While the phrase "family-integrated worship" seems to have become a very specific label for a very specific kind of local church, the larger concept is one worth much thought for all churches and all believers where we find ourselves in 2008. [See my earlier post on Voddie Baucham's Family Driven Faith.]
Family-Integrated Worship refers to the practice of fathers and mothers worshiping with their children both in the home and in the church. The backbone of this "ground-breaking" concept is that fathers (first) and mothers are to be the primary spiritual leaders in the lives of their children. (Maybe ground-breaking in Deuteronomy 6; you decide.)
Today's blueprint for "doing church" has become the only way people expect evangelical churches to operate. Disagree? Just consider how great an expectation is in place that when you show up at a church event there will be a nursery to care for your infant and a children's program to pacify your school-age child and a youth event to entertain (uh, I mean, instruct) your teenager.
Such an age-segregated approach to the local church is a fairly recent product of current thinking. Certainly there are some good and helpful aspects of different programs and structures which churches have adopted over the past century or so.
By contrast, the main thrust of a family-integrated approach looks amazingly simple and straightforward. If families are together in the worship gathering of the church, not only is the gathering of the church not split up artificially all over the place, but the parents are able to directly interact and be involved in the lives of their children.
Is it easy? No and Yes. Taking personal responsibility for the spiritual life of one's children is a daunting task. However, in light of what is at stake, is there anything more important in this life? On a purely practical level, is there anything more basic than taking personal responsibility for your own children? Instead, we've mostly come to view being gathered in worship as something only for the adults who need to be unhindered by any distractions which children may bring to the gathering. (Such a view of children sounds close to that of the world around us, does it not?)
Many people have asked me about Voddie Baucham's book, Family Driven Faith, and many of the questions have been loaded with skepticism. Baucham's book solidly builds the case for the place of the family in Christianity, beginning in the home and spilling over into the church. My answer to many is: First, read Baucham's book - he explains all of it 100x better than I ever could. Second, I like to challenge people to think about how their modern ideas of church have become so ingrained that everything else is simply unthinkable. We live in an age of program-driven churches. Maybe programs aren't the answer...