by Nancy Tichy, Author for KidZ at Heart
Recently, I tuned into an online conversation some children’s ministry practitioners were having. More than one commented on their older children’s lack of interest in, even resistance to joining adult worship experiences. I wondered what my response might be. In part, it may be that children often view youth events as the place to go for all the fun, so that’s where they want to stay. Yet, so many of them don’t make it through this stage into adulthood with their faith intact. What they encounter in youth ministries is not the reason; something else may be at work here.
By contrast, we get reports from those working among the poorest of the poor in Africa and Asia that tell of children worshiping God fervently. Jesus is real in their lives…lives stripped of most human comforts and even necessities. They delight in prayer. How can their worship be so vibrant when one takes into account that they are often undernourished and certainly under privileged by North American standards? What can we learn from this? Can we find clues that show us how to keep our precious kids – our next generation – in the Household of Faith?
Jesus once taught about how difficult it is for the rich to enter into God’s Kingdom. (Matt. 19:23-30) He likened happiness as something reserved for those who are poor, not only in material things, but in spirit. (Matt. 5:1-12) Could this be our dilemma? We ‘rich’ American Christians want to remain rich and still enter into the joy and fulfillment that Jesus bestows on His Kingdom workers. With great effort we handle the stress that our crowded calendars generate. We consider emotional challenges burdens, but how burdensome also is our load of debt and a lifestyle crowded by the responsibilities that accompany our many possessions.
We can look backwards through the centuries and note how often God stripped His Church of the riches she has placed before her devotion to Him. Are we in the North American Church losing our children because we cling to our material treasures? Does God see us as disheveled beggars hiding our neediness within ermine lined robes? Might we find challenges in the parable Jesus told of the farmer who replaced old barns with newer, larger ones? (Luke 12:15-21)
We may be at risk because we’ve forgotten that the greatest treasure we hold in our earthen cups is not our children. It is, rather, the glory of God. Our Father assures us we can reflect His glory by our godly character and showcase His mighty power by our courageous deeds of compassion to our children, yes, and to the poor and needy. (Matthew 5:16) His clear plan revealed in Scripture is that one generation takes seriously its responsibility to pass this wisdom on to the next. (Psalm 145) This is Kingdom business! And we are assured that if we put His Kingdom first, He will make sure that we have all we really need, both temporal and spiritual. (Matt 6:33)
I’m asking God to help me live this message before my friends and family in a way that is clearer than ever before. Will you join me?