To facilitate a truly global conversation, we ask Christian leaders from around the world to respond to the Global Conversation’s lead articles. These points of view do not necessarily represent the Lausanne Movement. They are designed to stimulate discussion from all points of the compass and from different segments of the Christian community. Please add your perspective by posting a comment so that we can learn and grow together in the unity of the Spirit.
A response to:
Big Vision Simple Ideas – Wendy Strachan
I wonder how we could incorporate this idea more centrally into the missional focus of the church…
My wife and I are from India and have been involved with ministry initiatives like Samaritan’s Purse – Operation Christmas Child, The Mailbox Club, Kids Clubs, sports and games programs where there was a big vision, but carried out through simple ideas, and they’ve all proved to be very effective in reaching children. The common thread we have seen in most of the above initiatives is that the Gospel was taken to the children where they were, rather than them being invited to come to church to hear it.
I wonder how evangelism would be different if we prioritised friendship on our ‘agenda’ with children…..
Seeing we reach out to children from other faiths we’ve found that it’s important to reach them in a neutral setting. We’ve also found that building a relationship with the children is very effective and non-threatening as well. We’ve even decided to prioritise relationship over curriculum as it’s through our relationship with them that real teaching takes place. The reasoning behind this approach is simple – everything that we do to reach and disciple children, stems from our relationship with Christ, and it’s also into this relationship with Christ that we invite them. So, what better way to do this than through building a relationship with them in the first place. We’ve called this approach we’ve taken Relational Ministry and we even train leaders in this method of ministry to children. It has meant visiting the children in their homes, getting in touch with their families, helping them with issues they have in their lives – be it education, health, training, counselling, etc. We’ve seen that this move to build relationship with the children and their families opens doors to the Gospel like nothing else.
I wonder what questions arise for you as you offer Christ-like compassion to children….
We’ve seen how compassion out of genuine love for a child can impact not only a child but also his family as well. There was a boy named Sathish from another faith who joined our club when he was 3 yrs of age; he developed a strong faith in Jesus but was inflicted with Blood Cancer the next year. The leaders of the kids club extended help and love to both him and his family during his battle with the disease for 2 years. The boy’s faith only grew stronger but sadly, he died at the age of 6. The good thing is that he died believing in Jesus. What we found was that the family is now much more open to Christ and the Gospel than they were before. What seems to have impacted the mother the most is the love and care of many of the leaders of the kids club during their tough times.
I wonder whether we have created an artificial distinction between evangelism and discipleship when Jesus’ invitation is to follow Him through life…..
It is only of late that I’ve come to realise that I’ve had a very strong distinction-approach to evangelism and discipleship (sometimes the distinction does exist and sometimes the lines are blurred). Over time we’ve come to realise that Jesus did not seem to take that approach and discipleship and evangelism took place at the same time. This is so true in our context of ministry to children from other faiths where they are not allowed to make a public declaration of their new-found faith until they are adults.
I wonder if we could – for example – recover the lost art of simply spending time with children – talking, laughing, exploring their tough questions together, being a witness to each other’s lives…….
We’ve seen how spending time with boys in our Kids Club has helped them grow in their relationship with God. Two young men (now over 20 yrs of age) who joined us when they were just 13 are now believers, attending church, and grown to become good leaders in more ways than one.
If we took into account the variety of circumstances children find themselves in, I wonder what different shapes of ‘Christian community’ might emerge that would provide long-term discipling for children…..
Recently we’ve had to change the format of our Kids Club on Saturdays since the older kids were feeling a bit out of place and some even stopped attending – so we’ve started a youth group for both boys and girls 15 yrs and older and have found that a change in this format has resulted in them enjoying their time of learning together a lot more.
I wonder how partnering with others is changing the way you engage in mission with children in the church, your denomination, your organisation…..
I wonder what impossible dreams will become possible as we continue to put aside our differences and work together as the one body of Christ – for the sake of children….
One of the greatest lessons we’ve learnt over time is the beauty and necessity of partnership in ministry to children. At the moment the focus is on relational partnership at the leadership level where children’s ministry leaders from across the city come together for times of relationship building and fellowship, but the even newer initiative that has emerged is proving children’s ministry training for Sunday School Teachers by the combined effort of the Children’s Ministry Network. Further, the entire ownership of these training programmes is being taken by local churches in different pockets of the city, thereby minimising expenses on any one church or organisation and also increasing the effectiveness of the training programme. This has developed only since August this year and so far we’ve seen over 250 Sunday school teachers from over 50 churches in 4 different localities in the city trained. We hope to share this model across the country through the National Children’s Network that has been set up to help facilitate the setting up of Children’s Ministry Networks in every city, town and village in India.
This partnership had its roots in the fact that the task of reaching and discipling the children of our nation is so huge that there’s no way any church or organisation could do it alone. Furthermore, we realised that we as the body of Christ and He is building His church and His Kingdom and the only way this can happen is if we decide to work together in real love and unity.
Michael Collins, Gospel Mission of India