"As a father who, with my wife, have raised three kids to adulthood, I have found that home church presented no significant barrier to being a good parent. All of my kids are well-adjusted, love the Lord, and look back at their experiences with home churches with happiness. Indeed, they are all leading home churches or cells of their own today." - Dennis McCallum, Founding Pastor
Nobody knows what the early church did with kids during their meetings. During the Jesus Movement, many groups favored holding meetings with the kids mixed into the adult group. Naturally, such meetings were noisy, disorderly, and not popular with adults or especially with kids.
While many churches feel attracted to the notion of home churches, this question of what to do with kids often becomes a deal breaker.
To help families with children, Dwell leaders initiated a move away from home churches at one point in our history. We suggested families go to smaller groups, more like cells in other churches, and perhaps meeting every other week. Over thirty small groups were formed at that time, and the smaller format served well for groups who needed it.
But surprisingly, as time has gone on, we have seen most of our small groups revert back into home churches. The reason seems to be that people who have experienced both, prefer the atmosphere of a home church to that of a small group. But home churches with many children have to be creative and flexible in how they handle the challenge. We've seen a number of options:
Some groups have another house near the one in which they meet, where some parents will care for and even teach the kids. The parents take turns handling the children's house.
Some groups prefer to get baby sitters during home church, either paid or with family members.
Some home churches have a cooperative arrangement where parents who meet one night watch the kids of parents who meet on a different night. Those parents return the favor on the other night. Kids typically look forward to home church night as their favorite night—the night when they get to stay over with their friends!
Dwell initiated a program through Oasis, our children's program, to help home churches with large amounts of children. It is called HOP (Homegroup Oasis Program). HOP provides onsite child care at the group's hosting home. Parents enjoy their home church gathering while screened and trained child care workers invest in the children in another part of the house. HOP has facilitated improved outreach efforts with our adult ministry while helping members be fully engaged in their home church. Our data clearly shows that groups utilizing HOP have increased outreach and improved attendance.
Some home churches have at least some kids in the house on home church night. Guests are encouraged to bring their kids to the meeting, where they are cared for by the volunteers or HOP workers for that evening. Our kids learn that they will often have the chance to meet new kids and have a ministry of their own as they welcome their new friends and help to reach the whole family.
Dwell has many resources for parents, especially helpful to those that want to be deeply invested in the body of Christ. Class videos on being a 21st Century Parent, a monthly Parenting Meeting and pertinent papers written on parenting topics. We know that God wouldn't have called on us to build body life if it weren't possible to do so while being good parents. Home churches become a community where children make friends and share outings, travel, and weekend time together. Far from harming families, we find instead that families well-rooted in a home church are stable and healthy.