We’ve been looking at the nature of house churches and how they help kids to get involved and participate in the life of the church. The last area that we need to touch on is often forgotten in a Western context, but it’s critical for discipleship of believers of any age, and definitely for children: the church is interactive.
When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he could have easily criticized the leaders of the church there for letting the meetings devolve in to chaos in the practice and use of their gifts. Instead, he wrote to the whole church to address the issue (see 1 Corinthains 1:2, 12:1). He expected the whole church to help clean up an issue that they were all making.
Then when he describes how the body should function when they gather, he describes a meeting where many people contribute all for the building up of the body. “When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you,” (1 Corinthians 14:26). This is the best description we get of the normal meeting of believers in the New Testament. In fact, it lines up with what the writer of Hebrews describes as the purpose of the church meeting together: encouraging one another (see Hebrews 10:25).
Why is this important for kids? Church was designed to be interactive as the Holy Spirit leads different members of the body. This creates a measure of spontaneity in the body that helps keep kids attention. It also, if done correctly and with the proper coaching of the kids, creates an environment where kids are able to participate with what God is doing instead of being spectators. Too often church has become something they watch instead of something they participate in.
This is the real goal of kids being involved and participating in church: We form our kids as disciples and members of the church from the moment they become followers of Jesus and even before. I remember when my oldest daughter decided to follow Jesus. We had emphasized in our churches the need for baptism as soon as someone decided to follow Christ, so at age four when she decided to follow Jesus, it was time for her to get baptized. She learned the truth about baptism as the next step in following Christ because that’s what she lived through.
But we’re after more than them just observing and learning. We are also after them sharing their gifts with us. As followers of Jesus, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, they have the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in them just as much as any adult. In fact, they may be more open to Him and His ways than we are. So an interactive church allows for kids to speak up, say what they are hearing from the Lord, pray, speak the word of the Lord, and contribute in a myriad of ways.
We just have to believe that they can and be open to them doing it.
Other Posts in the House Churches and Kids Series
One of the ideas we’ve often lived by is the idea that church is family. Church isn’t supposed to just be *like* a family. It actually is a family of people, from different biological, sociological, and societal backgrounds, but because Jesus has come and changed us, we all become brothers and sisters, born of the same Father.
Jesus was clear about this: “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters.And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father,” (Matthew 23:8-9). Our position before God is not one of roles, but one of love. He loves us as a father and we are to love each other as brothers and sisters.
The apostles continued this teaching in their days. Paul says it this way to the Thessalonians: “As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too,” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8). This was the way that Paul lived among those on his ministry team and those he ministered to. He was like a child and, to the extent that he was further along than the new converts, he was like a nursing mother. There were plenty of metaphors Paul could have used, but the ones he chose were deeply family-oriented.
Paul would later write to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:15 about how people should conduct themselves “in the household of God.” The Greek word for household is oikos and literally is the Greek word describing a family that lives within a house. The Apostle John would also write about how the church was made up of children, young men, and fathers, (1 John 2:12-14) and would write a whole epistle to a woman who was likely the leader of a house church and her dear children who were likely other participants in this gathering (2 John, for more on this statement, reference Chapter 6 of “Stick Your Neck Out“). The more you investigate this topic, the more you begin to see the early church understood themselves as God’s family and operated as such.
Often, we treat the church as a hybrid between a business and a school. There is a message that needs to be communicated and a product that needs to be offered. However, when church is a family, love and care become what drives what happens when we gather. This is why Paul, in the midst of correcting the Corinthians about the excesses in their meetings, spends an entire chapter on the importance of love (1 Corinthians 13). The point wasn’t that everything would be done mechanically, but that everything would be done in love.
I grew up in a family. It wasn’t perfect, but we did love each other. I also grew up in an extended family. My father’s family had five children and each of those children married and had 2 or three kids of their own, so when we gathered together there was always a huge crowd at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. I often relate my experience of church as family back to these times growing up. There was always room for even the youngest of kids to be around. Not every gathering was super structured, but we made allowance for kids to be kids, while still allowing them to participate in the functions of the family gathering.
And I believe the church can be like that if it begins to believe that church is family. Remember, we do teach when we gather, but teaching/preaching isn’t the point. Love is. Remember, Paul said, “while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church,” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
I have a friend who was briefly a part of the underground church in China. He would often tell stories about what it was like to be a part of their meetings. One of the things that stuck out to me was that there was no child care. The believers would often meet on Sunday mornings for a meeting where everyone would be a part, including the children. Then they would break for a communal meal together. Then, after the meal, the mothers and the small children would take naps together while the men dealt with sensitive affairs of the church. Those of you with small children will understand how important this is.
I believe the church can incorporate children, but it will require the church to become like family again.
Yesterday, we left off with the idea that the church is more than a meeting featuring preaching and singing, but it is actually a people who are called out from the world to serve God together.
Today I want to talk about a radical concept and how it relates to our children participating in church. Here’s the idea–Church is not about the meeting. This seems like a radical idea because our current version of Christianity is so meeting centric that even house churches have started to believe that its important to protect the meeting. However, if you look at the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament, the church met together whenever it could, daily (Acts 2:46), day and night (Acts 20:31), and all the more as we see the day of his appearing coming closer.
Church–Christianity–was not a once a week thing for them. It was 24/7/365 experience that enveloped all of the believers’ lives. So yes, the meetings had some intentionality behind them, but they weren’t the only chance people had to see each other, teach each other or encourage one another. It was always going on.
Let me give you a current example. Last night my wife went to meet with group of ladies to talk about the Bible, accountability, and mission. After she got done, I got together with some guys to do the same. Tonight night our house church will gather to eat and share life, but more than likely we’ll pray and encourage each other as well. Friday I’ll meet with a friend to strategize starting another house church. Sunday we’ll gather as a church to celebrate the Lord together. I could go on. The point is, there is more than one point of the week where our lives intersect and we encourage each other, so if the Sunday morning meeting gets interrupted by a cranky 2 year old, it’s not the end of our church.
And this is the point–church exists outside the meeting! In fact at this point a meeting is only a small percentage of the actual church life that is going on in any given week. No one in our house church is paid to produce a sermon or music, so even if someone has a teaching or a song to share, if it get’s interrupted by a noisy kid or two or five, we can share it the next time we’re together.
Why is this so important? We often want to have a babysitter or a program for the kids in place because we think they distract from the planned portion of the meeting. They interrupt the preaching. They mess up worship. They keep us from interacting. But if we lower our expectations for our meetings and raise our expectations for the church to be the church, then our kids really can’t mess anything up. They are just another part of the family with different gifts and needs.
None of this is to say that meetings, teachings, and songs don’t have a place. The New Testament argues that they can and do. I teach, my wife sings songs, and our house churches do have scheduled meetings. We just understand that kids don’t always sit still for 30 or 60 minutes straight. They will make noise, interrupt, and challenge an adult-oriented meeting.
But because house churches operate as families, they have time for those who are weaker and younger than themselves. No family would ever argue that we should have a majority of our time where the little kids are excluded from the family gathering. They would do their best to incorporate the kids from the youngest to the oldest into the family gatherings because it isn’t about the meeting, it’s about the family. The same should be true of the church.
We’ll talk more about what church is and how it impacts kids again tomorrow, but for now, have you noticed a focus on meetings cause frustration with kids? Have you seen this in a house church or in a small group? How have you tackled this issue? Leave a comment and let us know.
Photo Credit: Silhouette of man and woman standing during sunset by Daniel Joshua
Other Posts in the House Churches and Kids Series