A few years ago while in a class at a Christian college lectureship, Dan Cooper asked us, “How many of you became Christians before the age of twenty?” About ninety per cent of the one hundred Christian leaders raised their hands. Scientific studies suggest that 81% come to Christ prior to age 20 and 56 per cent before the age of 13.
As a result most churches are filled with people who became Christians as children or teenagers. While individuals can be reached at any age, the most common time when people are evangelized comes before they reach adulthood.
The children and teenage Sunday school may be the most evangelistic tool the church has available. Most of our congregations have classrooms for children. Most have numerous vacant seats. Our teachers are godly people who care about children. Classes meet several times each week. Some churches even provide books and Bibles for the children. Yet such programs are often viewed simply as babysitting while the adults do the real work of ministry. If church leaders could see the Sunday school as the central, critical, most important evangelistic arm of the local congregation, then we might take advantage of the largest and most receptive unchurched group in our communities.
We are not the first to ignore children. Children were brought to Jesus in Mark 10, but the disciples kept them away. Many different people in Mark 10 wanted to talk with Jesus: the crowds in verse 1, the Pharisees in verse 2, the disciples in verse 10, the rich young ruler in verse 17 and James and John in verse 35. The disciples did not bar any of them from Jesus. But when the children were brought to Jesus, the disciples kept them away.
Jesus was indignant. He believed that children needed to be with him. The kingdom, after all, belonged to children.
The world is changed one person at a time through the power of Christ. Children are changed by hearing the Gospel. Let the little children come to Jesus.
Perhaps the congregation that best prepares for the future is one that gives considerable concern to teaching children.
By: Harold Shank
April 21, 2022