Thursday, March 12, 2015

Keys to Open nextGEN Hearts

Looking through the congregation I noted that most hair was gray and silence filled the nursery. Roughly 25% of the churches in the North Central Conference will have this experience. I am graying. I like gray. But it makes me wonder what we can do more effectively to be Christlike in bidding little children to come and receive the joyous blessings of a caring community.
NCC pastors and delegates have focused this conference year 2014-2015 upon retooling ministry to the nextGEN. Sometimes this is interpreted as hire a youth pastor or start a Bible study on a nearby college campus. We need to think younger. Much younger.
   The simple fact is, most Christians got that way (made an intentional decision to follow Jesus) as children. The actual statistics per the Barna Group show that 43% of all adult Christians began that journey with a decision to follow Jesus before the age 13. More than 2/3rds of believers launched their faith journey before they were 18. Less than 25% of Christ-followers began following after the age of 21.
   Most children “gave their hearts” to Jesus as they prayed to do so with their mom or dad. Family continues to play the single most influential role in the formation of faith and spiritual character. Fewer than 8% of “child converts” report making their decision to follow Jesus as a result of a sermon preached or a particular evangelistic outreach.
   Parents are the prime key to open nextGEN hearts. Mom, how are you sharing the good news with your child? Dad, your example and invitation to enter into Christlife have an inestimable impact. What are you modeling?
   If your church desires to launch an effective and supportive ministry to children (which is as vitally important to parents as their offspring) but your stymied, not sure where to start, here is a suggestion.
   Contact our Children’s Ministries Director, Bethany Abbott who leads the children’s ministries of the Monee IL FMC. She can help, and share some of what is most effective in terms of child evangelism, discipleship and programs like Awana and Vacation Bible School.