The Cape Town Commitment and Children

The Cape Town Commitment arose from the 2010 gathering of the Lausanne Movement For World Evangelisation. It included significant reference to children. This event, which first took place in 1974 occurs about every 15 years and helps set the agenda for mission thinking in the following decades. 
 Part of the task of groups such as the Global Children’s Forum is to help contribute to the event and help others apply it’s insights. At a gathering in Lausanne in May 2014 Dave Roberts, a participant on behalf of children’s ministries from around Europe, applied the document to children’s ministry in 5 ways:

The birthrates in our communities are going to change the religious climate of the world over the next 30 years. Among the recent research on the effect of falling birthrates emerges the analysis of Eric Kaufmann who published his research in Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth. The exception to the falling birth rates, he notes, are moderate or highly devout Christian, Jewish and Muslim families. He says ‘It is not that fundamentalists have suddenly begun to have more children. It is just that others are having fewer’. He also notes that while not all the children will follow the religion of their parents they will tend to drift away slowly in a more religious society, over decades, rather than simply rejecting outright the faith of their communities.

This will mean that there will be significant change in social, religious and cultural climate of many nations around the world. There will be an urgent need to equip our leaders and church members for life in a more religious but more diverse society. The Cape Town Commitment calls us as follows:

Understanding other worldviews:We urge Church leaders and pastors to equip all believers with the courage and the tools to relate the truth with prophetic relevance to everyday public conversation, and so to engage every aspect of the culture we live in.

Ministry to children will mean many different types of conversation in a highly diverse society. What resources do we need to provide to the church to help foster helpful responses to children and families from other faith backgrounds, who might form a larger part of our society in the years ahead. As this type of encounter becomes more common we also need to hear the words of the  Cape Town Commitment with respect to:

Ethical Evangelism:  We commit ourselves to be scrupulously ethical in all our evangelism. Our witness is to be marked by ‘gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.’ We therefore reject any form of witness that is coercive, un-ethical, deceptive, or disrespectful.

What might this mean in your town or nation. Can you identify the issues that might arise in ministry to children who come from non churchgoing or other faith families. What about other faith perspectives within the broader umbrella of Christianity. How might people be equipped to be ethical in this sphere? Another area of change may concern schools as a more religious society seeks greater influence in education. As we think about the future of ministry to children are there thinkers, forums and gatherings in our nations that will help us contribute to the debate about schooling and religion? These forums will need to think carefully about the Biblical perspective on the child.

The Cape Town commitment also calls us to:

Make Children Visible. Take children seriously, through fresh biblical and theological enquiry that reflects on God’s love and purpose for them and through them, and by rediscovering the profound significance for theology and mission of Jesus’ provocative action in placing ‘a child in the midst’.

Could you and others create resources, events, networks and courses that might advance the goal above and mission to children.  What would a 5,10 and 15 year plan for the above look like in your nation? There will need to be concrete actions and a commitment to training those who lead our churches and work with children. Once again the Cape Town commitment notes:

Training: Seek to train people and provide resources to meet the needs of children worldwide, wherever possible working with their families and communities, in the conviction that holistic ministry to and through each next generation of children and young people is a vital component of world mission.

Focus on two words in the above statement. Train – make an inventory of training in your nation. What is covered well and what is missing in that training for local church workers. Who are the key influencers already and how can their efforts reach more people? Holistic – Are you are aware of ministry models in your nation that are orientated towards children and their families. How many are social care projects, how many are community building – such as sport and how many are focused on Bible orientated activities? Does one model predominate?
This reminds us to reflect on the role of the church as an advocate for the child : The Cape Town Commitment reminds us:

 Expose, resist, and take action against all abuse of children, including violence, exploitation, slavery, trafficking, prostitution, gender and ethnic discrimination, commercial targeting, and wilful neglect.

Are there projects in your nation that seek to address the issues noted in the paragraph above? How can the local church respond to and take action about these issues in their locality and in their nation? How might you or your network of churches deepen their understanding of these issues and respond within their local communities?