September 11, 2008 at 8:59 pm

Yesterday I began a series of thoughts on the pro and cons of the family integrated church model and today I want to continue the discussion, talking about why I believe homeschooling families are so attracted to this new model of family church.

First, I would like to take you through the Reader’s Digest version of the past 25 or so years of our church life as a family.

Let me begin by sharing some of the ministries Clay and I have been involved in as adults: Clay has served as a children’s church teacher, a primary Sunday school teacher, VBS teacher, high school Sunday school teacher, a high school youth group leader, Chairman of the Board of Christian Education, adult Sunday school class teacher, AWANA leader and director.

I have been a high school Sunday school teacher, children’s church teacher, VBS teacher, After School Club for Kids Director, Chairman of the Board of Christian Ed, Chairman of the Board of Community Outreach, Missionary Conference Director, secretary and president of Women in Church in a PCA church, children’s choir director, church pianist, CPC counselor for 10 years, and those are just the things we can remember. Both of us found most of these ministries very rewarding and were blessed to serve in any way that we could do so.

But, in retrospect, none of these ministries have given us the blessings or have allowed us to see fruit in the lives of others in the same way or even in the greatest ways we have witnessed through our continued efforts toward discipling our own children. In fact, we have come to realize that some of the ministries we have participated in have, at their roots, a mission that is in stark contrast to many of the things we aspire to do as a homeschooling family.

When we began homeschooling, we continued to be involved in many church activities, all of us participating in programs and ministries that often took us separate directions on Sunday mornings or on Wednesday nights. While we didn’t allow them to cause division within our family, we did come to the place where we needed to evaluate our own family priorities against the backdrop of how much time and energy we would be spending in working within our local church.

Because we were homeschooling, we had made the commitment that we would be a family living on one income. That meant that there were certain activities that our children simply couldn’t participate in because of the cost. It also meant that our time schedule would need to work around Clay’s job, which grew increasingly demanding as the years went by.

We made the commitment to spend time together in the Word every evening so that meant that some of the evening activities at church would have to take a back seat to what we were doing at home. In essence, as our commitment to homeschooling grew and as we became more confident in how we were living out our convictions, we began to have less and less need for church ministry and eventually began to see our own involvement as a hindrance to our most important efforts, those of ministering to our own children.

We had to ask ourselves some hard questions regarding our use of time and resources. Would spending 4 hours preparing to teach an adult Sunday School class be better used in spending 4 hours in one on one time with each of my older children? Would my children glean more by spending time helping care for elderly grandparents or younger siblings than they would sitting under the teachings of the youth leader whose own wife and children didn’t even attend church? Would it be worse to offend some of the church leadership by not attending their activities than to offend our own children by exposing them to influences that weren’t godly or wholesome?

As you can imagine, responses to the decisions we began to make were not always well received and along our journey to finding a church home, we made many mistakes. While we weren’t looking for a church that would be custom designed for us, we really longed for one where sound Bible teaching was a priority and where we could feel the freedom to not participate in a myriad of programs but could use our weekdays as we saw fit to nurture and disciple our own children, to building relationships with them and with others, as a family rather than as scattered individuals each with our own lives. We knew, instinctively, that that day would come soon enough as our children grew up and left home and we wanted to make the most of our time with them as possible.

Then, one day, out of the blue, we were invited to attend a church that not only didn’t have a list of weekly programs, but one that published a brochure designed just for homeschoolers and that listed all the ways the church family and even the pastor would love to minister to homeschoolers. We were amazed and hooked.

But, in spite of the great hope we had that finally we had found a church that understood our parenting philosophy and even though we were eager and willing to believe that the church’s self promotion was legitimate, that next week’s visit was the beginning of what was to be the most painful season of anti-homeschooling abuse we were ever to experience.

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