House Churches and Kids: Our Story
Our story starts before we even wanted to plant house churches and definitely before we had any kids. We were college students at the Forerunner School of Ministry (now IHOPU) and were attending a church that encouraged us to get into small groups that they were calling house churches. At that time we didn’t have much of a grid for what churches were or why they were important.
Our second year there, we felt called to start a house church of our own within that church. My roommate decided to join us and Christy had just started rooming with a woman named Ana who had four daughters. Ana had recently been through a terrible divorce and had come to Kansas City to recoup and spend time at the house of prayer. Ana and her daughters joined us, along with a number of friends and we became a spiritual family.
What we quickly learned through that experience was that Ana took her daughters with her EVERYWHERE. They were homeschooled, so they could do that, but whenever Ana went somewhere, her daughters were in tow. These girls ranged from the age of 4 to 14, but they were miles ahead of most kids we knew because they gained experience tagging along with their mom. Ana, as we came to find out, was a gifted prophetic individual who could hear the Lord like few other people we knew, and her daughters thought it was the most natural thing on Earth to prophesy just like their mom. The lifestyle was more caught than taught.
These four girls would participate in our house church of 10 to 15 people, but they would also pray and deliver accurate prophetic words at meetings with hundreds of people gathered at them. It was all very normal for them. They also became an important part of our spiritual family and kept things from ever becoming too serious. If you’ve ever heard me talk about the defining moment when I knew I would start house churches, one of Ana’s daughters was the girl who spoke at the retreat I was at that had everyone in tears. We loved these girls.
So, this was our first experience with kids in house churches. We saw young, young kids who modeled what they saw the adults in their lives doing and understood the power of that practice. Ana’s girls thought hearing from the Lord was normal, so they did it too. Ana’s girls participated in the meetings and grew because of what they heard. Ana’s girls became part of our spiritual family. It was what we had hoped would happen with everyone in our house church, but it was happening with the young children.
Fast forward a couple of years and we had moved back to our hometown and started a house church. We started our first house church with friends that we had made since we had come back from Kansas City, and like most organic things, these people were mostly in the same stage of life as Christy and I were. They were young, recently married, and each had one small child. I specifically remember the small line of car seats we had parked in my living room during those early meetings. It was kind of cute back then and none of us thought much of it because we all had one kid that was fairly immobile at the time. Our biggest difficult was making sure each of them got a good nap sometime while we were meeting.
What we couldn’t know then was that we would continue to attract primarily people in the same stage of life as us. More young families with young children. What we also didn’t know was that, while we weren’t quite “full quiver” people, we all ended up having more kids than we expected. As the years would go by, it wouldn’t be unusual for the families in our house churches to have four or five children. I remember specifically one point in one of our house churches where we had twenty kids between five families. It’s definitely not unusual to have more kids in our house church than we have adults!
Now, we didn’t plan to end up here. We actually had hoped that our house churches would become intergenerational and that we’d have a chance to learn from older saints who had gone before us on raising kids, integrating them into the life of the church, and following Jesus in general. We prayed and fasted for believers in their 40’s and above to come be a part in what we were doing, but they never came.
Instead, we set about the hard task of figuring out how to raise our children in the participatory atmosphere of a house church. We had to figure out how to navigate meltdowns of children while we sang. We had to figure out whether to let other adults in our house church discipline our kids. We had to figure out how to parent in a spiritual family when different members of that spiritual family had different values and priorities that we did.
The interesting thing was there was no map. As I said yesterday, there was no how-to book or article written as a guide to instruct us. We had to do the best we could with a little advice here and there from our parents, other believers we respected, and the parenting books we were reading. We kept trying to involve the kids in the life of the church at the same time to see how that would work. Every couple of years, we would stop what we were doing, have a discussion about what was working and what wasn’t, and start over with the best of what worked and a couple of new ideas.
Fourteen years later, here we are. We’ve learned a few things about what works and what doesn’t. There’s still a lot more to learn. But we’re getting to the place where some of our oldest children are approaching that season where they leave the nest. They’re still young, but they are becoming a real part of our church. They are learning to follow Jesus. I would put my kids’ knowledge of the Bible up against many adults’. Most importantly, they love Jesus.
Much of what will follow is from the press of these years. We’ll talk about what has worked for us and what we think we could have done better. But none of it is theory. It’s real life experience and trial and error that has born fruit. I hope it helps you and the house church you’re part of grow spiritually and numerically.
What about you? Do you have kids in your house church? How has that process been? What has worked and what hasn’t? Let me know in the comments below.
Photo Credit: Man in White Shirt Carrying Girl in Gray Shirt by Nathan Dumlao
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