"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, Lead 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 real 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 Xenos 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. Today, only a handful of small groups are left. 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 groups 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 stay small enough to keep the number of children manageable. Then they have kids brought to the house where the home church meeting is, and they go to a special room or basement recreation area during the meeting.
Some groups prefer to get baby sitters during home church, or drop kids off at the in-laws. Those groups generally meet only every other week. During the off week for home church, such groups have cell groups—the women's cell at the home of one of the mothers, where others bring kids as well, and the men's cell at one of the dad's home. Very young kids usually go to bed before the cell group begins and couldn't care less that mom or dad are having a meeting downstairs. We have found that kids that grow up used to sleeping at other's houses for the sake of Christian meetings are unharmed by the experience. In fact, we prefer that our kids have the flexibility to sleep in other places than their own bedrooms, and we like the idea that they are learning to prioritize Christian fellowship over personal comfort.
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!
Regardless how they handle their own kids, most home churches have at least some kids in the house on home church night. Non Christian guests are encouraged to bring their kids to the meeting, where they are cared for by the volunteers for that evening. 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.
As kids get older, most families who have a teenage kid have the oldest watch the younger kids on home church night. Many teenagers make their incomes watching kids for other families.
However we do it, 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 evenings. Far from harming families, we find that families well-rooted in a home church are stable and healthy. Xenos even went a step further and formed a school system which begins its day at 9:00 instead of 7:30 like some of the city schools in our area. That becomes a big help to families who are out serving others on school nights.