Family Integrated Church Movement

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by PuritanCovenanter, Apr 28, 2011.

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  1. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I read an article today that I thought addressed some pointed concerns and charges that the Family-Integrated Church Movement has tried to address and charge the Church as a whole about. And since it isn't all long I asked the author if I could repost it here on the Puritanboard. I received his permission. It really encouraged me that we might not be doing Church in such a bad way as the FICM has charged the whole Church with. Anyways tell me what you think.

    Pastor Shawn Mathis is an Orthodox Presbyterian Minister in Denver. I have appreciated a few things he writes for 'The Examiner' in Denver Colorado.

    Christian Nurture

    Aspiring PolyMathis
  2. Bethel

    Bethel Puritan Board Freshman

    I found this statement a bit surprising. Even though we've been homeschooling since 2003, I only recently became aware of the NCFIC and their family-integrated church movement right here on the PB...maybe we don't get out enough.
  3. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    I would recommend the author spend a bit more time researching the reasoning behind those who are proponents of age-inclusive worship and education before attempting to debunk the notion with a simplified essay. I am not looking to enter into another debate. That has been done ad nauseum on the PB.
  4. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    There are many of us who are members of family integrated churches that do not associate with the NCFIC. While we agree that an age integrated model is best, we disagree with the NCFIC that all other models of ministry constitute sin. The problem that most of us have with the current church model is not so much the concept of it, but rather the execution of it. Most Sunday School classes for children consist of coloring and eating crackers for an hour, while the youth ministry consists of a twenty year old with spiked hair and ripped jeans playing basketball and listening to rock music with my teenager. I'm sorry, but my teenager already has plenty of friends he can do that with. What he needs is someone to guide him into manhood. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure that their children are raised in the fear and adminition of the Lord. That is all we are doing, fulfilling our God given responsibility in a manner that is most efficient and effective.
  5. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

  6. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I understand Lawrence. I was just a bit impressed by his address of some of the strongest pronouncements and charges that were made and referenced. I know the movement as a whole is not monolithic. But the root has some problems and I think he addressed some of them pretty good.
  7. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    The article made some good points. Those on the extreme edge of the family-integrated side of things sometimes get overly dogmatic and claim that any hint of the other method is automatically damaging and unbiblical. That actually hurts the good points in the movement because they are rightly dismissed for being extremists.

    The fact of the situation is that a MIX of family-integrated and age-separated ministries is fast becoming the most popular model in evangelical America. If you go to any of the big children's/youth ministry conferences you'll find half or more of the sessions are about mixing whole-family ministry into the old age-separated model. Ditto if you look at the new curricula coming from the publishing houses. It is THE big trend, rapidly being embraced. Churches that used to be very age-segregated are seeing the problems in that and are looking to change, but without giving up the old model completely.

    Now, there are many, many problems with the typical evangelical children's/youth ministry conferences, publishers and such. Don't get me started. But the trend toward more parental involvement in the old method is a good trend.

    This is, in fact, what I do. We have age-separated Sunday school classes. But we also have all-family worship services. We invite parents to sit in on their kids' classes whenever they like and urge them to do so at least once a year. We replace the regular classes with a special mixed-age class one week a month. We have periodic family events. And we insist teachers give parents a weekly report on what their kids are being taught.

    As a teacher of kids, I work with parents regularly about being involved in my class, and I probably spend at least an hour every week writing up detailed notes of my lessons to hand out to parents so they can know what's being taught and can follow up. So if I read something from one of these hard-core family-integrated guys who says that because I allow kids into my classroom at all without a parent in hand, I am a bad, bad Christian who is a enemy of God's pattern for family life... I want to say "give me a break!"

    There are advantages to kids and parents being separated sometimes, especially for learning that's particularly suited to their age level. And there are great things about kids and parents learning and worshipping together. BOTH are good, and it's a godly thing to be able to do both.
  8. puritanpilgrim

    puritanpilgrim Puritan Board Junior

    You can't make that assumption from that passage.

