What about Children?

by Ben Taylor on 14/11/2010

This is usually the first question asked when it comes to house churches: “What about children?

(Taken from http://sojourner.typepad.com/house_church_blog/2004/03/house_church_ba_3.html)

The implication, of course, is that children are going to lose out if there is not an array of formal children’s programs to teach and take care of the children.

The assumption is that the “Sunday School” program provided by traditional churches is the best way to raise up spiritual kids. The fact is, the majority of children raised in these programs exit youth group after high school (if they have lasted that long) and do not become regular church-goers. This is not to say that something of value didn’t take place, but it does point out that we are not getting the “results” that we hoped for.

I believe there is potential in the House Church for far better results.

Why?

First of all, children will spend more time with their families in worship and seeing their family members involved in spiritual activities.

Dan Trotter writes:

Jesus never, ever said: “Suffer the little children to be packed away in the nursery.” Can you imagine the children being led to Children’s Church during the Sermon on the Mount? The churches were in the home, families lived in homes, children lived in families, and therefore, children met with the church in the home. And despite the Scriptural silence on kids and church, I can guarantee one thing: there weren’t any Sunday Schools and Children’s Churches.”

Children need to be in families who are modeling their own spiritual life. This is more important than 1,000 teaching sessions on faith in Christ.

A Third Day article says:

If they [children] see parents with faith, they have faith. If they see parents with adoration of all God has created, they get adoration of God’s creation. If they see parents who truly believe God will provide what they need, they believe God provides.

House church provides far more opportunity for this to happen as children are integrated into the life of “real” church. They will see their parents actively participating in worship, fellowship, communion, and the word—not as spectators but as participants.

Secondly, in house church, children will experience what it means to be brought up within the context of a family. The importance of this cannot be overstressed. Faith is caught through quality relationships not quality programs! This is essential to grasp!

Wayne Jacobsen says it very well:

“But don’t our children need church activities? I’d suggest that what they need most is to be integrated into God’s life through relational fellowship with other believers. 92% of children who grow up in Sunday schools with all the puppets and high-powered entertainment, leave ‘church’ when they leave their parents’ home. Instead of filling our children with ethics and rules we need to demonstrate how to live in God’s life together. Even sociologists tell us that the #1 factor in determining whether a child will thrive in society is if they have deep, personal friendships with non-relative adults. No Sunday school can fill that role. I know of one community in Australia who after 20 years of sharing God’s life together as families could say that they had not lost one child to the faith as they grew into adulthood. I know I cut across the grain here, but it is far more important that our children experience real fellowship among believers rather than the bells and whistles of a slick children’s program. You will never survive in house church with children unless you really grasp and believe what Wayne wrote: “It is far more important that our children experience real fellowship among believers rather than the bells and whistles of a slick children’s program.”

To this, I add the point already made: “It is far more important that children are around their parents actively engaged in spiritual activities than being shuffled off to “children’s” programs.

Now, if these points are grasped, it becomes much easier and less frightening to begin to talk about the practical issues of doing house church with children.

No, it’s not simple, and yes, it’s sometimes messy. From our own experiences, it requires ongoing discussion within the church… and this is good. Working with our children in our own homes requires an ongoing discussion between the parents. The same is true at church. If we are going to provide for their spiritual needs while also balancing the needs of adults, it requires ongoing, frequent discussion.

We are discovering that there are as many different ways of working with children as there are house churches. For those that want a little guidance, I first refer you back to Dan Trotter’s article where he provides seven practical suggestions for working with children.

At home-church.org there is a slew of responses from house churches who were asked to share their experiences with children. If you want to really “get into” the practical side of this, be sure to read the responses.

Above all, don’t underestimate our children. They are part of the church; they are filled with the same Spirit as the adults. They are able to adapt and they are able to participate as members of the Body of Christ.

As a Third Day article says:

“When children are viewed as part of the group, part of the family, they will make the necessary adjustments to be a part. Children will adapt. The adults are the one’s who need to check their view on including children in their church life. Parents should be helping their children make the adjustments but the whole group participates in their attitude toward children. Be prepared to see and hear some wonderful things from the kids.”

