Children Need the Church too

Children-Ministry_1Recently, our friend Michael Coughlin teamed up with me to appear on G220 radio.  The host, Ricky, asked us to come on the show and discuss Children’s Ministry.  Also on the show were two brothers I had not met before named Mike and Austin; advocates of Family Integrated Church.  You can listen to the show here.

I put a lot of work into the appearance and wanted to be as prepared as possible.  It was my first guest appearance on another’s show and it was important to me that I didn’t disappoint.  I also wanted to represent my side well and make a good argument for Children’s Ministry, and that desire didn’t go away after the show was over.  To that end, over the next few weeks I’ll periodically turn my outline into a series of blog posts wherein I’ll make our case for Children’s Ministry.  These posts will take the form of three positive arguments in favor Children’s Ministry and four critiques of Family Integrated Church.  Today is the first in the series, the positive argument of “Children Need the Church too”.

One of the things that became abundantly clear as I studied the differences between Children’s Ministry and FIC is that each side has a fundamentally different definition of the church.  So, let’s look at what the Bible says about the church.

Some of the things a church is to do don’t really tell us much about this subject.  The church is to love God (Rev 2:4), glorify God (Eph 1:5-6), demonstrate God’s grace (1 Pet 2:9), evangelize the world (Mat 28:19-20), in Harold Willmington’s words it is to “act as a restraining and enlightening force in this present world (Mat 5:13-16), and promote good (Gal 6:10).  Obviously I must acknowledge that this isn’t a systematic theology of the church, and obviously everything about the church does have bearing on its role to children.  However, it’s also obvious that not everything about the church addresses its role to children directly.  Some things do, though.

Paul calls the church “the pillar and support of the truth” (sound familiar?) in 1 Tim 3:15.  The church is not then the truth itself.  The truth originates not in the gathering of believers together, but rather in God Himself, and is expressed in His word.  The church serves to support and uphold that truth, and to proclaim it.

The church has a responsibility to read, obey, do, and understand God’s Word (1 Tim 4:13-16, 2 Tim 2:1-2, 4:2).  Quite simply you can have the Word of God without the church, but you can’t have a church without the Word of God.  Each local church, and the church at large, has the primary responsibility to raise up their individual people to be individuals who are permeated by the Word.  It is absolutely impossible to do this without teaching and teachers (Act 2:42) who ought to have as their goal the maturity of believers (Col 1:28).

The church is to edify believers and to do so in a corporate way where all have a contribution.  1 Corinthians 14:26 says “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” {NASB}.  In the Corinthian context, each person has something to contribute to each other person that was there in the local gathering.  What they offered is of little consequence, and is in some cases outdated.  But the principle of edification shines through.

churchNow that we understand the church, we must admit that in no place do we see a one-size-fits-all approach in how to teach another person in the church.  Quite simply, there are some things which the Bible does not spell out for us.  We certainly see some general principles to follow, and some elements that must be incorporated, but we do not see a single liturgy, plan of action, or agenda laid out for us in Scripture.  The reason for this is because Scripture often prescribes principles, but rarely prescribes the application of those principles.  It does often DESCRIBE applications, but we find those applications as varied as the people to whom they apply.  For our purposes, what we can glean from this is that there isn’t one right way to handle children in a church.

But what about teachers?  While in no place do we see an instruction that limits the teacher of a person based on the student’s age, we do see much in Scripture on what teachers ought to be and what they ought to teach.   Instructions on teachers have everything to do with the age, maturity, and skill of the teacher, but nothing to do with the age, skill, and maturity of the student.  In short, anyone can be taught by the church, but not everyone can teach in the church.  As to what to teach, that is limited by what is revealed in the Word of God.  Therefore, it is not outside of Scripture’s principles to see an application where an older member of a church would teach another, much younger, member of the church (or child of a member) to whom he/she is not related.  We should also expect that such an arrangement could be done unto God’s glory so long as what is being taught is accurate and Biblical.

Regarding children, The Bible has but a single specific command (Eph 6:1), and no prohibition to them about being taught by someone other than their parents.  They are also portrayed as the primary responsibility of their parents who play a crucial role in their upbringing (Pro 22:6, Eph 6:4).  Regarding parents, Scripture has a few commands to fathers and mothers, but no prohibition about allowing others in the church to teach their children.  Moreover, the existence of a particular structure like the family doesn’t in the least preclude the need for the church.  Wives are led by their husbands, and the husband is the central spiritual influence and authority in her life.  Yet it is a false conclusion that wives don’t need the church.  So, too, it is with children.

Regarding segregation, while there are many commands as to individual groups in the church emphasizing specialization in teaching those groups (1 Tim 2:12, Tit 2:3), there remains no prohibition in a church teaching any group that may be found in a church, as a segregated group – particularly one to be so naturally expected as children.  We must carefully guard against valuing or regarding one group over another, but recognizing and treating individuals as a part of a particular group and ministering to them as a segregated group, is not outside of the scope of Biblical principle.  In fact, it is often commanded (1Ti 6:17, Tit 2:3-4).  Most churches understand this and segregate believers by gender, by maturity, by adult age, etc.  We see women’s groups, men’s retreats, marriage conferences, pastor’s studies, new believers/membership classes, etc.  There’s no basis to claim these things are wrong or prohibited in Scripture.  So then, what is different about children?

To sum up, the Bible is explicitly silent on a Church’s role in the children of adult believers.  It is not, however, IMPLICITLY silent.

bible studyWhat is implicit is that everyone needs the church (Heb 10:25, 1Co 12:21), and that the church ought to teach its members.  We are prescribed and commanded to belong to a local body of believers (Heb 10:23-25) for a host of good reasons.  The local body keeps us accountable (Mat 18:15-17).  The local body bears our burdens (Gal 6:2).  The local body has people in it specially gifted to help us be more like Christ (1 Cor 12).  The local body should be our primary means of fellowship (primary, not exclusive).  The local body needs us and our unique gifts and talents.  We are to worship together, pray together, learn together, grow together.  We need one another, rely on one another, trust one another, pray for one another, encourage one another, and help one another (Gal 6:2, 10). In short, God did not design us to be alone, nor did He save us to live a life unto ourselves.  The CHURCH is His bride, not individual believers.  So, we can rightly assert that just as men, women, mothers, fathers, widows, pastors, evangelists, et. al. need the church, so do children.

With an understanding toward the centrality of parental authority, responsibility, and role in upbringing at the end of the day children are still people in the church and many are believers.  Absent a specific exception in Scripture of the uniqueness of children in this area, we have to conclude that children, like all others, need the church as well.  So then, we must also conclude that the structures, efforts, and thoughtfulness that would go into any adult ministry must also be found for children.  If we are going to organize and work toward the edification of adult believers, and adults in the life of a believer (an unsaved spouse, parent, etc); we must equally and with the same vigor organize and work toward the edification of children believers, and children of believers, too.  As we’ll learn in the next few posts, children especially need such things.

Tagged , .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *