6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.
The most important resource our families have (aside from our own personal vitality and health) is our children. It seems that everyone agrees on this, at least in word. It is very common to hear leaders say things like, "Our children are the future." or "They are the next generation of leaders." All of us have heard these comments from the time we were children. These statements are indeed true, yet so much of our modern day Christian faith is focused on personal internal spiritual development. We spend spend so much of our time as Christian parents focused on dealing with our own inadequacies we often neglect to do as this verse says, "Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, and when you walk (drive) along the road."
As we have launched into the unknown piloting huddles that are focused on preparing our family and friends to train up and care for new believers in our homes away from the edifices of the church, we must confront the reality that Children will be with us in the these home settings. While this may feel obvious, the impacts to our "study time" will be significant. We realize that at our "legacy Church", we have everything provided for us. We have a Children's building, we have youth buildings, we have age specific trained teachers for infants, preschool, elementary, and young adults, sometimes even College. All of those things developed to ensure that each individual has an experience with scripture and the Lord designed for their level of maturity and cognitive development. We will not have all of that in the home.
Interestingly, some of the things that we lose in our "big church" settings is community, family, and connectedness. It is not uncommon to see families arrive at church and go many different ways only to gather together again when it is time to leave. While the Christian education may be wonderful the sense of togetherness is shattered. It is not hard to understand why many young adults feel foreign when they graduate from High School and begin to attend adult services. Many times they have not been a part of adult services or experienced adult faith for their entire life.
In our new home church settings we have a powerful opportunity to address these deficiencies. We start by acknowledging that parents are always the most important leaders to their children. Parents are the disciple-makers of the family. It is our responsibility to train up children to know and love the Lord. It is not the responsibility of trained church professionals. At the very best the church professionals are able reinforce what the Children are learning from their parents at home.
We are praying that as God opens the doors of your home, He will also impress on your hearts a desire to model healthy faith for your children of all ages. While it is clear that various ages will have various abilities to focus and stay on task, it is clear that all of them can participate in our home church to varying degrees. We queried a global facebook group of small group practitioners asking for best practices and key concepts. We have summarized the responses we were given. Below are a few common themes. Click here for the full document: Discipling Children in a Home Church Environment
Three concepts emerged quickly:
1. Unity in Plan: Each group much agree on whatever plan they pursue. It is the work of the adults to consider how best include children into their community time. This post and the attached document are meant to serve as a guide. What your group decides is entirely up to you.
2. Inclusion is best: Children of different ages will have different attention levels. While small children will not be able to participate in all parts of the 3/3rds, they can participate in some of the adult gathering. All children can be included for some parts. Include them as much as they can handle.
3. Grace & Patience is a Must: When we add children to adult events, we often add chaos to what is quite orderly. That chaos can be uncomfortable when we are accustomed to quite services and prayer times. Remind your adults often that this time is not for adults and it is not for children. The interactive time is for the community of faith and all ages are part of that community.
Many leaders found that making their times very interactive helped the children (and parents) to stay engaged. They found having coloring sheets, songs, small instruments,... all added to the ability of children to participate in singing or listening to a bible story. They also found that giving children some leadership roles such as picking the songs, or reading a scripture, even asking some of the facilitators questions better included the children. Lastly they found interactive bible study formats were key to getting children and adults to discuss the implications of the scriptures they were reading.
Finally, Christianity is always meant to be experienced in community. Families loving Jesus together makes for strong families. Parents are the best and most qualified spiritual leaders for their children. Modeling what Christian Community looks like as adults, with our children present, will only help them to become mature Christian adults. It is part of our discipleship responsibility to disciple our Children. What better way than for them to see us pray, sing, read God’s word, repent, confess, encourage, and grow in Christ as a community together.