Churches focus on many different things. Some focus on adult small groups. Some focus on creating amazing weekend worship experiences. Some focus on in-depth Bible study. Some focus on international missions. Some focus on helping those in need such as the homeless, single moms, a food pantry, etc.
All of these are good things to focus on. But, I believe the greatest focus a church should have is reaching and discipling the next generation.
Why is it so important to focus on reaching children?
The majority of people come to Christ before reaching their 18th birthday. Here are the latest stats from Barna about this.
48% of people who accept Jesus as their Savior do so before reaching the age of 13.
64% of people who accept Jesus as their Savior do so before reaching the age of 18.
13% of people made their profession of faith while 18 to 21 years old.
Only 23% of believers came to Christ after their 21st birthday.
The church must focus on the greatest mission field...children. We only have a short window of time to reach them, so we must go all out to get the Gospel to them.
Who should the church be focused on influencing and why? I believe we should equip and invest in those who influence children. So, who should that be? Look what research from Barna says...
50% of people who accept Christ before their teen years are led to Christ by their parents.
20% are led to Jesus by another relative or a friend.
7% accept Jesus in response to a minister's prompting (altar call, group prayer, personal conversation, etc.).
1 in 8 accept Jesus at a special event such as a Fall Festival, a special speaker at church, Fall Festival, VBS, etc.
1% come to Christ through media evangelism.
For those ages 13 to 21, the percentages are much more diverse.
20% were led to Christ by their parents.
20% were led to Christ by a friend.
20% were led to Christ as the result of an event
1% were led to Christ through media.
Since family and friends are the primary people who lead children to Jesus, I believe we should focus on equipping parents, those who work closely with children and children themselves on how to share the Gospel.
Relationships matter. Parents. Small Group Leaders. Sunday School teachers. Friends. All of these people matter...a lot! Why? Because, as stated above, the primary way children come to Christ is through their relationships with family, friends and church leaders.
Look what Barna had to say about this:
“Families, churches and parachurch ministries must recognize that primary window of opportunity for effectively reaching people with the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection is during the pre-teen years. It is during those years that people develop their frames of reference for the remainder of their life – especially theologically and morally. Consistently explaining and modeling truth principles for young people is the most critical factor in their spiritual development.”
Churches must also realize that children are their future. Any church that wants to still be here in 20 years, must focus on reaching and equipping the next generation, so they will be prepared to step into leadership roles.
Churches that refuse to change, that refuse to focus on equipping the next generation and that refuse to let the next generation have leadership roles, are signing the autopsy papers for their church.
Churches must realize that children are the church of today. Children can serve. Children can pray over the offering. Children can help greet people as they enter. Children can pass out papers. Children can pray over people. Children can help lead in worship. Children can do outreach. '
The same Holy Spirit that dwells within adults, also dwells in the heart of the children who accept Jesus as their Savior. There is no jr. Holy Spirit. Children can be used by God just like adults. We see many examples of this throughout the Scriptures. Some examples are David defeating Goliath, the boy who gave Jesus his lunch and the little maid who helped Naaman find healing and many more.
These are just a few reasons why we must focus on reaching children. It's a cause that is worth giving our very best to.
Your turn. Why do you think it's important to focus on reaching children? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.