“All children are at risk. There are about two billion children in our world, and half of them are at risk from poverty. Millions are at risk from prosperity. Children of the wealthy and secure have everything to live with, but nothing to live for.” (Read more)
So begins the focus on children and their priority in world evangelization, as outlined in The Cape Town Commitment’s section on “Discerning the will of Christ for world evangelization”.
This Advent and Christmas season, it’s appropriate that our monthly focus be on children. Our Savior came as a baby, and He made children a priority in his own ministry, “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'” (Matthew 19:14, NIV).
In the main article this month, Wendy Strachan (Scripture Union) reminds us to that ministering to and with children needs a “Big Vision Simple Ideas”. Strachan says our vision needs to be big because of the two billion children in our world, and our ideas to reach those children need to be simple so they can be replicated and implemented around the world.
Strachan asks readers,
“Can we dare to imagine a different world for all 2 billion children today?
A world where every child . . .
is prayed for,
is introduced to God’s people,
has the opportunity to thrive in safe, loving relationships,
encounters compassion that changes her circumstances,
experiences faith in community,
is given the chance to respond to the love and forgiveness of Jesus,
belongs to a faith community, and
grows up into mature ‘child-like’ faith using their gifts to serve the Kingdom and through that, their communities.”
Anne-Christine Bataillard (Grain of Wheat International and Lausanne Senior Associate for Evangelism Among Children), responds to Strachan’s article with an example of a strategy used in a closed Asian country to not only reach children with the news of Jesus Christ, but also to help them grow in their relationship with him.
Read Also Responses From
- Libby Horton, Logosdor
- Harry Bryans, European Evangelical Alliance Children’s Ministry Associate
- Sylvia Foth, Kidzana Ministries
- Michael Collins, Gospel Mission of India
- Esther Zimmerman, United States
- Shiferaw Michael, Child Development Training and Research Center Ethiopia
As Dan Brewster (Compassion International) emphasizes in another main article this month,
“The Great Commission applies to children as well as to adults. Children, more than any other people group, are receptive to the gospel. Nearly half of the population of every country within the 10/40 Window is also in the 4/14 Window. Where the churches are growing, most of the new converts are under the age of 18. Children are both objectives of, and resources for, Mission in the non-Western world.”
Along with strategies for evangelizing children, come some very hard questions about the ethics of sharing Christ with children.
Brewster asks that if children are too easily swayed, does evangelizing them take advantage of their vulnerability? He adds, “Clearly, just because child evangelism is legitimate and because children tend to be very receptive to the gospel, does not mean that we can be careless in how we approach them or their parents. Indeed, that heightened receptivity should cause us to be even more cautious and discerning, for the possibility of exploitation is also heightened.”
In response to Brewster’s article, D. J. Konz (Compassion Australia) suggests that we need to critique the reasons behind evangelizing children. “Are we compelled,” he asks, “by an overwhelming love for God in Christ and our neighbours, and simply can’t help but share the good news with those around us (including children)? Does our witness do just that – point to Christ? Or are we driven by what Dutch missiologist J.C. Hoekendijk called ‘undisclosed motives’– winning (easier?) converts, amassing numbers to cite (or to stroke our own, or collective, egos), out-growing Christianity’s perceived competitors (Islam, atheism, secularism), or insecurity: that is, attempting to buttress the sinking ship of Christendom by ‘raising up a new generation’?”
Shiferaw Michael has also responded to Dan Brewster’s article from an Ethiopian context, commenting on the ‘failure of the church to teach the family about their biblical mandate to chidlren and to build the capacity of the family to disciple their children’.
This month, the children’s team has also made available resources to help us understand the issues involved in child evangelism, and move forward with reaching children with the love of Jesus Christ.
- Aim Lower
- Reaching Every Child (Part 1 of 2)
- Reaching Every Child (Part 2 of 2)
- It’s Time to Wake Up
The Global Children’s Forum (GCF) partnering network have an online presence launched in time for this month’s Lausanne focus on children. ‘Aim Lower‘ is powered by GCF and is a gateway site to link interested people to partnering efforts, resources and fresh insights for the vital task of mission and discipleship with children. The site also features the video ‘Aim Lower’, which has been circulating virally for years after it was produced to popularise some of the conclusions from the Lausanne Occasional Paper on the ‘Evangelisation of Children’. Anyone interested in following or joining the ‘Aim Lower‘ initiative can visit their website.
- 12 Ways to Pray for Children
- Articles from Now and Next: A Theological Conference on Children in Nairobi 2011
- Children in Church and Mission: A Bibliography
As you watch the videos and access the resources, take the next step to join the conversation on this topic.
Your ideas, experience and suggestions are needed as together we look at the “Big Vision Simple Ideas” that God is allowing us to be involved in as we seek to make the gospel of Jesus Christ known to every man, woman, young person and child in our world.
Finally . . .
Let me close by wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We are grateful to God for your partnership in the gospel and look forward to working with you in 2013 as we seek to move forward the Lausanne vision of, “the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world.”
God bless you this Christmas and in the coming New Year!
Naomi Frizzell is the Lausanne Movement's Chief Communications Officer.