In an ideal church, there would be vibrant life and community in the “parish.” By this we mean that fellow church members would see each other during the week as they fulfill their vocations in life. Of course, the extent of this connectedness is somewhat tied to the size of your city, the distance members travel to the church building, and so on. But even in larger cities, strategies can be used to establish true parish life, such as intentional community or “parish” groups, shared Christian education, and so on.
Much of what goes on in the parish is not led or organized by church leadership. The pastor and elders are not to be making business decisions for the mechanic in their church or telling people where to shop. The church does have an indirect influence on parish life though, through Word and sacrament, teaching and discipleship. But parish life itself is an organic outworking of the church community, a community that is indeed tied together by Lord’s Day worship. As Pastor Douglas Wilson has written, “The church is not the parish, and the parish is not the church. At the same time, the church thrives at the center of the parish, informing and discipling those who live their lives in the parish…”
Parish Discipleship Groups
There are a few areas that we can touch on with regards to parish life. First, one common way to encourage and promote parish life is to establish “parish discipleship groups” (also called “small groups” or “community groups”). These groups are intended for fellowship and discipleship during the week, bringing people together outside of Sunday morning worship. The “curriculum” for the groups should be established by a minister, typically consisting of a Bible or book study. Ideally the groups would be hosted by warm and hospitable families and led by men in the church who have the ability to teach in submission to the elders. Speaking of elders, the elders ought to be very involved in these groups, attending them as they can, in order to ensure that not only correct doctrine is taught, but also that the tone of the group is one of joy and unity, and not grumbling and disunity. If there was ever a place for the seeds of discontentment and rebellion to take root in a church, a small group led by an upset leader is fertile soil. And on the flip side, these groups can be a source of great joy and godly fellowship.
Another area in which church members may come alongside each other during the week is in the education of their children. Scripture teaches that the responsibility of raising and educating children falls to the parents (Deut. 6:7, Eph. 6:4). Additionally, all things in life are to be done under the lordship of Jesus Christ, including education. When children learn about biology, language, math, or any other subject—they should also be learning about the God who has created such things in order for them to be studied by us. This type of education cannot be found in government schools today, which actively promote a worldview and doctrine that is antithetical to the Christian faith. And even if the schools did not explicitly do this but sought to be “neutral,” we must recognize that there is no such thing as neutrality. To ignore God or believe that He does not matter when it comes to subjects outside of “religion” is in actuality to deny His lordship over all things.
Therefore, Christian parents must seek education alternatives to the government school systems. This may look like establishing a formal Christian school, homeschooling, or something in-between. Regardless of which method best fits the need of each particular child, this is a task that is often done best in community. While the church can certainly promote and encourage such education, teaching on its importance and providing scholarships to families in need, this responsibility belongs to the family.
To abandon our children to Caesar is to cause them to stumble, a sin deserving of severe punishment (Mt. 18:6). But in turn, to wholeheartedly devote ourselves to educating our children in the Lord is to believe, in faith, the divine promises of generational blessing to those who obey God in this area (Deut. 7:9, Prov. 22:6).
 Douglas Wilson, Mother Kirk (Moscow, ID: Canon Press), 222.