God’s Heart for Children

Introducing a six-part webinar series for 2023

Michelle Tolentino & Kimberly Iannelli | 16 Jan 2023

What is the role of the church in fulfilling Christ’s heart for children, especially those who live daily in extreme risk?

We live in an unprecedented time in history as the Global Church rises up to seriously address the importance of children, especially considering all of the children at risk. We see these children in every region of the world: children living in extreme poverty, children affected by the refugee crisis, children forced into trafficking and prostitution, and too many other children who are living daily in the context of risk. These challenges have profound implications on the flourishing of the next generation and impact the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What is the role of the church in fulfilling Christ’s heart for children? What actions should the church taking to minister to children who live daily in extreme risk? What would it look like for all children to be meaningfully incorporated in the mission of the church?

In 2020-2021, a series of listening calls among the Lausanne issue networks and regional groups transpired as the movement looks toward 2050 asking the question, “How shall we prepare for the world in 2050, and how can we help shape the world in 2050, in light of the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord of all creation, and Jesus’ command to make disciples of all the nations?”
The listening call, held in partnership with the Lausanne Children and Family Network (March 2021) and in consultation with several organisations serving children, revealed several gaps that will be prioritized by the Lausanne Children’s Network:

  1. Addressing the social and spiritual aspects of children. A great need exists to equip more children’s workers and influencers as well as empower children and families to help them address social and spiritual aspects of children.
  2. Inspiring churches to see children as Christ sees children. Too many churches lack vision to take ownership of the holistic needs and realities faced by children in their respective communities. These children should be treated as a family in Christ and have the opportunity to grow in their spiritual formation.
  3. Increasing engagement with children beyond conversion. There is little engagement with children beyond conversion, denying their wholeness as people who live in the context of broken families and communities and the dire issues they face (e.g., sexual, physical, and emotional abuse).
  4. Listening to and empowering children more. There is a need to truly listen to children and view them as vulnerable agents of God’s mission. They are not just the mission field but they are missionaries in their own areas of influence and existence.
  5. Engaging families in the mission of the church. True transformation in society and expansion of the kingdom can happen when families become missional and are integrated in church as primary disciple-makers and voice for justice.

In response to the voiced concerns of those who do grassroots work with children (including children-at-risk and children and families), we are excited to announce a special six-part webinar series on the theme ‘God’s Heart for Children’, taking place throughout 2023.

Each session will unpack themes from the recently published book of the same name, with the aim of equipping Christians in their calling and ministry with or for children.

The webinars aim to hold a mirror to the wider church. They will draw upon the unique intersection of child development, theology, and mission studies and practice, broadening the conversation and ensuring the experiences of children in difficult and complex situations are central.

God’s Heart for Children: Practical Theology from Global Perspectives (available also in the US) is a ground-breaking book. It is among the first predominantly African, Asian, and Latin American authored titles of its kind concerning God’s heart for ministry with and for children in some of the world’s most complex situations.

In light of this, this collaborative webinar series will afford the opportunity to explore the core affirmations from the book in greater depth, alongside the authors and partner organisations. We hope the series will engage, encourage, equip, and network those in ministry to and with children in a variety of contexts globally.

The six webinars are:

  • Created in Dignity (17 January)
  • Placed in Families (14 March)
  • Community Advocacy and Care (9 May)
  • Included in Church and Mission (4 July)
  • Secured in Hope (12 September)
  • Engaged in Creation Care (14 November)

The webinars are facilitated by a collaborative team from the Lausanne Movement’s Children and Family and Children-at-Risk Networks, Viva, All Nations Christian College, the Global Children’s Forum, and Langham Publishing.

Each webinar includes an interview with the author of the relevant chapter, a case study of a local project engaging with the theme, a keynote talk to ground what has been discussed in practice, a panel discussion, and breakout rooms for networking and sharing practices, tips, and ideas.

Learn more and register: https://www.viva.org/ghfcwebinars

Photo Credits: Photo by Markus Spiske

Michelle Sheba Tolentino is Catalyst for the Lausanne Children-at-Risk Issue Network. In 2011, she co-founded Made In Hope, a non-profit organization that provides educational and work opportunities to women who have been exploited in modern slavery (human trafficking and prostitution) and prevention of child sex-trafficking in the Philippines. Michelle also serves as Broadcaster and Producer for ‘Okiddo: The 4/14 Kids Show,’ a weekly radio broadcast for children and youth (Far Eastern Broadcasting Company, Philippines) that reaches 500,000 listeners. It was awarded a Golden Dove Award in 2015 by the Broadcasters Association of the Philippines. She also travels internationally to speak as an advocate for women and children-at-risk.

Kimberly Iannelli is passionate about seeing children all over the world learn how much Jesus loves them and decide to follow Jesus as disciples. In her role as assistant director for global programs at Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child International, she is blessed to work with volunteers around the world to witness this passion come to life. A native Texan, Kimberly started her career serving as a policy director for then-Governor George W. Bush. Prior to Samaritan’s Purse, Kimberly served as participant selection director for the Lausanne Cape Town 2010 Congress and then as chief operating officer of the Lausanne Movement before joining International Justice Mission to manage their prayer programs. She and her husband Peter, along with their daughter Sydney, lived and worked in South Africa, Qatar, and Washington, DC before making Boone, North Carolina, their home.