Sunday, January 25, 2009

Catch'em Early

In the movie "The Untouchables," Sean Connery delivers the insightful line, "If you're afraid of getting a rotten apple, don't grab one out of the barrel; pick it off the tree." For this reason, those who work in ministries directed at children have historically been justified in finding in it a particularly satisfying calling. Statistics produced by evangelical demographers have demonstrated that the probability rises of someone accepting Christ as their savior, and developing as a believer if they're converted when still young. This by no means constitutes a guarantee that children will either be converted who are targeted for ministry, or that they will grow into mature believers later on. Nevertheless, participation in the missio Dei requires that one be focused toward effective and strategic impact on the next generation. Catching them early is a highly strategic use of energy in the advancing kingdom of God.

Unfortunately, it is often the case that ministries to children receive the least attention to excellence in a church. This can be due to many factors, but among the most lamentable is the fact that the children cannot offer constructive feedback. Adults will certainly "vote with their feet" if the teacher in their class is sub-par, but children have little recourse. Therefore, perceiving this a less demanding arena, churches channel "volunteers" into this ministry who would never last elsewhere. This amounts to applying our slackest efforts to the most strategic of callings.

This cannot be so among us. At Gateway Fellowship we had better apply the best of ourselves to this important demographic of the Church. For it is this age group that will enact the necessary reforms that the 21st century church needs in western culture. The language of "volunteer" must give way to that of "ministry staff." The arbitrary fact that some leaders are paid to equip the ministry staff does not demand any less professionalism from those on the "front lines" of developing the spiritual maturity of our children. The mandate for leaders to equip, train and empower workers in the gospel applies very strongly to Christ's younger disciples. I pray we are up to the task.

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