    What really matters is not whether or not your children are in Sunday School for and hour on Sunday, but rather that you daily take time to instruct from the word of God in family worship. Sunday School makes very little impact in the life of a child in comparison to a father daily leading them in prayer, singing, scripture, catechism and exposition. Don't leave this task up to someone else to accomplish in one hour a week amonst 10-30 other children. Be a man and do it yourself.
  9. jogri17

    jogri17 Puritan Board Junior

    Hmm... this article makes me wonder if a presbytery investigation is necessary?
  10. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    An investigation probably isn't necessary. It seems to run in Congregational Churches a bit more from what I am seeing.
  11. Shawn Mathis

    Shawn Mathis Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hello Lawrence,

    I welcome any helpful resources or summaries that you would recommend (not to debate you of course). I have not had the privilege to be part of this bulletin board so for me (and many others) this is not new.

    The research I did (and it was extensive) is behind this essay and may be brought forward as circumstances dictate. I picked the arguments used repeatedly by this group. If they have better or deeper arguments I would be interested in knowing about them.

    thank you,

    ---------- Post added at 10:22 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:09 PM ----------

    Hello PuritanPilgrim,

    I agree: men should man-up and instruct and lead their families. They should not withdraw and think others can do it for him. And you are correct: time-wise Sunday School makes little impact. Yet qualitatively, it may have a strong impact. I'm sure you would agree that quantity time is not always quality time. Just think of a powerful sermon.
  12. Shawn Mathis

    Shawn Mathis Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hello Bill,

    I am aware of that fact. My essay only stipulates that many churches join the NCFIC and proceed to analyze the confession. I know there are other organizations (or were). It is unfortunate that one group gets all the focus. I look at the situation as similar to someone writing a short paper on conservative Presbyterian churches--it will leave out many of the micro-presbyteries and focus on the bigger denominations. In a similar fashion, what the big Presbyterian denominations do reflect upon the others. When the reflection gets ugly enough the smaller churches may take public action to differentiate themselves.

    Similarly, I wonder if any of the other leaders or organizations have or would be willing to differentiate themselves from the questionable parts of the NCFIC? Frankly, if they dropped the evolutionary, etc. assertions I could probably sign their confession.

    ---------- Post added at 11:05 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:57 PM ----------


    Unfortunately, some FIC talk in black-and-white language about the "current church model." Distinctions are lost in rhetoric. Can their not be a mature use of age-segregation? (Calvin thought so!) Cannot other mature men besides the fathers be an influence upon the young men (ala Titus 2?)? That is the model I followed beginning as a deacon. I found, and with the knowledge of their fathers, two young men to spend time with as men (not as children/teenagers).

    The question I kept asking myself in my research (and you may help me out here): Why cannot churches simply argue this approach instead of using buzz words, blanket assertions and negative denunciations? Just say: we are Reformed and take the church and family seriously! I suspect part of it is because some of these leaders/groups wish to reach out to the non-Reformed.

    (BTW: Spurgeon had Sunday school...)
  13. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I personally have no problem with Sunday School if it is done right. The problem people like myself face is that it is virtually impossible to find a Baptist church that does it right, so our only real option is to go family integrated. Hopefully one day people will wake up and do it right again. :pray2:
  14. Shawn Mathis

    Shawn Mathis Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hello Jack,

    What you describe about getting the parents involved is a good thing. And kid's learning at their age level is something some signers of the NCFIC confession of told me--but the confession does not say that but says the opposite. Again, distinctions are lost in rhetoric.

    For those who do not know, your mature mix approach is wholly denied by Scott Brown in his latest book, A Weed in the Church (yes, I have a review of that one too.): "There are a number of important reasons why as little as one hour per week [Sunday School] is problematic for those Christians who want to be faithful to the directives of the Word of God. (225, cp. 222). Although in one section he reverses himself by stating, "there are times when it may be appropriate for various ages of people to meet for specific purposes...[this is] not to be the normative pattern...rather an exception" (p.232).

    I just recently discovered this exception which is not found in their confession or other articles. Maybe they should put that in their confession. Of course, then everyone asks: what is "normative" mean? what does "exception" look like?
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2011
  15. Damon Rambo

    Damon Rambo Puritan Board Sophomore

    This is an excellent post, and points to the real problem. I am a Student Minister, and I have to say I am looked at strangely by other Youth guys, when I tell them that we play very little games, that our meetings center around expository preaching, etc.

    I have to say BOTH extremes are wrong. The NCFIC version of "Integrated worship," that basically tells the teens "Shut up, sit with us, and do things the way we like them done," is wrong, in my opinion. Students need individual discipleship; they need the chance to serve, and the chance to lead. One of my teens leads worship every Wednesday. He is being trained to minister, etc. This would be impossible if we were integrated to such a point that we were not allowed to do ANYTHING segregated. Discipleship demands segregation at some point! Sitting around listening to someone talk, even preach, is not discipleship in and of itself. Discipleship involves training, and training demands some type of segregation.

