One of the wonderful things about the Lord’s church is the spiritual unity that He has created. When one becomes a Christian they are not only spiritually united to the Lord Jesus Christ but also to every other Christian (1 Cor. 12:13). This includes people with different personalities, backgrounds, gifts, races, and ages. The focus of the thrust of this brief article is on the fostering of unity between believers of different ages.
Is there a way to structure the education program of the church so as to foster ministry across generational lines? While I confess that I write with as many or more question marks as exclamation points, I would like to share some thoughts that I have entertained for the last many years concerning what might be termed “Age-integrated Sunday School.” The experience of this concept in the life of my own family several years ago has also been very encouraging.
Most would not debate the statement that strong families are the back bone of the church and that the responsibility of the church is to aid the family. Is it possible that often the Sunday Schools, small groups ministries, and youth groups separate the family unit while the motivation is certainly to minister to the unique needs and interests of each age group? Could there not also be an optional path for those families in the church who desire to be taught as a family in fellowship with other families?
I ran across an article on this subject by Greg Harris over ten years ago and the thought of this article are indebted to his insights. While I am not suggesting that this approach of “family Sunday School” have to be a wholesale substitute for the present structure, I am posing the question of an alternative path. God has obviously joined the members of a family together. This optional approach which I have participated in simply recognizes the natural age-integrated units that God has established.
Perhaps one of the downfalls of the many Sunday School programs is the lack of accountability and even the opportunity to process the lesson in the following weeks. The family oriented approach permits the on-going discussion and follow-up of what both the parents and children have learned and experienced together. In this sense this approach not only dispenses knowledge but also aids in equipping the on-going learning and study at home in the context of the family.
In the past year I have participated in a study of the life of Christ in a family school. One couple took responsibility for the leadership of the class and provided weekly lesson plans to be completed by each family. Each week a comprehensive review was given with questions for the children and candy being thrown out as rewards for correct answers. Various fathers shared in the teaching of the weekly lessons and appropriate videos were used most every week. My three children ranged from 2 to 10 and the class held the attention of all three. Social gatherings were also plans that provided further opportunity to process the truth.
There is no end to the creativity that can be used. Assignments may be given to the various households and time to share the results as a family to the other families. Families can be asked to complete a quiz together or come up with a skit to portray a passage. This should not be viewed as merely “fluff” but as an opportunity for a family to work together and actively learn and minister. In the process families are discipling families and the children benefit from the adult interaction as well as the younger children learning from the older children.
Discipline of the children in each family is left where God placed it—in the hands of the parents. In this way coaching and assistance can be given from other families in dealing with unruly behavior. The goal is to strengthen the life of the family not just in the class but in the life that is lived outside of the class.
There is no need to be insensitive to single people or single parents. They can be invited to join a household and both parties can benefit from this type of hospitality. Adults with grown children can be very valuable in assisting families and mentoring them.
This is not a conventional approach but I have seen great benefit to it. I have been involved in a small church who adopted their entire ministry around this concept with great profit. I have also been involved in a very large church that used this approach as an alternative track to Sunday School.
As you seek God’s wisdom for your life, family, and church, may you also find many ways to experience the unity of the Spirit across the generations of age.