Our church, Highland Christian Fellowship, is "family integrated." This means that when we meet as a body on Sundays and Wednesdays, we meet as families, with all ages present. There are unique challenges and benefits to this approach.
During homegroup on Wednesday night at our house, we had a discussion on male/female relationships, especially in the context of how young unmarried people relate to one another. My friend, Clarke Kennedy, wrote me this email reflecting on the discussion:
I thought the discussion last night was FABULOUS! What a joy and a privilege to see our church working in the way it is. I don't think I've ever seen anything like what happened last night. A family-integrated church, with children of all ages, all the way up to young adults and then the older adults, all in a discussion of purity and holiness and appropriate ways of relating to the opposite gender, while being fairly explicit about what is acceptable and not acceptable, and yet doing it in a way that the young children could still be there an not be exposed to ideas beyond their capacity to process. I think one way this can be done is just by using biblical language, which is usually quite clear, but in a way that is not needlessly offensive, and that even children can hear, and yet grow into their understanding of it over time.
One of the weaknesses I had feared in a family oriented church was that the young people, such as the teenagers who face these kinds of issues in very aggressive and direct ways would not be able to hear truth about these issues because of the presence of the younger ones. What happened last night proved that this is not a problem, and in fact I thought it had tremendous power to have the older adults and the married adults speak from their own experiences into the lives of the younger unmarrieds, so as to say "Look, I've made mistakes..I wish I had known...here's a better way." Wow! This church design is more powerful than I realized, and I guess I've just never seen a church like ours before, so I've never seen it work, and didn't know if or how it would work in these areas.
I just think of the strength that this will give these young people, when they think of these kinds of meetings, with older role models, spiritual family members, counseling them, and loving them, and speaking truth to them, right there with their parents in the room! It must give a tremendous sense of strength and courage and fortitude to these younger adults when they are facing the pressures of their own flesh and the lies of the world to stand strong, thinking of all that they have heard and seen and felt from their close-knit spiritual family. THIS IS POWERFUL! AMEN! GOD IS DOING AN AMAZING WORK AMONG US!