MARCH 10, 2018 BY SARAHBETH CAPLIN
What is one of the most important aspects of church ministry today? Evangelizing kids during the “4 to 14” window, according to Steve S. Chang of The Gospel Coalition. That window contains the ages when evangelists believe they have the best chance of reaching (or indoctrinating) children. They start asking too many tough questions after age 14, I suppose.
That’s why we’ve seen a proliferation of Good News Clubs — Christian clubs that form in elementary schools. Those kids will do whatever you tell them. And if they’re too young to think critically, the thinking goes, it’s the perfect time to teach them about religion.
It’s a strange concept, though. Many adults don’t have religion fully figured out, yet they believe a four-year-old is capable of understanding and accepting Jesus? The idea of “letting kids be kids” and letting them make a decision about faith when they’re ready to do it is downright heretical to the Gospel Coalition crowd.
That’s why Chang urges fellow Christians to preach to the children.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen among those who have a heart for the lost is that they don’t see the children in their own church as lost. Every child, even the cute ones in our Sunday schools, need the gospel. Our goal is not just to get the children into church, but into Christ.
God forbid kids just focus on climbing trees, playing in the sandbox, or learning the ABCs. Eternal life is at stake; they could fall off the monkey bars and die tomorrow without having the correct understanding of Christian theology!
That also means these Christians believe those kids will burn in Hell for eternity if they don’t reach them. (It’s the “good news”!)
Chang also urges local churches to get involved in saving kids in the community.
Religious education in our society is mostly limited to the home and church. If churches and parents don’t reach children, who will?
Their friends? Their teachers? Everyone else in their life?
I’m also amused by Chang’s comment that religious education is “limited” to church. Yeah, of course it is. Where else should it be?
Then again, this narrow theology doesn’t allow for much life outside of church to begin with.
Based on what Chang says about children as young as four being “lost,” though, I’m going to assume that many children’s first impression of his church is fear. It never occurs to him that this approach, which really comes across as brainwashing, will lead children to embrace their parents’ belief system as a method of “fire insurance” rather than genuine love of God.
Not only that, what does it say about Chang’s brand of religion that children have to be targeted at this age, before they’re old enough to ask tough questions? There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with parents teaching their beliefs to their children — we all do it — but I would much rather children of mine share my beliefs out of their own volition, not because Mommy threatened them with eternal torment if they didn’t.