AN OPEN LETTER TO PASTORS ABOUT CHILDREN’S MINISTRY
Ministry to children is essential. Here are five compelling reasons why you ought to prioritize children’s ministry in the local church:
1. Children are one of the largest unreached people groups in the world.
Children aren’t an obscure people group. Globally, 25.5% of the world’s population is under fourteen years of age (18% in North America). Most of these children don’t know Christ. In Western nations, more than 75% of children are not connected with the Church. These children are lost and doomed to perish if we don’t reach out to them, share the Good News, and invite them to come to Christ.
Missiologists speak about the need for the church to reach the 10–40 window. Yet the 4–14 window is equally, if not more significant. So don’t neglect children’s ministry. Pastor, look around your neighbourhood – see all the children without Jesus. They’re ripe for harvest! (John 4:35).
2. Faith foundations are established during childhood.
Faith development theorists like John Westerhoff and James Fowler submit that most children make their major life decisions, including spiritual decisions, by twelve years of age. This may be as young as nine years of age in high-income countries.
Faith development starts in the womb (Luke 1:41). We should nurture it at every age and stage of a child’s life. Concerning the growth of their intelligence: children have 50% of their adult intelligence by four years of age, increasing to 80% by eight years of age. This rapid intellectual development gives five-year-old children the capacity to distinguish and differentiate ideological beliefs. It’s, therefore, not surprising that a person’s faith development, worldview, and emotional impression of the church primarily develop before they become a teenager. As Professor George Barna says, “Most people die with the same worldview in essence that they had at the age of thirteen.”
The implications are apparent. Childhood is a one-off opportunity to establish lifelong faith and enduring connections with the church.
3. Most Christians came to faith in Christ when they were children.
According to the Barna Group, an American Christian polling firm, 60-70% of adult Christians asked Christ to be their Lord and Saviour between four to fourteen years of age. If there are two hundred and fifty adults in a congregation, at least one hundred and fifty committed their lives to Christ when they were children and an additional fifty before they were nineteen years of age. Children are more open to the Gospel than adults are. As people grow older, their hearts harden and they close themselves off to God. Only 20% of Christians came to faith in Christ as adults.
With the above statistics in mind, children’s ministry is undoubtedly the best investment of a congregation’s time, talents and treasures. Yet, according to the 4/14 Movement, the average church spends only 3% of its budget on children’s ministry. Clearly, churches need to ramp up the resourcing of children’s ministry.
4. The Scriptures highlight Children’s Ministry.
There are more than 8000 Scripture references to children or families. Passages like Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Psalm 78:1-7, and Matthew 18:1-10 are noteworthy examples of God’s deep love for children. Deuteronomy 4:9 indicates we’re responsible for teaching two generations (children and grandchildren) about the Lord. While parents are primarily responsible for telling their children about Christ, everyone is included – all of God’s people must tell all age groups all about God.
Pastor, the biblical mandate to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done” (Psalm 78:4) includes you. According to the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, most parents who regularly attend church services “do not receive the kind of systematic and biblical equipping they desperately need to guide their own lives and help them develop their children into dynamic disciples of Jesus.”
To be candid, even though children and families are prioritized in the Bible, senior pastor support for children’s ministry in many churches is inadequate. So please teach and “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2) in ways that equip parents and grandparents to train their children and grandchildren to be Christ-followers.
5. Jesus wants children to come to Him.
There are no second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. When children declare, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9), they receive the full measure of His Spirit. Children who believe in Jesus aren’t the future church – they’re part of God’s family today. Think of them as co-pilgrims in a mutual journey with other age groups. Jesus said, “For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” Luke 18:16. So don’t disparage or delay children’s full participation in the church’s mission. And never reduce the value of children to who they can become. Instead, treasure them for who they are.
We need your help!
Pastor, we’re not doing enough in our churches to connect younger cohorts with Jesus. Research reveals that two out of three children in our churches today will leave when they become adults. We need your help. We need you to champion children’s ministry. Please tell your congregation that families matter to God, and keep on telling them. And please do everything possible to facilitate the faith formation of young lives, influence generations to come, and enable children to embody the continued fruitfulness and existence of the Church until Christ returns.
Investing in children is the most strategic way to impact the kingdom. Dr. John Trainer said, “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” Pastor, we’re counting on you to equip the congregation to help children know Jesus, avoid the snares of the world, and reflect God’s love inwardly and outwardly. As you teach sound doctrine (Titus 2:1), prepare God’s “people for works of service” (Ephesians 4:11-12), and encourage believers to glorify Him (Psalm 145:1-21, Ecclesiastes 12:13), be assured of our prayers and support.
“The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you” 2 Timothy 4:22 (ESV).
PS. Please share An Open Letter to Pastors About Children’s Ministry with your colleagues.
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© Scripture Union, 2022
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