An Integrated Church – introduction

My senior minister and I haven’t ever sat down and designed a grand master plan for an integrated church with children’s and youth ministry, but what we have had is a continuing and developing conversation about how our church practice can integrate people across generations and, by extension, integrate the full diversity of people. This is what we mean by an integrated church: how our church practice can integrate people across generations.

It’s a conversation that was born out of studying youth ministry at Youthworks College and out of a wholehearted commitment to continually reflect upon the consistency between our theological principles and church practice.

Overtime, it has become apparent that there are three theological convictions that have particularly helped in reforming our church practice towards being an integrated church:

  1. People are Truly Human: All people are finite creatures and all have value as persons. (Theological anthropology)
  2. The church is Truly One and Many: God’s people have a real unity with each other in Christ and a real diversity of individual particularity. (A christological, pneumatological, soteriological, & eschatological ecclesiology)
  3. We are Truly Responsible for each other: The family of Christ truly belongs to each other and the immanent family as the locus of raising children and young people.

It’s been hard to apply what this will look like in our context at All Saints Petersham, but we’ve tried to be creative, to reflect and critique and make adjustments as we’ve gone along. For example, some concrete application of this conversation has been to:

  • Not have an alternative youth bible study during any of our church services.
  • Restructure the 10:00am service so that children get to stay in church and participate in singing, hearing the word read and taught, and to lead the church in prayer before they go off to a further age-appropriate bible teaching program.
  • Have “youth services” once a term where young people actively serve in things like Bible reading, prayers, music, welcoming and morning tea, so that adults and young people alike know church is a place for them to serve and not just observe.
  • Have kids’ services occasionally where the whole service is remodeled around the teaching of adults and children together.
  • Not restrict the new evening service to a young adult demographic.

All of these applications have their limitations and challenges and are part of the process of critique and adjustment.

This is actually a journey that the good people of All Saints Petersham have tacitly been on together in the last 10 years, and the experiment continues.

What is left for us to do is articulate the theological underpinnings for an integrated church, starting first with the issue of integrating people across generations and then extending and applying the theological framework beyond our generational diversity to include other human particularities (e.g. people affected by chronic disability, mental illness, addiction, poverty etc.)

The following three blog posts will follow the titles of the three theological convictions that have particularly helped in reforming our church practice towards being an integrated church:

  1. Truly Human
  2. Truly One and Many
  3. Truly Responsible

Hopefully these blog posts will also be informative for you as you work out and reflect upon your theological principles and church practice, not least that we might do youth and children’s ministry in a way that honours God, builds his kingdom and is biblically and theologically faithful.

There will be discussion questions at the end of each post for your own reflection or comment.

Mike.

5 thoughts on “An Integrated Church – introduction

  1. Hi Mike,
    I’m interested to read the rest of these articles in this series. Are you able to give some context of congregation sizes, numbers of kids & Youth and what facilities you have available to you?
    I’d also be keen to read about what structure your 10AM service now takes to make your above-mentioned restructure.
    Thanks, Andrew.

    • G’day Andrew, our context at Petersham is as a reformed evangelical Anglican church in the inner west of Sydney (a bit of a hipster part of Sydney), our church on average is about: 110 adults, 30 primary school aged kids, 20 teenagers, and then about 10 pre-school. We have 3 services on a Sunday: 8:00am is a fairly “low-church” Anglican Prayer Book service, the 10am has been our biggest attended service, and we just started a 6pm service at the start of this year that has about 35 people regularly attending from 5 years old to people in their 50’s.
      Our church building is about 160 years old, seats about 400, we have a large hall that’s about 90 years old and then some meeting rooms, all contained on one sizeable block with about 30 car spaces and some grassed area.

      In part 2 of this series I’ll focus on what church looks like for a people united in Christ and yet diverse in their particularity (and I’ll have some colourful graphs and pictures to try and show what it might look like in practice) but until then here’s a link to what the flow of our 10am service is trying to achieve: https://www.dropbox.com/s/o4kyyr8i6w3ym6q/CM%20and%20Church%20Service.pdf?dl=0

      Thanks for dropping a comment, I look forward to your feedback 🙂

      • Thanks Mike, the service flow diagram helped my initial curiosity – reading ‘hearing the word read and taught’ as the kids staying in for the sermon. I was wondering what time was left for them to have their program!
        I agree with the idea of common worship and have been formulating a biblical principle for kids/youth in services and letting this drive the strategy of what is implemented. There are other factors that influence the strategy (venue, numbers of kids/youth/adults, number of services, number of serving volunteers, etc). This also leaves the capacity for changing the strategy in response to changes in these other factors while still holding to a principle. Does that make sense?

  2. Hi mike,
    Thanks for this – I appreciated hearing something of what you do and why. I think a key concept is ‘common worship’. I,m mot sure how much we think about that anymore in an age that persistently tailors everything to the individual, whether that individual is man, woman, or child.

    • G’day Bruce, thanks for dropping by!
      Yes the idea of ‘common worship’ is interesting, I’m going to explore the idea of catholicity in part 2 of this series which I think helps us to think through how our church gatherings are to anticipate the fully catholic gathering in the new creation where “persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” are gathered before Jesus (Rev. 7:9, cf. 5:9).

      The question is, if we believe that the church “one, holy catholic and apostolic” (Nicene Creed), in what way are our churches being catholic, that is “according to the whole”? Stay tuned 🙂

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