Reaching kids for Christ has been at the front of the Sunday school movement from the beginning. Around 1870 in England, Robert Raikes recognized an opportunity where others saw a problem. The streets were filled with unruly poor, uneducated children. Robert’s vision was to educate the children using the Bible to do it. The result was kids coming to know Christ, getting an education and solving a domestic problem in England.
In 2000, I received a call from a church planter in the Los Angeles area. He wanted me to see and hear about what a church in Los Angeles was doing to change their community. In a period of just a few months, the church had reached over 50 children in the community. Almost all of the children had never been to church and they came from homes riddled with dysfunction, drugs, neglect and poverty. Soon the worship service and Sunday school became unruly. To meet the challenge, families were asked to serve as adopted grandparents for the children. The relational approach worked and the children begin to growing in their understanding of the Bible, many accepting Christ.
David Francis, in Missionary Sunday School, points out the parent’s responsibility for the growth and development of their children. For children whose parents are Christian, the Bible indicates the parent has the primary responsible for the spiritual growth and development of their children. Thus, the church and Sunday school are support supplementing the work of the parents. Churches need to equip parents with the tools and skills to be most effective in this important role. A parent will have no greater joy than to lead their child to know Christ as personal Savior. For all the other children in our communities, the Sunday school and other children’s ministries are the only lifelines.
Today, many churches are sitting on golden opportunities to reach children for Christ. Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and many other great ministries are powerful tools for reaching kids. Churches need to survey to opportunities in their communities using demographics, prayer walks, information obtained from community leaders and community assessments. Our world is constantly changing, what was needed in the past may be different today?
In the past two months, I have worked with churches in two communities where the single parent population was high, 40 percent in one community and 31 percent in the other. Both of these churches have set goals to start Sunday school classes for single parents and to focus their preschool and children’s Sunday school ministry on reaching the children of single parents.
A few years ago, I consulted a small church in central California that had almost totally lost their ability to reach children, or so they said. A demographic study revealed 27 percent of the population within a mile of the church was children six to 10 years of age. The Anglo congregation was not considering the potential of the Hispanic children living around them. In reality, almost all the children spoke English, English being the language of choice in over 45 percent their homes. By launching a new weeknight children’s ministry and establishing a new Sunday school time for children, the church quickly reached over 50 children from around the church and increased their Sunday school attendance by 30 percent. By moving to create a new time for children’s Sunday school the small church was able to have access to more rooms. The change made it possible for more adults to serve as workers too.
A missionary Sunday school recognized the advantages to reaching children. Children are open to the Gospel story and eager to accept Christ. When we reach a child, we put a person into God’s service for a lifetime. Many times children are the open door to reaching families. Just like Robert Raikes, many kids will be saved from poverty and dysfunction as a result of coming to know Christ and their person growth in Sunday school.
Tom Belew has served as Small Groups and Childhood Specialist for the California Southern Baptist Convention since 2002. He previously served as Minister of Education in churches in Arizona and California.