Why Non Age-Segregated?
Legacy Baptist Church treasures the time our children have with the "grown-ups". We take the training of children very seriously, and we have high expectations of them. They are the next generation of believers if the Lord tarries His coming. Their attendance and participation is welcome and encouraged in all of our gatherings. By God’s grace, and for God’s glory, the children of Legacy Baptist will watch and learn from mature believers how to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28) and "offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually" (Hebrews 13:15).
Our entire congregation meets together for the services so that the parents and other adults might have greater opportunity to be more directly involved in the passing on of Scriptural truths to the children. Not only might they lead by example during the services, but also by better reinforcing throughout the week those truths learned together in the church gatherings. The connection between the strength of families and the strength of the church cannot be denied.
We do not have “children’s church” for the children to attend while the “grown-ups” worship. Nothing in the Bible suggests such a division in the assembly. We do not intend to suggest that there may not be an allowance for churches to have separate classes and programs, but we have grown to see the benefits of a less divided and more unified approach. The abundance of Scripture relating to children, their instruction, and their frequent inclusion in assembled gatherings has led us to our position. Consider just a few verses before reading a more thorough explanation included further down this page.
Nehemiah 8:2-3 "And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law."
This passage in Nehemiah depicts an assembly of Israelites, gathered to listen to a long reading of the law, that included children who were able to understand.
Acts 20:7-9 "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead."
This passage in Acts depicts a church assembly that included a “young man” gathered to hear prolonged preaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25 "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
This passage in Hebrews stresses the importance of meeting together by prohibiting its neglect. “Children’s church” may not help children learn this truth. Sending our children away from the assembly for “children’s church” may teach children that “grown-up” church is boring (since “children’s church” is invariably more entertaining) and/or that they as children are not welcome at “grown-up” church.
Furthermore, Paul urges Titus to bring the younger alongside the older in the church (Titus 2:2-6). This model is consistent with the wonderful direction that God gave the Israelites for the education of their children:
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
(To further expound upon the reasoning for what is a "not so typical" model of church ministry, please consider the following. The original consideration by Pastor Jason LaPat has been borrowed by permission and adapted to more accurately reflect the purposes of Legacy Baptist Church.)
Non Age-Segregated Church is where all attendees can have church together as one. The teaching, preaching, and prayer services will typically include all individuals. Because this model of church will not have children’s church or age specific Sunday School classes, many people will jump to the following conclusions...all of which will not be true with Legacy Baptist Church.
1) Those who come without families (individuals) will be excluded. NOT TRUE!!!
2) A non age-segregated church will never do anything for children. NOT TRUE!!!
3) Children who come without parents will not be welcome. NOT TRUE!!!
4) Non age-segregated churches are something new. NOT TRUE!!!
In fact, age-segregated ministries is what is new.
So, why have whole church gatherings, or, why not have age-segregated ministries?
Before we look at 8 reasons, let us begin by looking at the Scriptures. Our culture tends to sell children short of their capacities and abilities. Our culture also tends to look at children as burdens and not blessings. The idea is that children are in the way of what we (adults) want to do. Throughout the Bible, we can see children participate in all types of worship with their families, and in some cases, without their families.
Perhaps these Scriptures will be enough for us to reexamine how we minister to children.
1. Of all the NT instructions given for church practice, children’s ministries are absent.
We understand this does not mean, in of itself, that it is wrong to segregate children into age groups to minister to them, but there is no evidence, command, or model to do so in the NT. Segregated ministries may be allowable, but are they the best model for growth amongst both this generation of believers and the next?
2. Pastor’s are to provide spiritual food for the church, and fathers are to provide spiritual food for their own families.
