This is usually the first question asked when it comes to house churches: “What about children?
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.
First of all, children will spend more time with their families in worship and seeing their family members involved in spiritual activities.
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.
The final chapter on working with children has not been written. This is an area for prayer, creativity, experimentation, and risk-taking. But let’s not be afraid to do all of this. House churches, just be their nature, have more to offer children than, perhaps, any other setting.
What’s your ideas on this?
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