Tuesday/Thursday Book Club: Perspectives on
The Family Integrated Church, chapters 5-6
Paul Renfro, Minister of Discipleship at Grace Family Baptist Church, writes as an advocate for the family-integrated model. He quotes his pastor, Dr. Voddie Baucham, Jr., when defining the FIC movement:
The family-integrated church movement is easily distinguishable in its insistence on integration as an ecclesiological principle. … Our church has no youth ministers, children’s ministers, or nursery. We do not divide families into component parts. We do not separate the mature women from the young teenage girls who need their guidance. We do not separate the toddler from his parents during worship. In fact, we don’t even do it in Bible study. We see the church as a family of families (Family Driven Faith, 191-95).
Rather than gathering arond age-directed meetings, Renfro describes the FIC gathering weekly for integrated worship and a family meal. At Grace Church, the structures are kept simple to allow families time to practice hospitality during the week--along with the integrated services there are weekly integrated small group studies and a monthly men's meeting (for men ages 12 & up).
Three distinctives unite all family integrated churches: (1) a commitment to age-integrated ministry, (2) a commitment to evangelism and discipleship through the home, and (3) a commitment to calling church leaders who meet the biblical qualification of managing their home in a godly way.
What are the advantages of the family-integrated model?
The model avoids the dangers of perpetuating immaturity and prolonging adolescence that often haunt more traditional "youth group" models. In addition danger of accentuating a generation gap in the church is also avoided. Church leaders rely heavily on families (and particularly fathers) to be the primary disciplers of their children. Moreover, the FIC does "simple church" at its finest. What a blessing to free one's people to grow as families and do relational neighborhood evangelism.
What are the disadvantages?
Renfro admits that one of the great difficulties of FIC is transitioning a church to this model. But those who criticize this model wonder whether or not the difficulty of transitioning could be due to poor ecclesiology. A church is not a "family of families" but in reality the "family of God." Moreover, it seems that the FIC model blunts gospel-centered missional ministry to those steeped in contemporary youth culture. The abundance of home-schooled families attracted to the model testify to its inherently separatistic bent. What is missed is that every church "contextualizes" and even "segregates" (Grace Church's men's only meeting), but the gospel calls us to a more flexible missional posture.
So, what do you think? What are your opinions of the FIC?
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