A Response to ‘Ethics and Cautions in Mission with Children’

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:

Ethics and Cautions in Mission with Children – Dan Brewster

Dan has, in his deep and insightful article given us the biblical and practical perspectives of the challenges we face as we work with children. I want to relate some of his thoughts to the Ethiopian situation. In Ethiopia, child discipleship happens in varied contexts- the home, church, community and orphanages.  I will share a few thoughts about the challenges the Bride of Christ faces in discipling children.

Probably the single most important challenge in discipling  children in the church context has to do with the attitudes of pastors, full time workers and elders of the church.  We see very dramatic changes, compared to the situation in the past, in many spheres of life and in how things are done inside and outside the church today.  The church of today is very different in so many ways from the church of the past. But there is an aspect in which we see little or no change in the way things were done at the time Jesus was doing ministry on earth in person.  We read in the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Mark about the children who were chased away from being part of the preaching of Jesus.  The Disciples of Jesus did not welcome children to where Jesus was. It is in this aspect that not much change is seen in the church today.  Important programs of the church, including worship services are not for children!  The interest and needs of children are hardly taken into consideration when important decisions like church building, utilization of the church compound, budget, policies and action plans of the church  are decided upon. The subtle but disastrous consequence of this attitude is the failure of the church to teach the family about their biblical mandate to chidlren and to build the capacity of the family to disciple their children.

Let me share one challenge that confronts the family’s ability to disciple their children, though the challenge is equally true for other stakeholders on the issue. The impact of modernism and post modernism has galvanized strength through and because of globalization and it is affecting children and their behaviour.  It is becoming clear these days in the Ethiopian context that nobody is sure any more who actually raises our children.  In the old Ethiopia, parents protected their children from things they did not want in many ways.  One most common way of doing so was fencing their compounds so that children were protected from those perceived as dangerous or as sources of potential danger.  The fence also made sure children spent time either alone in their own compounds or with other children in their neighbourhood the parents approved of.  But today, many things come into our homes invisibly and show up on the TV screens, mobile phones and other gadgets and become visible in the behaviour of our children. The fences the Ethiopian used to depend on to protect itself and its children from these powerful, merciless intruders are no help any more.  These are competing for the time, hearts and minds of the children, with the efforts of the ill-equipped and ill-prepared parents who crave to disciple their children.

Shiferaw Michael, Child Development Training and Research Center Ethiopia