Children’s ministry threatened!
Veteran researcher and author George Barna recently revealed (May 2022) that only 12% of children’s pastors and youth pastors, and a paltry 4% of Christian parents of preteens have a biblical worldview.*Only 12% of children's pastors and youth pastors, and a paltry 4% of Christian parents of preteens have a biblical worldview. Click To Tweet
These are American findings, yet the statistics probably apply to all developed nations. While there’s no similar research in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and other European countries, we can surmise that about 85% of children’s pastors and about 95% of Christian parents in the Western world don’t have a biblical worldview.
The absence, in large part, of a biblical worldview in the church and home is more than troubling – it’s a spiritual catastrophe!
The problem isn’t restricted to children’s pastors and youth pastors. Only 37% of all Christian pastors (senior, associate, teaching, children’s, youth, and executive pastors) have a biblical worldview. That means that six out of ten Christian pastors hold a syncretistic worldview. Rather than having a biblical framework of principles for interpreting and interacting with the world, most pastors blend ideas from numerous perspectives and sources. In other words, they hold to a diverse, incompatible assortment of beliefs, with varying points of view, that embrace a range of associated behaviours that are convenient and practical.
This alarming discovery is part of the American Worldview Inventory 2022, conducted among a national sample of 1,000 Christian pastors by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. Fifty-four worldview-related questions measuring beliefs and behaviour within eight categories of application (purpose, family, God, faith, salvation, human nature, lifestyle, Bible) informed the survey findings.* Barna measured the worldviews of 600 parents of children younger than 13 in another study.
For decades, we wondered why fewer and fewer children were coming to faith in Christ. In recent years research revealed that two out of three children leave the church when they become adults. And lately, the pandemic exposed how most Christian parents are not nurturing their children’s faith formation.
Incongruently, the declining number of children’s ministers (pastors, teachers, children’s workers) holding a biblical worldview is happening when we have incredible assets at our disposal. There are more conferences and training events than ever before. We can access excellent materials, tools, supplies, and curriculums. Many churches provide state-of-the-art facilities for children’s ministry programs and activities. Well-trained children’s ministry pastors with advanced degrees from Bible colleges and seminaries direct affairs. And numerous stakeholders pray, plan, prepare and promote children’s ministry. Yet connections with the Bible continue to wane.
Obviously, the crisis isn’t due to a lack of resources.
So why is children’s ministry threatened?
Because without a biblical worldview, we vitiate children’s ministry.
Syncretism is insidious and pernicious. It doesn’t work and can’t work because it offends God. God wants us totally devoted to Him. He doesn’t tolerate compromise. If we entertain other gods we invite punishment, not approval (Exodus 20:3-5).
God doesn’t bless what we don’t possess. If congregations don’t hold a high view of Scripture (i.e., believe the Bible is entirely true and accept the Scriptures as the authoritative Word of God), our best efforts to connect children with Jesus will flop. Compatibility with popular culture is a death sentence. When parents don’t imitate Christ and live in step with His Word, they shouldn’t be surprised when their children become adults with different values and lifestyles.If congregations don't hold a high view of Scripture, our best efforts to connect children with Jesus will flop. Click To Tweet
Del Tackett, creator of The Truth Project says, “If we don’t really believe the truth of God and live it, then our witness will be confusing and misleading.” We can’t hoodwink children. When the worldview of pastors, Sunday School teachers and Christian parents is indistinguishable from that of non-Christians, we’ve utterly failed.
Barna notes, “Knowing a few Bible verses, attending church services, and praying won’t get the job done. Nor will attending a Christian school that offers a chapel service and a Bible class accomplish the task.” For children’s ministry to be renewed and revived, the pulpit and pew must hold to a dynamic, cohesive biblical worldview.
Indifference never made a difference.
Strengthening a biblical worldview among pastors and Christian parents requires a strategic approach and sustained investment of time and effort. We need more than token efforts to equip this generation of children to think, live like, inhabit, abide with, depend on, and trust in Jesus (Matthew 11:29, Luke 6:46, Ephesians 5:1-2, Philippians 2:1-5, 1 John 2:6).Strengthening a biblical worldview among pastors and Christian parents requires a strategic approach. Click To Tweet
First, we need to straighten out the pastors/ourselves. This is a challenging task because most of us believe we’re theologically in sync with God’s Word. It also requires reform on many levels (Bible colleges and seminaries, denominationally, local churches, individually). Despite these hurdles, our goal should be to change opinions and philosophies that stray from biblically informed beliefs and behaviours.
Secondly, we must identify parents with resilient faith (personally confess, believe, and commit themselves to Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, have an unswerving trust in the centrality and authority of the Bible, and regularly attend church services) and help them do the following:
- clearly affirm the authority, reliability and relevance of the Scriptures
- unequivocally confirm that absolute moral biblical truth exists
- be firmly committed to practically and consistently obeying God’s Word
- hold firm to the fact that Christianity is the only true faith
Thirdly, together with others who have a biblical worldview, we must induce and urge churchgoers (shaky core beliefs, not actively engaged in the Great Commission, don’t fully accept the Bible as trustworthy) to alter and reform their beliefs and behaviours in line with biblical precepts, principles and practices.
Collectively, to establish a comprehensive all-encompassing biblical worldview we must stop conforming to the world (Romans 12:2), teach foundational biblical truth, and expose unbiblical beliefs and actions.
As Danny Huerto, a vice-President at Focus on the Family says, “This is an opportunity, a wake-up call to the church, to make sure we’re teaching the truth in Scripture, going back to the principles, and believing that everything the Word of God says is true.”To entrench a biblical worldview and restore children's ministry to what God intended it to be, we must prayerfully, contritely, and humbly ask Him to transform our hearts, renew our minds, and purify our faith communities. Click To Tweet
All told, to entrench a biblical worldview and restore children’s ministry to what God intended it to be, we must prayerfully, contritely, and humbly ask Him to transform our hearts, renew our minds, and purify our churches. Change of this magnitude is a massive challenge. Renewal doesn’t happen overnight. Yet despite the grim statistics and potential uphill battle, we can succeed. God can do what we can’t do. He can bring health and healing to children’s ministry. But He’s unlikely to do it without us recognizing our loss and willingly participating in what needs to be done.
* The highest percentage of pastors and parents with a biblical worldview attend theologically conservative Protestant churches, non-denominational or independent Protestant churches, Pentecostal or Charismatic churches, and Evangelical churches. The lowest percentage of pastors and parents with a biblical worldview attend Catholic churches and mainline Protestant churches.
* Some biblical worldview questions Barna used in his survey: Do absolute moral truths exist? Is absolute truth defined by the Bible? Is God the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe, and does He still rule it today? Did Jesus Christ live a sinless life? Is salvation a gift from God that cannot be earned? Is Satan real? Does a Christian have a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people? Is the Bible accurate in all of its teachings?
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© Scripture Union, 2022
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