There was a famous preacher story that circulated awhile back about the great evangelist, D.L. Moody. The story went that he had come back from a tent revival meeting where he reported that 2 1/2 people were saved. Whoever he was talking to replied, “You mean, two adults and one child?”
D.L. Moody responded, “No, two children and one adult. When you save a child, you save a life—a whole life.”
The New Testament provides us with a mission and a calling; to go into all the world and make disciples. It gives us great treatises on salvation as well as lots of instruction for young churches and new Christians. What it doesn’t give us is a lot of guidance for established churches to deal with children of the church.
And churches have struggled with that.
Around the turn of the century in the early 1900s, churches decided that they needed a better model of Christian education. So began the Sunday School. The idea of many progressive churches was that we should us the public school model that was working so well in the world and lay that onto our churches. The methods and pedagogy of the public educational model would be applied to churches and help children of the church come to faith. So churches spent a great deal of resources creating religious schools both within and partnered with churches. The problem with the educational model is that it produces graduates who walk away from it. Here we are some 100 years later and we are seeing just that; children raised in the church who are walking away. They have been told for most of their lives that church (specifically “big church”) was not for them. They were to go to children’s Sunday school classes, or children’s church, or the youth group but not to “big church” cause it wasn’t for them. And they took us at our word.
Nearly 60 years ago, Henrietta Mears said,
When you look at most churches–their programming, their staff, and their budgets–it appears that children must first become prodigals, then we will go about putting together elaborate programs and events to save them.
Our church is not responsible for preaching the gospel to every single person on the planet. We ARE however responsible for the children God has placed in our community.
The greatest commandment is to “love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” That thought comes from Deuteronomy 6:5
But immediately after that command, the Lord issues another one to the community of faith:
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9
Did you know that by the time a child is 9 their basic moral foundation has been formed?
Did you know that more than ½ of the people that will believe in God do so by age 12?
Did you know that by age 13 a child has formed their basic beliefs about the nature of God, the reliability of the Bible, the existence of an afterlife & the everlasting love of Jesus?
Did you know that 85% of people who come to Christ do so before the age of 18.
In a 2015 survey, the National Association of Evangelicals found that 63 percent of Christians accepted Jesus Christ between the ages of 4 and 14.
That’s why our church has renewed our focus on this “4-14 window.”
We have added a youth minister and we are in the process of revamping our children’s ministry. We are searching for another staff member to act as our children’s minister. Not to be an educational director administering a 100 year old model of Christian education, but to be someone who has a vision for making disciples of the children God has given us.
We support a number of missions in this church and they are all vitally important.
However, God did not make Huntsville Church of Christ personally responsible for Honduras, Nicaragua, or Eastern Europe. He does, however, hold us accountable for the mission field of our own households. That command in Deuteronomy 6 was not just for parents specifically. It was issued to the whole community of faith. You see, God holds you responsible for my kids as well. That’s what being a body is all about. Even the tiniest members are still vitally important to the health of the whole being.
I hope you are as excited as I am about this renewed focus. I hope that you can see the mission field that is playing on that playground every time we meet.
That’s not the “church of the future” out there; that is who Jesus said the kingdom belongs to!
But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
If you aren’t involved in ministering to our children, maybe it’s time you found a way to do that. It doesn’t only involve teaching. There are lots of things that are needed to help this ministry thrive.
Maybe you don’t have the strength and energy to chase kids around any more. That’s ok. But you can give. You can give an offering of faith to participate in the missional work that God is doing in the children of this church. Have you thought about how you can serve in this mission field?
I pray God opens our eyes and shows us not only the need that He sees but also our place in His plan to meet that need.