A philosophy of non-age segregated ministry
Oikos exists to strengthen spiritual, biological and adoptive families. Whether led by single parents or by dual parents, families are God’s primary means for inculcating values, directing giftings and nurturing faith.
The family integrated focus is a rebellion and revolution against the trends of culture.
In today’s world, families are being separated by an ever growing range of activities; youth sports, child care, schooling, high pressure employment, single individual recreational activities, work travel, etc. While these activities are not intrinsically bad, a combination of them stifles family time. There are few, if any, times for the family to come together to express their faith. Even within the traditional American church structure, there are seldom opportunities for children to see parents living an expression of their faith in the public arena.
The Bible clearly teaches that parents have the primary responsibility for teaching children morals, ethics, the history of faith, the faithfulness of God and spiritual disciplines.
Consider Deuteronomy 4:9-10; 6:1-4 and 11:19-21:
Deut. 9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
10 Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”
Deut. 6:1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.
Deut. 11:19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
The Scriptures place the burden for multigenerational faithfulness on the shoulders of faithful parents who share their life of faith intimately with their children. When do we have opportunities to do this? Should not the corporate meetings at a church lead the way?
Perhaps no Sciptures are as succinct as Psalm 78:5-8
PS 78:5 He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children,
6 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.
8 They would not be like their forefathers–
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
whose spirits were not faithful to him.
These are not tasks to be handed off to the government or even youth leaders. These are tasks that might be enforced by godly government or youth leaders, but they are primarily taught and adopted only in the family environment. Youth leaders can try whatever they like within the youth group, but if mom and dad are teaching a different lesson by their daily lives, the youth minister is fighting a losing battle without divine intervention.
What this looks like in a church
Prior to the start of the Sunday morning service, there are topical classes that are provided for the whole family. These classes may cover apologetics, a particular book of the Bible, a spiritual discipline such as prayer or tithing or any number of topics. Families learn together in these environments in order to provide a basis for further conversation and learning led by the parents.
Oikos services are non-age segregated. This means that families sit together for the corporate worship and teaching experience. There are no youth groups or age separated classes.
Noisy children are not the end of the world and no one should be embarrassed when their children manifest behavioral issues during the corporate church service. Everyone has been there and will likely be there again! Parents are encouraged to take their children out of the service and then to return with them once the behavioral issues have been addressed.
For mothers with newborns, there is a nursery area for changes.
Home Church groups are also age-integrated and provide wonderful opportunities for children to participate in worship, portions of the teaching and hospitality.
Ministry projects undertaken by the church are done with the whole family in mind. Children participate in feeding the homeless, clearing trash from a community, praying over the sick and evangelizing strangers.
Children may not always understand what is occurring within classes or during the service, but they are learning valuable lessons in self control, patience, respect and how God’s people should enter into His presence.
The philosophy of Oikos is that children are a not a distraction. They are part of the community of faith. There is much to be gained from integrating their lives into the corporate body, not as a separate ministry, but as a cohesive whole with newly weds, singles, new parents, the middle aged, empty nesters and the elderly.
What parents and children gain from family integration…
Two Parent Households:
Learning to lead their families as spiritual heads
Learning to establish family spiritual disciplines such as Bible study and family worship
Breaking down the barrier on discussing spiritual matters
Spending precious time as a family
Sharing a community of faith that believes in raising healthy families
Mentoring and molding young lives to follow Jesus
Teaching young children to respect adults and adult activities
Teaching young children patience and self control
Follows in the footsteps of 1900 years of the church where children were included as part of dynamic and growing churches
Insures that parents maintain their childrens hearts rather than deferring this awesome responsibility to a youth pastor
Church resources (monetary and people) are not directed internally, but can be directed externally towards fulfilling the Great Commission and showing the compassion of Christ to the lost and suffering
Single Parent Households:
All of the things mentioned for two parent households.
The opportunity to show children how Biblical parental roles are played out in the church and home
To be mentored by the people that they love best, their parents
To exercise respect, patience, self control and to learn socialization
To not regard an “Age Gap”. Youth are not outsiders to the activities of the larger church. Nor are they a separate culture like generation X, the Baby Boomers, etc.
To engage difficult topics with maturity
To see children their age responding positively to the worship and message of God
To love and respect people of all ages
To sit quietly in a social setting
To participate when called upon in a group setting
To witness the body of Christ in action
To contribute their gifts to the whole body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:1-27)
To equip for evangelism and ministry
To curb sibling rivalry by engaging their brothers and sisters in a non-age segregated environment
To not accept the cultural norm that peer relationships are more important than family
Separate activities by age and gender
Oikos will engage in special times when only a single gender or age group is the appropriate intended audience. For example, evangelism activities at a place such as Ohio State University campus may be too late in the evening or have activities (such as drinking and smoking) that are not appropriate for young children.
There are many Biblical topics, such as human sexuality and the issue of pornography, that must be taught in a church, but that should be addressed in age appropriate and sometimes gender segregated environments. Oikos is sensitive to these topics and will annually schedule activities that minister in the areas of purity, modesty and human sexuality.
However, in most circumstances, Oikos contends that the church is best served in a non-age segregated community.
Oikos does not believe that its dedication to strengthening the family is a throwback to times of oppressive patriarchicalism. Our uncompromising approach adheres to the Scriptural guidelines given for male and female roles and Biblical manhood and womanhood. We are a radical community of believers leading a revolution in how God’s people perceive the importance of raising up the next generation of radical believers. By teaching our children to fiercely obey God with their whole hearts, we hope to be and to rear generations that will shake the nations for the glory of God.