This is what the Bible teaches, but is this what is going on in Christian homes? Churches may send mixed messages to families when children’s workers are given the responsibility of the spiritual training of the children who attend their classes. Perhaps churches should give more attention to winning men to Christ and personally discipling them. Men are more likely to bring their children and spouse to church than are children or wives likely to bring the rest of their family. View this reality among the majority of churches. How many women come without their husbands, and how many men come without their wives? Consider God’s design of the family. A report published by The Baptist Press states that if a child is the first person in the household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5% probability everyone in the household will follow. If the mother is first, there is a 17% chance everyone else in the household will submit to Christ. If the father professes Christ first, there is a 93% probability that everyone else in the house will heed the Gospel call. Men should be encouraged to fulfill their responsibility to train their own children.
It is important to remember that it is not the church's responsibility to educate children in the way that they should go. While we all know this, too many parents have left it up to the church to disciple thier kids. Most parents do not have any idea what is being taught to their children or teenagers when they go their separate ways at church. Are they learning Scripture? Is there a Bible lesson? Are they being taught "why" they believe what they believe, not just "what" to believe? Often times the answers are startling. Are we surprised, then, to see those children reject religion when they grow up?
Deuteronomy 6:4-7 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
Ephesians 6:4 "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
3. Children ought to be exposed to church services where they learn the hymns, share in the testimonies, experience the reverence, participate in the prayers, hear the missionaries, know their pastor, know what is and is not Bible preaching, can be a witness to adults getting saved, and so on.
We prefer this to having programs for children every during service. We desire to train the child in the way he or she should go by direct example.
Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
4. Many children’s ministries are designed to entertain children, and they also keep children coming back with carnal incentives.
Might we wonder why so many young people are leaving church? I suppose many of them leave church when church is no longer entertaining to them and they get no goodies for coming. It has been said, “What you win them with is what you win them to.” Again, I believe we sell children short when we do this to them.
5. The church should have church without anybody being left out (such as children’s workers).
How often have we heard from great preachers the need for Christians to attend all the services, yet children’s workers will regularly miss the best services, the best preaching, the best of testimonies, specials, singing, and will miss decisions being made...often on a continual basis. What Christian really wants to give up all of this? We need to also consider whether the ones teaching our young people are themselves being fed as they ought to be fed.
6. Children’s ministries may open the door to many vulnerable situations between children and the workers.
Can we really know each and every children’s worker? Can we really protect every child who comes to our church from some sort of abuse while attending our church? Can we really protect every children’s worker from being falsely accused? Non age-segregated churches tend not to attract pedophiles, and will provide little opportunity for foul play or false accusation.
7. Many busy families never do anything as a family. Family worship makes the clear undeniable statement “be a family”.
This is something our culture has lost over the years. Church should promote unity, not only within the church body, but within families as well. Keeping the church body together for worship will allow for the derived benefit and opportunity of families worshipping together.
8. Children may easily learn more from their peers than they will from their teachers.
This is one of the tragedies of many age-segregated ministries. Good Christian families will go to great lengths to keep certain worldly influences away from their children. Yet, a child of theirs will befriend another child (at church) and will be exposed to the very things that the parents have been so careful to guard against. Rebellious and disruptive children will almost always seem to get most of the attention. Children have had their curiosity stirred about television shows, super heroes, rock music, movies, popular trends in dress, books, magazines, etc… from children in their classes at church. Dad and Mom are nowhere to be found to deal with these things as their children are introduced to them. All of these things could be taking place unknown to the teacher and the parents. How many parents have seen their own children attracted to the wrong kind of kids? Parents will have a greater influence in their own children’s lives by being with them.
In conclusion: There are some other points that could be given, but perhaps this will give cause for some consideration. While we believe that there may be better ways of doing children’s ministries than how many churches do them, we are certainly thankful for those churches that are much more careful than others. Perhaps, upon initial introduction to the idea of a non age-segregated church, you are taken back. Please consider, though, not only the Scriptures, but also the great amount of young people, from good churches, who are leaving the Christian faith. We are talking about big age gaps existing in good churches. How are we to account for these trends? Maybe it is because children are learning a different Christianity than the Christianity that their parents are learning. At Legacy, we believe we are being careful not to segregate our people in ways that may hinder the faith of an individual or harm the spiritual growth of the body as a whole.