And yet, when I think back over the last 4 years, we've seriously had "church" change its shape countless times. Now, don't get me wrong, surprisingly with every shift it still held to what is biblically defined as church ( as we see it defined for us in Acts and through Jesus' ministry), and sometimes it maybe wasn't as healthy as it should be, but we were always striving to follow the commands of Jesus: to Love God, love our neighbors and to follow the great commission.
And turns out there are a LOT of ways to do that!
One of the biggest ways that the Lord has taught me to be flexible and open to change has been through my children. In those four years our family has added another human and all three of our children have grown and changed and had different needs, so even if we had WANTED to keep things the same, life just kept changing them for us!
So, how have we incorporated our children into our ministry?!? Good question!!! And people just keep on asking me about it! ( and P.S. I keep on asking other people about it too!!) I think for us Mom's its probably at the top of our list of priorities- as it should be!! We've done just about every possible thing to try to meet the needs of our children's spiritual health and that of our own personal ministry. You name it, we've probably tried it. I listened to this awesome little video from our dear friends Chuck and Deb who have been discipling us for years and I think they hit on just about all of the ways we've incorporated our kids into church the last few years:
But for the sake of my own personal history keeping, I wanted to share what it looks like for us right now (it'll probably change next week! Ha!) :
We are currently doing church together in our home, rather than in other places or homes, 3 times a week. This has taken shape mostly because of the season of life we are in-with a baby and two smallish children. We have our church that meets on Wednesdays that we lead and then we have church on Thursdays that we are a part of-this one is where Brett and I learn a LOT from some of the most committed and incredible Laborers for Jesus we've ever met. Both of these churches have graciously allowed us to meet in our home since we put Justice to bed pretty early and we have lots of toys etc for any other children (often just our own). We also do church again on Sundays. This one we call "family church" because its usually just our family and anyone staying in our home at the time.
On Wednesdays church starts at 6:30pm, our older two kids participate in the first third^^^^of church. Prayer, worship and vision casting ( usually a 3 or 4 minute mini lesson about what church is all about.) I usually have to make a quick exit somewhere in that first part of church to put Justice down, which at this point thankfully doesn't take long. Then the older two kids head off to another room to watch a video for the second part of church. I then put the kids to bed once church is over and they usually are only late by about 30 minutes past their usual bedtime.
On Thursdays starts at 7pm our older two kids ( Justice goes to bed pretty much as church is starting so thankfully he's a minimal hassle) participate to some extend during the first part of church again and then they are expected to sit quietly or play quietly in the room until they're normal bed time. Because of the timing of this church ( it starts later than our wednesday church), it usually means they are expected to remain "quiet" and good for about 30-45 minutes. Ive found this is about their capacity ( at 6 and 4) and I really want to teach them the self control of being quiet and considerate and I also want them to at least hear some good teaching and what we are doing.****
On Sundays we have church completely focused on our children and it starts whenever we want! haha- in the past we've done "children's church as part of our wednesday church-but when the needs of the church as a whole changed, we shifted the priority and made it a part of our weekend. So on Sunday our teaching, our prayers, everything is at our kids level ( mostly aimed at the oldest, but trying hard to get the 4 year old involved too).
**** A few weeks ago I was sitting in our thursday church and I looked down to see Ransom had made a "nest" for himself smack dab in the middle of the room:
I almost started crying because memories came flooding back...In fact, one of my strongest memories from my early years-I was probably as young as 3 or 4, was laying on the living room floor, falling asleep to the sound of my parents and their best friends Steve and Billie talking about God. As the pastors of a church themselves, they were always talking about Jesus and the need for a revival, and even when I didn't understand a word of it, my own heart was soaking it all in. Those memories are some of the coziest, most important memories I have and I know they are part of the important foundation I have in my relationship with the Lord to this day. And there was my own son, soaking it all in having a very similar experience. Sure, what church looks like for us is always evolving to the needs of others, and the needs of our family, sometimes it involves crying and spankings and babies that refuse to sleep or your kid flashing their underwear for the whole church to see ( let's just say" "hypothetically") or any other incredibly UN-spirital thing, but I'm learning more and more that this life of reaching people for Jesus- ALL of us our messy and challenging and if my kids are the ones that teach me that it won't be perfect and that I'll need to shift and change and be flexible, than great!
^^^^ We use the same "Three Thirds Process" in all three of our churches, we've found it helpful to make sure that all the elements of what Church should be are happening. This totally delightful video made my some great students in the Philippines does a great job explaining it ( how awesome are they?!? Isn't it encouraging to see what the Lord is doing ALL OVER THE WORLD?) :