    On the other hand, nothing bugs me worse than parents that just send their youth out to the Youth building, and are completely uninvolved in their students lives. It also bugs me that the church in general (especially the really old and the teens), seems to be caught in a mentality that EVERYTHING must be segregated. There is time and need for both.
  16. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Yeah, I'd say this is what's behind things for many parents who end up rejecting any separate classes for kids. They've been burned by bad Sunday School or bad youth groups. If churches put more work into making sure all of these classes were good and worthwhile classes spiritually and doctrinally, rather than just fun and convenient classes, fewer folks would be tempted to reject kids' classes outright.
  17. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

    It is silly to think that children reason like adults. Up to age 7-8 they certainly are childish and up to age 12 or so they often continue to reason in childish ways. To try and say the sort of renewing of the mind that happens with a sermon is the same for an adult and a five year old ignores developmental reality. I know people that didn't want their four year old in a class with a simple bible story and craft and songs, because somehow the mystical anointing on the preached word in the big adult room was better. By 7th grade I am personally all for having them hear the sermon, and certainly I'd want even toddlers in for the first half with songs and bible reading and prayer. But what is it about " reasoning as a child" that the FICM can't accept? I have never figured them out except to write it off as legalism.
  18. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I find this kind of reasoning fallacious that only looks to the problems in education since the introduction of evolutionary thinking and throws the baby out with the bathwater.

    What does the author suppose the court of women and children was for in the Temple? Furthermore, a study of Edersheim's works on Jewish social life will see a longstanding "segregation" of age groups for education. Whatever else you might say about the Jewish community in Christ's time they had not divided up the ages for education due to evolutionary theory.

    Obviously there are problems with the methods of instruction that have arisen in our days but recognizing the cognitive level of different age groups and instructing them accordingly is something that the light of nature teaches us and not Darwin.
  19. Shawn Mathis

    Shawn Mathis Puritan Board Sophomore


    That is an excellent verse. It would be great if the NCFIC confession actually made such a distinction (Brown's new book does but only mentioned in passing without significantly impacting his system).

    And for clarify: I agree with the NCFIC that children's worship services are wrong. That children (as much as they are able) should stay in public worship. But Sunday school is not public worship.
  20. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    One of the problems in discussing this topic is defining exactly what is meant by the Family Integrated Church Movement. How does one define it? Is it primarily theologically based or methodologically based? Is it an all or nothing proposition or can churches/individuals cherry pick the best components? I consider myself FICM friendly in that I see the benefit of having the family together during corporate worship. However, I am not in favor of sweeping mandates and generalizations that may not work in every situation. In defense of those who advocate FICM it is not fair to label them using fringe definitions. Not every FICM advocate believes in house churches or a general disdain for traditional churches. Not every FICM female dresses as though they're living in the era of Little House on the Prairie. But the same is true of those who do not agree with the FICM. Just because a church has age segregated Sunday School or a youth group doesn't mean they are doing Satan's work or that father's have abandoned their children to the world. I think genuine charity is called for on both sides.
  21. Shawn Mathis

    Shawn Mathis Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hello Scot,

    Thank you kindly for bringing that talk to my attention. I think I would recommend that as a good summary of what NCFIC does not believe. And a good model of men wanting to unite with those in disagreement.

    He stressed the lack of charity and scholarship found among the bulk (apparently all of them) of the critics. The overt and gross errors should be embarrassing. That is one reason why I wrote what I did: I could not find any none emotional and scholarly (read: footnotes!) papers.

    That brings me to the assertions made in various articles (both Mr. Brown's and Phillips and others) making questionable historical claims without clear and detailed documentations. I do not plan to dwell on those problems but they have been answered in my detailed essays on Christian education history (or will be). The assumption is that they are following the Reformed model (24"). But no evidence is forthwith. The one common unfounded claim in this lecture was that home education is the "original" and most prevalent method. I've never seen any documented evidence of such a sweeping claim.

    The theologically unclear assumption (the "desert island test") that a precept, principle or practice must be found in the word of God before implementing a method has been asserted over and over yet never exegetically proven other than some proof-texting and the broad assumption of sola Scriptura (in all my research anyway). The regulative principle of worship is different than Christian liberty. I think that is a constant confusion (see Brown's latest book, chapter five).

