This is my final post in the series “Making Evangelism Less Fuzzy”. In the introductory post I suggested 3 broad contexts or “fishing pools” that a church interacts with – Friends, Neighbours and Kids. “Friends” are those people with whom we have an existing relationship. “Neighbours” are those people who live in proximity to your church’s meeting place, but whom you don’t know personally. Now about evangelism with our kids.
To say that we need to evangelism our children is to invite the wrath of the blogosphere. I’m not trying to saying that they’re not saved. I am saying that these are a significant group to whom God sends us, with whom we have (some!) influence, among whom we have the challenge of making disciples. They are right there under our noses!
And yet we can neglect to ‘count’ children’s and youth ministries as mission! It should not be so. Young people are open to the gospel (most adult Christians first responded to the gospel in their childhood). They are incredibly valuable to God. And incredibly important, because they have a whole life ahead of them for good or evil. Win a person on their death-bed to the Lord, and you’ve saved a soul. Win a child, and potentially you have saved hundreds, millions. “We see the apple in the tree, but do we see the tree in the apple” and all that.
The idea of identifying “fishing pools” or mission contexts is just a suggestion to help churches more clearly (less fuzzily) identify where they are putting their efforts, and where they might want to put more or less effort. If a small church were to do only one thing, then it’s hard to go past children’s ministry. Famous evangelist D.L.Moody said “If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!”
In fact, it’s not so much that we should add “Kids” to the bottom of the list of pools, as that we could model more effective mission among Friends and Neighbours on what we already do with our kids. Ministry to young people is the one area of church life that got “missional” – was approached in a missionary manner – decades before the missional church discussion bloomed. We instinctively knew that kids were “particular creatures” who needed to be reached in particular ways, and so we looked for the right language, the right time of week, the right physical spaces to bring the gospel to them. (Even those who most fear and decry contextualization as “watering down the gospel” don’t read to their kids straight from Calvin; they think nothing of Bible story-books with pictures of Noah’s ark with mandatory giraffe’s head poking out the top, no sign of dead bodies floating in the water, and less than the full Biblical text in them.)
We have acted as missionaries to the next generation for a long time, and may it continue with increasing excellence. Those who serve in youth and children’s ministry in our churches are worthy of honour as well as police checks. These ministries are worthy of significant amounts of a churches resources, and we should consider it good mission.