Please note other articles in this series by Brian Nelson and Timothy Paul Jones:

The Problem with Family Ministry
Where Family Ministry Has Been: A Brief History
Family Ministry Today: An Introduction to Three Contemporary Models


The Family-Integrated Model
The family-integrated approach represents a complete break from the “neo-traditional” segmented-programmatic church. Proponents of family integration contend that the modern American practice of age segregation goes beyond the biblical mandate-and may even obstruct parents’ obedience in discipling their children. As a result, in a family-integrated church, all or nearly all age-organized classes and events are eliminated, including youth group, children’s church, and even age-graded Sunday School classes. The generations learn and worship together, and the entire community of faith calls parents-and particularly fathers-to embrace a primary responsibility for the evangelism and discipleship of their children.

Proponents of family-integrated ministry have sometimes described the local church “as a family of families” (1).In this, family-integrated churches are not, however,redefining the essential nature of the church (2).  When it comes to the nature of the church, family-integrated churches stand with other models of church ministry, affirming the orthodox confessions of faith. “Family of families” is a functional description of how family-integrated churches structure their processes of evangelism and discipleship.

In the latter decades of the twentieth century, church planter Henry Reyenga as well as Reb Bradley at Hope Chapel in California were promoting family integration in American churches. Voddie Baucham and Paul Renfro, from Grace Family Baptist Church in Texas, have been some of the most articulate recent defenders of family integration. Other promoters and practitioners of family-integrated ministry include Doug Phillips at Vision Forum and Scott Brown from the National Center for Family Integrated Churches.

Families in family-integrated congregations view their households as contexts for mutual discipleship as well as evangelism of unbelievers. As a result, they are likely to invite unbelievers into their homes for meals on a regular basis. Through intentional hospitality, unbelieving families observe the dynamics of a Christ-centered family, providing opportunities for the believing family to share the Gospel. Small group Bible studies bring entire families together-including singles, single-parent households, and children of non-believing parents who have been enfolded into believing families.

Next: The Family-Based Model for Church Ministry: Activities and Emphases to Empower Parents within Age-Segmented Structures

(1) For this quotation as well as a fuller description of family-integrated ministry, see Voddie Baucham, Family Driven Faith (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2007) 191-195.

(2) This point has been repeatedly clarified by proponents of family-integrated ministry; see, e.g., P. Renfro, “Why Family Integration Still Works,” in Perspectives on Family Ministry, ed. T. Jones (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic) 89-90. Despite these clarifications, the charge that “family of families” entails ecclesiological revision continues to be repeated, most recently in the second edition of Andreas Köstenberger with David Jones, God, Marriage, and Family 2nd edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010) 259.

[Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from the book Trained in the Fear of God, edited by Randy Stinson and Timothy Paul Jones.  Used by permission.]