The Value of Children
A Child is a person who is going to carry on what you have started. They are going to sit where you are sitting and when you are gone, attend to those things which you think are important. You may adopt all the policies you please; but how they are carried out depends on them. They will assume control of your cities, states and nations. They are going to move in and take over your churches, schools, universities and corporations. All your books are going to be judged, praised or condemned by them. The fate of humanity is in their hands.
I highly doubt a church will come right out and claim that children are not important to God. The adage is true, however, actions speak louder than words. It alarms me that only one out of four churches lists reaching children as a priority. The church, like the society it dwells in, does not value children. Note Barna’s transformation in his chapter entitles I mist the Ocean:
Yet somehow the wisdom and necessity of seeing children as the primary focus of ministry never occurred to me. In that regard, perhaps I’ve simply been a product of my environment. Like most adults, I have been aware of children, fond of them and willing to invest some resources in them; but I have not really been fully devoted to their development. In my mind, they were people en route to significance—i.e., adulthood—but were not yet deserving of the choice resources.
An audiotape of Barna’s workshop describes the reality of this problem. Barna was surprised at how many pastors called and asked if the workshop on children could be moved to a more “skippable” spot because their time was so valuable. Barna purposely placed the session on children in an inconvenient place for people to skip it, thus it confirming his findings.
The problem will continue to grow
Given advances in medicine and the standard of living, the adult population is continuing to grow. 1993 marked the first year where there were more senior citizens than teens. This trend can be partially attributed to the millions of humans who have been aborted. As the adult population grows, the propensity to gear church ministries primarily to adults will grow. What can children contribute to church finances or church growth? The results of this attitude leave children largely on their own. The mere lack of role models for children points to this issue. Marva Dawn’s states:
What makes the battle so intense in the present world is that so much of life is becoming ambiguous, chaotic, fearsome, unmoored. Consequently, people cling more desperately to whatever idolatries seem to them capable of freeing them from pain, confusion, weariness, or meaninglessness. The powers function to twist such things as efficiency, money, or fame into the gods of our lives, and thus God’s designs for good are distorted, corrupted, and deflected into contrary purposes. Our neighbors in the world (and we, in spite of knowing better) wind up with the ultimate concerns that are trite, violent, enslaving or flimsy. These goals will never ultimately satisfy or repress our deepest longing; they will never alleviate our aching bone-weariness, satiate our galling thirst, or pierce our bitter darkness.
A generation that did not know
What happens when a society does not reach its young ones is disaster. Judges 2:10 states that “another generation rose up who did not know the LORD or the works He had done for Israel.” This is a very easy thing to do if one does not know God nor the things that He has done. With biblical literacy low, many 20-year-olds leaving the church, and church statistics are as dismal as the world. It is becoming safer to say that a new generation grew up that did not know God nor the things of God.
The bottom line
To have a lasting impact on the world one must reach people when they are young, when they are children. Jesus’ words carry more urgency today than ever. Not showing children the way to Christ is another way of hindering them. Mediocrity in the pew comes from lack of diligence in to the cradle. If the “kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” the church needs to give serious attention to reaching and equipping the emerging generation. Millenials search for spirituality and significance may be grasping for the God they know to be there whom they were not clearly told about.