Have you heard of the 4 to 14 window? That’s the age when people are most likely to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. In 2015, the National Association of Evangelicals polled their membership to learn at what age members made this most important decision of their lives. 63% made the decision between ages 4 and 14. Other, older studies have a strong showing for decisions by the age of 18 years old and then the numbers drop drastically.
As the church considers missions and evangelistic outreach, are we putting our efforts where they will have the most impact? Do we view children’s ministry as mainly having the kids occupied while we do the more important work with adults?
Recently I spoke with someone who gave the opinion that religious instruction for children is too early, we should let them figure it out on their own someday. Let’s imagine proposing to parents that they not teach children yet about personal hygiene or healthy eating? How about safe practices like riding a bike with a helmet. Let’s not worry about teaching them good manners and communication skills. Don’t worry about teaching them to have empathy for others or how to forgive. Let them figure these things out when they become adults! Should we teach kids math and writing skills? Would we really propose that we not give instruction for physical, social, emotional and mental areas of life? Of course not! We recognize that childhood is the time of life when good habits and attitudes about life are formed, and it’s neglectful to not parent a child well in all areas. So why would we think the spiritual area can wait?
Even very young children experience dilemmas such as what to do with guilty feelings after doing wrong. What makes me valuable or significant? What happens to people when they die? While still adolescent they begin to wonder why am I here? What is life really about? Does God exist? Can I know God? Why do bad things happen? These are big questions and we need to start instilling the answers into young kids, just like we start with counting and addition and work up to algebra. We don’t put off math instruction until age 18 and then try to teach it all at once.
The majority of children are not taken to church, indicating that most people don’t understand that spiritual instruction should be a priority. The amount of spiritual instruction which most children get is tantamount to holding them in Kindergarten their entire upbringing. There is so much to learn about God and His truth in the Bible and how it applies to all of life, there’s no time to lose!
The fact that 63% of people who make this important spiritual decision to become a disciple of Jesus do it before adulthood is not surprising. These are the years when priorities, attitudes, and beliefs about everything are shaped.
Even if a child isn’t taken to church, if he decides to attend Good News Club every week after school, it will have an impact. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6, train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Maybe you’re doing a great job with your own children in the area of spiritual instruction. But what about the 82% of kids out there who are getting little to nothing? Do we care about them? When your kids are grown, they will be rubbing shoulders with those who didn’t get what they needed as kids, and now it’s so hard for them.
When Jesus said that the harvest is great, that many people are ready to receive Him as their Lord and Savior but workers are needed in the field, He had to be talking mostly about children. They are the ones who are most ripe and ready to yield to God, not having been hardened by many years of going their own way. Let’s get farming in the most fruitful harvest field, the 4 to 14 window.
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