The following is an excerpt taken from The Red Book by Mark Harper.
Think about the kids in your class. Get their faces in your mind. Now
imagine it is 10 years in the future, and those same kids have graduated
from high school.
How many kids in your current class will still be in your church when they turn 18?
How many will stay in church when they become adults?
Statistics show that 20 percent of the kids that grow up in church will stay in church when they become adults. Eighty percent leave the church they grew up in.
I don’t think that 80 percent of our kids backslide. Many of them are attending other churches or have moved to other cities, but we can be more effective in keeping the kids that grow up in church.
When I first started in ministry, I could not think past the next service.
I would make it through Sunday morning, and I would think, Whew, I made it. But then I would wake up on Monday morning in a panic: Oh, no! It’s almost Wednesday! I could never think past the next three days.
One Saturday night I was desperate. I was not ready for Sunday morning, so I was begging God for a new sermon idea, and I heard these words, “All you have is five years to prepare the kids for their teen years.”
Young children are created with a nature to believe, but during their teen years, their faith will be challenged.
They will start to ask questions like:
- “Is God real?”
- “Is the Bible really the Word of God?”
- “Do I believe in God just because my parents do?” Eventually, I began to think more long term. For me “the end” is that the kids in children’s church grow up in church and stay in church when they become adults. I like what Dr. Phil says, “We are not raising kids. We are raising adults.”
Here are some questions you need to ask:
- What can I do to prepare the kids for youth ministry?
- What do strong Christian fifth graders look like?
- What types of skills do they have? Your list may differ from mine, but this is the list I came up with.
These are the skills I want my fifth graders to have:
My kids have a real relationship with Christ. They are confident in their salvation experience. They remember the day they asked Jesus in their hearts.
My kids have the ability to read the Bible for themselves and get something out of it. (Without this skill, they are doomed.)
My kids have confidence in their prayer life. They know how to pray and get answers to their prayers.
My kids attend church weekly because they want to.
My kids have strong Christian friends in the church.
My kids are passionate worshipers of Jesus Christ. They are not concerned about what their peers think.
My kids experience the love of the Father and walk in love toward one another.
- Holy Spirit
My kids know how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, and they want to obey Him.
My kids have a heart for the lost. They don’t just focus on their friends at church, but they reach out to new kids. They know how to pray the prayer of salvation with a peer.
My kids know how to think for themselves and make wise choices. They don’t run to their parents for every decision.
My kids are actively involved in ministry using their gifts in the church.
If this were where I want my fifth graders to be when they graduate to youth ministry, then I need to build my programs and my curriculum around these goals.
I realize that these are high goals for fifth graders, and I realize not every child will reach these goals; but please don’t tell me it can’t be done. I’ve seen too many kids that have graduated to youth with these skills to believe that it’s impossible.
Get a vision for the kids in your class. See them accomplishing great things for God.
If you don’t have a vision for them, then who will?