Whenever I get a chance to talk about house churches with a group of believers, whether just a few or many, I inevitably get asked the same question:
“What do you do with the kids and the money?”
This question comes up because I’ve already spent a lot of time talking about the dramatic shift that happens when you stop seeing church as an event or a place. I’ve also stared to encourage those listening to see church as a people separated to God who live together and encourage each other to move the Gospel forward. By now we’ve talked about discipleship, accountability, meetings, the Holy Spirit, community, and a whole host of topics. So when we get done talking about how things are different in so many other areas, the implications of these ideas start to hit those who have been really listening.
“Does this mean no more kids church?”
“Where will my kids go if they don’t go to the nursery?”
“What kind of meetings will we have if the kids are part of them?”
“Will I be able to keep my kid quiet during the meeting or will he or she be a giant distraction?”
“How will we be able to learn and grow if we’re constantly having to watch our kids?”
The list can go on. This is a giant stumbling block for parents of young children who are considering joining a house church. Sometimes the thought of their kids and what programs will be available for them weighs on their minds. Other times the idea of missing the break that church provides can be a consideration. The barrier to entry can seem high.
This problem doesn’t get any better in the house church circles that I’ve been involved in. Many of them are filled with older believers whose kids have left the home or singles who don’t have the obligation for children. Those that do have children usually have a handful and they’re doing their best to incorporate these kids, but they sometimes feel like an afterthought to the rest of the church’s life.
Surprisingly, there is very little house church literature devoted to this topic. I’ve read a lot of books on house churches (and I do mean A LOT) and it’s not unusual to have a book of 200 or 300 pages give two pages to the topic with some light thoughts that don’t really address the day-in, day-out struggle of participating in house churches with children.
This is a shame because there is a significant amount of growth that can come, both numerically and spiritually, when house churches learn how to steward the children that make up their body. The Psalms tell us that children are a blessing from the Lord and like arrows in the hand of young man. If we wisely love, grow, and challenge the kids in our midst, we’ll find that like arrows, they will go out and accomplish what we couldn’t on our own.
So over the next days (and probably weeks) I’m going to be writing on how house churches can incorporate children into the life of the church. This is bigger (and more important) than just incorporating them into a meeting, but it will include how and why we need to incorporate them into the meetings of your church. We’ll discover that often we’ve neglected the very arrows the Lord has been giving us for the fights we’ll face in the future.
If you are part of a house church, stay tuned. You’ll find not just good theology, but also practical advise for how to involve kids in ways that will grow you and the kids that are part of your body. If you know someone who is part of a house church, invite them to follow along. Lastly, if you are not part of a house church, you can stick around, too. You’ll find lots of truth here that will help you interact with the children in your life and grow them closer to Jesus.
It’ll be fun. I promise!
Society tells us that “regular church attendance” is every other week.
We say that being part of a church means meeting daily from house to house.
Society tells us worship is the 30 to 60 minutes we step inside a building every week.
We say worship is a life of presenting our bodies 24/7 to God as a living sacrifice.
Society tells us children are a distraction and shouldn’t be a part of the main event.
We say the children should get a chance to participate in the Kingdom just like adults.
Society tells us that the bigger the church, the better the experience.
We say Jesus shows up regardless of how many others do, even for two or three.
Society tells us that we need to become more inclusive and relax our standards so more people will come.
We say the way is narrow and few find it.
Society tells us going to church makes us a better person.
We say following Jesus will cost us our lives.
What would cause us to live like this? To give our lives to meeting with other believers, living as a permanent sacrifice every day, all day? What would cause us to have meetings interrupted by children and sometimes barely having anyone around? What would cause us to choose an old path that few seem to like? What would cause us give up our lives instead of improve them?
The answers may differ for others, but for us, the answer is we’ve met Jesus. That encounter with Him has been so profound that we trust Him as our leader, not just someday, but now. So we trust what He says, even about the ways we should gather and live our lives.
He is worth it.
[Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing series about learning from the global church. Other posts in this series can be found at the bottom of the page.]
The church around the Earth, living under persecution and depending on God’s power instead of their wealth and influence, has much to teach every believer in the West. But the house church movement, specifically, has much to learn from their global counterparts.
Our house churches have had the unique opportunity to meet some brothers in the house church movement from around the globe, to be a part of some of their meetings, and to learn from those who have planted house churches globally. These experiences have helped us to see God’s Kingdom from different perspectives and avoid the traps that sometimes consume the house church conversation in the West.
So, what has the house church movement around the globe taught us?
- The Gospel is Essential to the Church– Sit down and talk to any house church participant from Africa or Asia and it isn’t long before you hear of their heart to reach the lost with the gospel. I’ve sat with servants from other nations whose hearts burn to see the Gospel of God’s Kingdom transform their nations. For me, in particular, every time I meet with one of these figures, it reminds me that while community and spiritual family are important, they are the result of the Gospel. And this has helped us not be consumed with convincing every existing church to become a house church (and judging those that don’t) but sharing Jesus with those that don’t know Him and teaching them to follow Him in the context of organic spiritual family.
- Discipleship Must Be Universally Reproducible- One of the significant ways we’ve learned from the church around the world is through brothers and sisters who have served the church in Africa and Asia bringing back principles they witnessed at work in the church there. These generally have stressed not just the preaching of the Gospel, but the structuring of the church so that each true follower of Christ learns how to obey Jesus like the New Testament teaches. Many streams such as NoPlaceLeft and Church Multiplication Associates teach discipleship principles first learned in massive movements of the Gospel in other countries and then brought and implemented here. These principles are simple and can be passed on to other believes so they can participate in the work of evangelism and discipleship.
- The Purity of the Church is Important- In our house church network, we have a brother who has spent time with the underground house church movement in China as a member of the body. One of the realities he has stressed over and over again is that the church there frequently will observe the lifestyle of an unknown brother or sister for a season before they let a brother participate fully in the life of the church. This sounds harsh in our Western context, but in the context of the church of China, where a new person could be a government spy, this is a matter of survival. In our context, this example has helped us learn how to handle false workers that the New Testament has promised would try and come into our midst (and have). It’s also helped us have hard conversations with those who aren’t born again, but come with a belief in God.
- The Kingdom of God is 24/7– Our brother who has spent time in the church in China is constantly reminding us that the church meetings there often last all day, with kids! Training sessions last through the night and into the next day. The point is, there are no nice, anticipated end times. There is no time when the meeting is projected to end. Our friends in Africa have an entire village that wakes up at four AM to energetically pray for their village, their church, and their nation. I have one friend in Africa who wakes up and prays between midnight and 5:00 AM for his nation because he’s been doing it since he was a young man. In each of these scenarios, the church has submitted their use of their time to God. It’s no longer theirs, but His.
- The Church Needs to Embrace Multiple Giftings- We’ve believed in the diversity of gifting that Christ gives his body for some time. However, when we heard a friend of mine from a closed nation begin to describe how they are beginning to value not just apostles, prophets, and evangelists, but shepherds and teachers as well, it was transforming for us. Since that time we’ve been able to embrace the shepherding gift in a way that has significantly helped us care for the body and continue to grow the church.
These are some of the significant ways that the church from around the globe has significantly informed how we live out life in house churches. I encourage everyone from the West to find ways to connect with what God is doing in other parts of the Earth in order to better see His Kingdom.
If you’re interested in learning about the house church movement around the globe, check out The Five Best Books on House Churches. Most of the books are a great starting point for seeing house churches planted in a different soil than the cultural West. It may just help you to see the church and God’s Kingdom like never before.
Learning From the Global Church Series: