Evangelizing the Next Generation
The vast majority of studies indicate that most people who become born-again Christians at some point in their lives do so before the age of 18. For example, Barna puts that number at about 64%, with half of those who became Christ-followers before age 13 being led to Christ by their parents.
If this is true, we have a narrow window (less than 20 years) of an extremely fruitful opportunity. While we know that only the Holy Spirit can move a person towards salvation, Christ-followers must also be faithful to the call to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:20). We are commanded to share the message of the Gospel — that Jesus came to die on a cross, so that we can be saved and redeemed from our sin.
Of course, I am not arguing that we should only focus on children, because many (including myself) come to faith later in life. God can work anytime, anywhere. But what better opportunity to make disciples and grow God’s Kingdom than by evangelizing the next generation?
Now, we should examine how effective we are in making disciples of kids. When it comes to helping children become mature followers of Jesus Christ, I think there are two main avenues: parents are the main leaders, while churches come alongside in this endeavor as well. And while many parents and churches (and para-church ministries) are doing well in leading children towards a Christ-centered life, I think that we as a whole are lacking in a number of aspects.
I’m not just referring to things that are clearly missing the mark, such as parents who abuse or neglect their children, or churches that do not have any sort of Bible-based programming. I think the difference between good parenting and great parenting, and between good Children’s Ministry programming and great Children’s Ministry programming, is not always easy to discern.
So, how old were you when you started following Jesus? (I was 19, and My Spiritual Birthday is on July 31..)
For more reading, here is a post on Sharing the Gospel.