When we share our tagline, of God’s Word, Every Child, sometimes people ask whether or not it’s important for us to reach adults as well. “Why only focus on kids?” they ask.
God sees children as incredibly important. For better or worse, so does the rest of the world…
A few years ago, I attended a Fortune 500 conference. The conference’s overarching theme insisted that to make your brand successful, you have to make sure it’s ingrained in children by the time they are eight years old. Brand didn’t matter; it could be Apple or Nike or Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Any brand that you want to sell to adults 15 years from now must be instilled in children right now.
Bottom line of the conference was: branding a product in the mind of a child equals a consumer for life.
I believe the same principle applies in the spiritual world.
For years, the American church anecdotally accepted that 80% of adult Christians had made their decision for Christ prior to age 18. This motivated American believers to present the gospel to what appeared to be the most fertile mission field—children—who were most likely to respond to a salvation message.
What we know today is that window for reaching children and youth with the gospel has narrowed considerably. The 4/14 Movement concluded that some 71% of America’s believers chose Christ between the ages of four and fourteen.
Renowned researcher, George Barna, found that a child’s moral development is set by the age of 9. Barna wrote that “habits related to the practice of one’s faith develop when one is young and change surprisingly little over time” and “the older a child gets, the more distracted and vulnerable he or she becomes to non-family influences.”[i] The fortune 500 Marketers were right: young people make their choices early and after that, they are set in their ways and their worldview is established.
If we want to expand the kingdom of God to the next generation, we have to get it into their heads and hearts long before the window of opportunity closes. Luis Bush of the 4/14 Window Global Initiative suggests that the children should be exposed to the Gospel when they are old enough to understand their choice and choose Jesus, and when they are so old that they already have their worldview permanently established. That doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit cannot move the heart of anyone at any age. It just means that the most efficacious way of presenting Christ to the next generation is by making sure we engage them with His Word within that window.
Like Anya, who received our children’s Scripture book at age 6 in Russia. She had many questions after reading about the life of Jesus, so she attended church to get her questions answered and ended up accepting Christ. She then brought her 8-year-old brother, Anton, to church, where he also chose to follow Christ. Anya shared all about church and her newfound knowledge of Jesus to her grandmother named Rimma—a devout Orthodox. Rimma was curious how it could be called “church” if the participants didn’t pray to icons, light candles or memorize prayers. Anya responded, “Granny, God is everywhere! You can pray to Him even here. He is alive. My book says this.
Following Anya’s example, Rimma went to church to try and get her questions answered, asking the pastor many questions. She, too, understood and accepted Christ, and realized the church is not just a building full of icons to recite prayers, but rather a place where God’s love is joyfully celebrated and every believer has access to the Father. Rimma’s husband, who had never believed in God nor attended the Orthodox church, saw a transformation in his wife and grandchildren that drew him to church to find out more about their life change and he also accepted Christ! Now the entire family, even an incarcerated uncle whom Anya mailed a Book of Hope, have become believers!
Anya’s story makes it so clear that very young children can understand the gospel and share their faith—even becoming missionaries to their entire families!
You might also like:
- A Christian Theology of children
- 5 tips to make your children’s ministry more effective
- This changes everything! Bible App for Kids
- Why is it so hip for a kid to be an atheist?
- Children in crisis: Syria
 4/14 Movement, 4/14 Window News, October 2009, http://4to14window.com/newsletter/volumn01/issue10 (accessed May 23, 2012)
[i] Barna G 2003. Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions. Ventura: Regal Books.