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Eleanor Burne-Jones November 15, 2010 at 8:03 am

My concern regarding children in simple church is with child protection issues, and I’d find it helpful to see some well thought-out guidance on how to ensure the safety of our children. For example, so far as I’m aware, in the UK at present, it is not possible for adults hosting a simple church to ask for criminal background checks on those who participate.

Reply

Ben Taylor November 15, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Hi Eleanor. Thanks for your message and for asking about the issue of child protection within simple churches.
As you will see from this website – simple church UK is not a denomination, a Charity or a company. It is a decentralised network of people who are planting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and building Christ Centred Community locally. Whilst we look to serve, network and resource where possible there is no “company policy” or set of rules which must be adhered to. We firmly believe in the pattern we see in scripture where local churches network and build relationships with others in their region or country but they still retain autonomy to “work it out” in their locality. We cannot therefore make a comment on behalf of the simple church community in the UK as everyone is working these issues out in their locality. I wanted to share 2 scenarios that came to mind though as I seek to give some kind of answer to your question:
1) Many Simple Churches are simply families and friends sharing their lives together and gathering together. Because of the depth of life-sharing the idea that you would even need to ask a brother or sister about a criminal background check has not even been an issue so far in our work. (Not to say that it might not come up!)
2) I know some friends who were looking to start a work amongst young people. Because of the particular context they were working in they went down the line of getting CRB’s and having some official standing. This was what they felt led to do as they prayed about what they were doing
3) As many simple churches are just groups of 3-15 people spending time together around the Bible and sharing what is happening in their life – it is not possible and for that matter feasible for people to apply for criminal background checks

Again I have to emphasise that the responsibility is on people working out the Gospel in community at a local level. I have to point this out though – living out the heart and ethos of Simple Church is such a significant shift from the traditional view and understanding of what Church means. In Simple Churches – parents typically take responsibility for the Spiritual welfare and discipleship of their own Children rather than send them out to be taught by people they barely know. As a parent of 3 young people my conviction is that I wouldn’t let my children be alone or put at risk with anyone that I didn’t trust or know. Can we truly know what is in the heart of someone? Of course not. But I believe that seeing Church as a family or household coming together around Jesus significantly changes your outlook and perspective on issues such as Child Protection within Church. If we welcomed someone into our community and therefore our life it is not something you do without much prayer, discernment and question asking. In some ways you could say that simple church ways can even provide more security and open-ness in this regard.

If we see Church as a gathering of friends and family around Jesus then I think that the safety and protection of our children is accounted for and actually if they are part of a Spiritual Christ centred family then they will not only be protected but will also be encouraged and provoked to grow in their faith.

Thanks for your comment and concerns Eleanor and we appreciate you asking this question.

If you have some experience of raising Children in a Simple Church setting then what are your thoughts about this…

Reply

Matthew Allen October 21, 2011 at 12:48 pm

My wife and I are thinking of starting a house church, probably next year. While we have had little exposure to Simple Church yet we do believe that Children are to be with their parent in the church settings, not separated in a service of their own. Personally I do not see a need for CRB checks in a house group setting. Non of the adults will be alone with the children and house churches are usually consist of people who know each other and are daily sharing their lives together. I am not sure on the legality of group meetings where children are involved but I would imagine a no one is ‘working’ with the children in particular then CRB is not needed.

Reply

Liz June 17, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Maybe one way of looking at it is that this kind of church is more like a group of friends getting together to hang out. So when I get together with friends, I’m responsible for my own kids and what they do, where they go etc. I’m keeping an eye on them at all times, making it my business to know what they’re doing and where they are and with whom. If I know and trust someone, I might ask them to look after my kids for an afternoon, but I make that decision based on how well I know them, not on a CRB check. That’s not to say I’m not being vigilant, but it just works differently in that context than in an institutional setting.

I do wonder, though – how would it work with young people coming to a gathering without their parents? The same as if my child wanted to go round to a friend’s house? Again, I would expect to be able to get to know the parents a bit before I agreed, and I would expect my chidl to ask permission before they went, but it would be anything official. Any thoughts on how that would work out?

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