Pastor Reid was recently featured on a Pastor’s Panel on KFAX 1100 AM discussing the topic of Family Integrated Worship. The topic was inspired through the recent movement of people like Scott Brown and groups like the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. Many families concerned about biblical parenting, Christian homeschooling networks, and others, have been outspoken in this movement. It presents a challenge to churches today to move toward more age-integration and less age-segregation in the work of the church.
Trinity Presbyterian Church shares several concerns in common with this Family Integrated Churches movement, though not in every detail. For example, at our church, we have worship together as a family, and thus have age-integrated worship services. This practice and conviction, however, predates this more recent movement.
Accordingly, during this radio pastor’s panel, Pastor Reid shared that at our church in Novato the children have always been welcomed along with the adults in the public worship services. This is in fact a typical practice in all churches in our denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. It is even advocated in the denomination’s Directory for Public Worship as part of its official constitution. Here is an excerpt of this:
OPC Directory for Public Worship I.B.
4. In public worship, God’s people draw near to their God unitedly as his covenant people, the body of Christ.
a. For this reason, the covenant children should be present so far as possible, as well as adults. Because God makes his covenant with believers and their children, families should be taught and encouraged to sit together as families.
b. For the same reason, no favoritism may be shown to any who attend. Nor may any member of the church presume to exalt himself above others as though he were more spiritual, but each shall esteem others better than himself.
c. The unity and catholicity of the covenant people are to be manifest in public worship. Accordingly, the service is to be conducted in a manner that enables and expects all the members of the covenant community—male and female, old and young, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, healthy and infirm, people from every race and nation—to worship together.
d. Because God’s people worship, not as an aggregation of individuals, but as a congregation of those who are members of one another in Christ, public worship is to be conducted as a corporate activity in which all the members participate as the body of Christ.
The fact that we worship as whole families in the church service stems especially from our view about the nature of children of believers (our conviction on infant baptism is related to this as well, but that is another topic). This reason is that we believe God has called children of believers to be a part of his covenant community of the church. That means that we call children, as much as they are able, to live and act and think as a Christian. Fathers, mothers, and the church all have a responsibility to raise the children in such a way. This means that we regularly call them to express faith and repentance in the Lord. It also means that they are called to corporate worship along with the rest of God’s people. From their infancy, children of believers are received as members in the visible church and called to act accordingly. Yes, this does not guarantee their salvation. If at some point they reject Christ and the gospel, the church will have to exercise loving church discipline upon them, and possibly even excommunicate them if they persist in such rebellion and unbelief. The reality is that this is the historical practice of the church, and it’s been a more modern invention to exclude children from the church or to segregate them from the public worship.
Sometimes it is argued that children need age appropriate instruction. We do agree that there is a time and place for this. At Trinity, we do provide classes, outside of the public worship services, geared toward certain age groups. This is one area where we differ from some in the official Family Integrated Churches movement.
If you have additional questions about this subject, or want to discuss further what our church in Novato shares in common with or how it differs from this contemporary movement, please contact us.
We invite you to come and worship Christ as a family on Sundays at 11 am at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Novato, Marin County, California. For more information about our church and its services, visit our home page.