’t central, everyone is stifled.

  thatmom wrote @

peaceofchange, I am happy to have your insights, too, coming from the pastor side of this discussion. Thanks for your willingness to share with us.


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