Gethsemane Baptist Church is unreservedly family-integrated when it comes to the Sunday morning worship service. Sunday worship is for the body of Christ, and regenerate children are part of the body of Christ. Unregenerate children need to hear the gospel as it is presented in the reading of the Scripture, prayer, song, and the preached word.

That does not mean that there is not occasion for focused, age-directed instruction. The word that has historically been used for such instruction is “catechism.” “Catechism” may sound unduly formal, but it comes from the Greek word katecheo, meaning to teach or instruct. In the same way that we wouldn’t teach pre-algebra to (most) second-grade children, there are occasions when age-suitable instruction is appropriate, necessary, and in the best interests of children’s spiritual development.

Lately, misinformation has been spread regarding the origins of age-segregated instruction in the church. That’s why I’m very thankful for the recent series of articles posted by Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I encourage you to read this three-part series of articles. (links to parts two and three within)

The New Testament, particularly in the pastoral epistles, acknowledges differences between younger and older individuals. It also recognizes varying levels of spiritual maturity. Paul in 1 Corinthians (3:2) addresses those who need milk, who are not yet ready for solid food. The author of Hebrews uses the same metaphor, adding that solid food is for the mature and that discernment comes with constant practice (5:12-14). Pastors are called to teach and instruct and exhort the entire church. This includes regenerate children, and historical church practice teaches us as much.

While the gathered worship service has a specific purpose, and should therefore include (generally speaking) every person in a family, we do well by our children to take regular opportunities to teach them at a level for which they’re prepared.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Pastor Hale