Hospitality and Evangelism Through the Home
Clarifying Our Terms
The phrase “age integrated” or “family integrated” has been attached to many things. Some of them are beautiful models of a Biblically functioning church. Unfortunately, others might seem little more than a homeschool club who get together on Sundays. Because there can be such a wide range of connotations when someone hears the phrase, we feel it is very important to be clear with what we mean if we describe ourselves this way. There are a few things that we are not saying, when we describe ourselves as age- or family-integrated.
Age integration is not a movement. Our desires spring from a Scriptural conviction, not a desire to join a separatist movement.
Age integration is not our banner. We want to be known as gospel-people, not as the “family church.”
Age integration is not child-centeredness. While we welcome families to come all together, we want to strongly encourage parents to train their children to be a blessing to the family of God. We are not implying that church is a “parenting-free” zone.
Age integration is not the gospel. We are convinced on family integration, but we do not worship or put our hope in our families. Our hope is in Christ alone.
So then, what is age or family integration?
“A family integrated church is a church that is intentionally designed without age-segregated structures.” -Dr. Voddie Baucham
Churches like ours come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. There are age-integrated churches in virtually every denominational and theological tradition, and in most sections of the country. Singles, students, single-parent families, retired adults, and traditional families all find a home in an age integrated church. While there are a few commonalities that many of us share, one of the most obvious is the conviction that the plain pattern of scripture is that families are to be the actual hub of discipleship, not just the theoretical one. Psalm 78, Deuteronomy 6, and Ephesians 6 seem to us plain enough in their descriptions of families–not classes, programs, or pastors–as the actual center of the spiritual training of children.
Here are some other distinctives:
Families Worship Together
If you’ve ever walked into our church during a worship service, perhaps the first thing that struck you was the fact that there were so many babies and small children in the service. We have grown accustomed to the presence of children in the service, and the children grow accustomed to being a part of the worship experience. No one will stop you at the door if you try to enter our service with your toddler. And if you come without your family, we want you to be a part of ours.
No Systematic Age Segregation
One of the biggest distinctions is the absence of age-graded ministries. We have found great benefit in all the generations growing alongside each other. We do not have segregated student ministry or children’s ministry. First, these ministries are not part of the biblical church model. The Bible is clear on whose job it is to disciple children… parents. Second, these ministries can work against the biblical mode. Parents who are relieved of their discipleship duties tend to become dependent on those who have taken over the job. Finally, these ministries have failed. We are losing 75-88% of Evangelical teens by the end of their freshman year in college. And as Dr. Alvin Reid has noticed, “The largest rise of youth professionals in history has been accompanied by a decline in youth evangelism effectiveness.”
Evangelism/Discipleship Through Our Homes
We teach parents to evangelize and disciple their children and their neighbors. We emphasize the ministry of hospitality, family worship, catechism, and family discipleship. Thus, instead of placing the burden on paid professionals to “do the work of the ministry,” we equip the saints to do it.
Education as a Key Component of Discipleship
Jesus said, “A pupil is not above his teacher, but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Whoever educates a child is discipling that child. Gospel-driven families will inevitably see that worldview is critical. We work hard to show the critical importance of Christian education, and to help families make biblical choices as it relates to this part of their children’s discipleship.
We can make you this promise: you will find no perfect families at Westgate Baptist Church. But, you will find families striving together, God’s Word in hand, to live for God’s glory!