    In answering the critics (answers I already knew), he did not answer any of my concerns (unless I missed something). Perhaps these concerns are answered elsewhere?

    Lastly, he bemoans that lack of even one "faithful honorable critique" (but seems to think this involves meeting him in an interview.) That is something to bemoan indeed.
  22. Shawn Mathis

    Shawn Mathis Puritan Board Sophomore

    Greetings Herald,

    That descriptive is not the defining mark of FIC; it is Reformed. The FIC believes that (and I mentioned in my essay) but it believes more: age-segregation is evolutionary (even hellish).

    I think churches that encourage children to attend public worship should state as much. The problem is using a new word. In my humble opinion, it is too late to reclaim this word. It is like the Republican party: you join it, you get stuck with the good and the bad...or you join a third party.

    I also understand that some critical of the movement have been uncharitable and unfair. But historically, this group came out first guns-a-blaz'n as the quotes I used prove (c.2003). Certainly my essay never claimed they practiced "hellish" thinking and ended on a positive note.

    ---------- Post added at 03:39 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:31 PM ----------

    Greetings Herald,

    I hope you understand that descriptive is not the defining mark of the NCFIC; it is Reformed. Certainly the NCFIC believes that (as I mentioned in my essay) but it believes more: age-segregation is evolutionary (even hellish).

    I think churches that encourage children to attend public worship should state as much. They don't need a new word. In my humble opinion, it is too late to reclaim this new word anyway. It is like the Republican party: you join it, you get stuck with the good and the bad...or you join a third party.

    I also understand that some critical of the movement have been uncharitable and unfair. But historically, this group came out first guns-a-blaz'n as the quotes I used prove (c.2003). Certainly my essay never claimed they practiced "hellish" thinking and ended on a positive note.
  23. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member


    Hence the phrase "FICM friendly". I am sympathetic with some of it's goals, but I am would not call myself and FICM adherent. Also, I am not about to slap the Reformed label on the FICM. FICM churches/individuals may be Reformed, but they don't define the Reformed faith. The Reformed faith is defined by set theological beliefs. If any movement is in concert with those beliefs that is all well and good, but it doesn't mean the movement is Reformed.
  24. Shawn Mathis

    Shawn Mathis Puritan Board Sophomore

    Bill, That was my mistake: I took friendly as akin to adherent.

    Of course, I meant Reformed "practice"--children in public worship is the historical practice--not Reformed theology. I think that many people are sympathetic (I am!) but just don't know what the large organization believes. I hope more do now.
  25. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Shawn, no problem.

    Clarification is of utmost importance; especially on an interactive message board. When I first joined the Puritan Board I assumed that my words were clear and concise. If you learn anything during your first few months on the board it'll be that it's impossible to over-clarify.

    Blessings, brother.
  26. Shawn Mathis

    Shawn Mathis Puritan Board Sophomore

    For those interested in an actual dialogue about this movement, a young NCFIC intern with connections to Scott Brown has responded to my article at Wes's site, here. I shall be writing an article response, Lord willing.
  27. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Do I smell a book?

    Wow, Did he even attempt to address your solid quotes and references? It doesn't appear he did. He did seem to suggest that his rebuke or calling the church back (via the call of Semper Reformanda) from your erroneous ways of segregation was done in the correct Spirit of Christ. But he didn't even give a defense or a reason why those who practice it were in error. Did I read it correctly Pastor? He sure quoted a lot of scripture and made some charges but didn't really respond to your article. At least that is what I read. Maybe I was just trying to hard to cut through all the stuff to find out what he was really saying in relation to what you wrote.
  28. Shawn Mathis

    Shawn Mathis Puritan Board Sophomore

    Snyder, I am not sure which guy you are referring to. But either way, no one has defended or explained the "desert island test"--the principle underlining the entire debate. The closest is Ryan's new post which quotes some early 1800s particular Baptists--but then I'm a Presbyterian :)
  29. Curt

    Curt Puritan Board Graduate

    As usual, our own Fred T. Greco is right on:

    I believe in families worshipping together when possible. We also have a "Family Sunday School" class and a "Family Bible Study." But we have not turned "Family" into a denomination, encompassing all manner of theological distinctives (or non-distinctives, as the case may be).

    Thanks, Fred.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2011
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