Take the Children Everywhere Challenge
My guess is that everyone reading this article has a desire to see children everywhere walking with Jesus. We long to see children – in our neighbourhood, in our country, across the world – thriving in a loving relationship with God, coming to know His truth and experiencing His presence in whatever circumstances they face. We know that this is what they need, and we are willing to do whatever we can to help them on this journey. But what do they need from us? How can we put our efforts where they are most helpful? How can we walk with them as they walk with Jesus?
This has become a pressing question in today’s rapidly changing world. This generation of children is significantly different to generations before them in their experiences, skill-set and world-view. What we as adults assume about children and childhood may be quite different to the realities around us. What worked for us probably won’t work for the children of today.
Because we are all busy and life is progressing at an ever-increasing speed, we don’t always take a lot of time to think about the implications of this on our ministry practice. It is easy to keep plodding along doing what we have always done because we are not sure what else to do. Sometimes we see a new program in action and are drawn to its freshness and energy. We dump everything we are currently doing and start all over again, hoping to give our ministry fresh life and momentum. Probably most of us dabble, trying out a bit of this and a bit of that, hoping that something will eventually catch on and work. All these responses are understandable and sometimes do result in effective ministry.
However, these approaches focus mainly on the WHAT? and HOW? questions of ministry with children. The more fundamental question is WHY? Do we really know why we are doing what we are doing – why we have the goals we do, why something is good practice, why certain approaches will or won’t work in our context. It is critical for the Body of Christ – globally and locally – to stop, take a deep breath and reflect on the WHY? questions. We need to find the time and space to think about some key issues: to increase our knowledge of our children and their unique needs; to better understand the process of spiritual growth as given to us in the Bible and how to apply that to the life stage of childhood; to have a clearer vision of what God desires to do in and through children. Then, and only then, will we be in a position to effectively help them to walk with Jesus. We will know why we are doing what we are doing and how to adjust that as life changes.
As the Global Children’s Forum has explored this need, we have crystallised our thinking under five headings which correspond to the five words of our slogan. This has raised some key questions.
CHILDREN – seeing them through God’s eyes
Every child is uniquely made in God’s image and loved by Him. We need to know and value them as He does if we are to help them walk with Jesus.
How well do I know the children around me, understand their world and allow their voices to be heard and acted upon?
EVERYWHERE – entering their world
Broken environments lack the safety and nurture that children need. The Good Shepherd longs for children to walk among green pastures and quiet waters where they can thrive.
Are we creating environments of safety and nurture where children can thrive even in the midst of challenging circumstances?
WALKING – growing on the journey
Learning to walk with Jesus can happen anywhere, at any time, with anyone – or alone. Both formal and informal learning experiences are vital to developing deep roots in God that will enable children to stand strong.
As I explore life and faith with children, do I demonstrate creativity, relevance and a confidence that God speaks to them through the Bible and prayer and life experiences?
WITH – thriving through relationships
God seeks a relationship with every child. As we walk along with them, we support them and help them to make sense of life and faith.
Do I see my relationships with children as opening possibilities for them to have life-changing experiences with God?
JESUS – bringing Jesus to others
As children walk with Jesus, they bring Him and His message of hope into their world. They can share Him in places and ways that adults can’t.
Am I overlooking the contribution children can make to the Great Commission and the life of the Body of Christ?
These are not the only questions which need to be explored, but they help us to begin to explore the issues which we hope will enable churches and organisations to engage in more intentional, thoughtful ministry. Ministry resources and programs are great, and more are always needed. But before we choose what we want to do, we need to understand why we want to do it and why it will be effective in helping children to walk with Jesus.
The desire of the Global Children’s Forum is to help the Body of Christ to think through these issues. We have created a 7-week small group study to look at these five areas and help you to think about them in the context of your local situation. These sessions do not promote any particular program or resource because different situations will need different things. They are not really a training program either. Instead they ask a lot of questions and give people an opportunity to explore their own context and possibly challenge some assumptions about what is needed to help children on their journey with Jesus.
To be most effective, these studies should be explored in a mixed group of parents, teachers, church or organisational leadership and even children. It is important to give the group time to reflect and look at some practical applications. For this purpose, each session includes an activity to do between sessions which takes the ideas explored into everyday life. These might involve interacting with children, exploring what is currently being done and thinking about possibilities. The final session takes time to review what the group has discovered and make some concrete plans for the future.
While the most comprehensive results will come through doing the sessions as planned, it is also possible to choose just some of the activities to do as part of a training or planning day. Any time spent in stopping and thinking about WHY you are doing what you are doing will be extremely worthwhile and increase the likelihood that in your context, there will be children everywhere walking with Jesus.
The Children Everywhere Challenge sessions can be found on the Children Everywhere website at: www.childreneverywhere.com/challenge/. There is both a facilitator’s guide and a student workbook. They are currently available in Albanian, English, French, Hindi, Portuguese and Spanish.