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WHEN I GROW UP

by Natalie Rogge

Your small pebble in the pond of one child's life may send out ripples that eventually transform many others. – Wes Stafford
Standing at the back of our newly built church facility, a Children’s and Youth Centre, I watched from the shadows as a row of children sat along the edge of the platform awaiting a turn for their age group to burst the Mexican piñata and discover all it held. It was New Year’s Eve. The event: “The Whole World Celebrates.” My gaze focused on children whose nationalities were as diverse as the countries we were featuring that night. As I admired their interaction with one another, my mind’s eye raced forward 20 years and I began to picture the potential each child possessed. One a doctor, another a principal, the third a politician ... a university professor, a national sports figure, a moviemaker, a songwriter, a corporate CEO, an author, a lawyer, a marketing genius and a computer genius. Before me sat twelve lives, each with endless opportunities to influence others.

As I reflected on each young life, the question in my mind was not necessarily which child would be a pastor or missionary, but more important a disciple who makes other disciples. On the eve of a new year about to dawn, I needed to ask myself, “Are we (pastors, teachers and parents) effectively equipping this generation to fulfil the mission Jesus is calling them to?

The mission is clear: “come” and “follow.” For the twelve who followed the Master and chose to enter into close relationship with Him, their new title of “disciple” outweighed any societal responsibility that had been theirs. Their ability to fish or collect taxes was quickly downplayed by their desire simply to be obedient and learn from all that was modelled before them. Their new assignment was to watch, listen, learn and do likewise.

From the moment a child is old enough to be aware of what’s going on in their surroundings, they naturally begin to replicate and reiterate words, actions, attitudes and behaviour. Disciple making is all about reproduction. It is not a project or a program as much as it is a way of living. It’s about doing life together and including others in the journey, no matter how young they may be.

In the words of Pam McArthur, Children’s Specialist for the Western Ontario District of the PAOC ...

Meaningful discipleship is not a program purchased in a box. Discipleship is a lifestyle, a standard of living that has declined in this world of “self” that we live in. Disciples are passionate and committed followers of Christ.
I fear that until we, as leaders, parents, and congregations, set ourselves apart from the egocentricity of the world and wholeheartedly set our sights on the things of God—both inside and outside the walls of the church—our children will see the duality of our Christian walk and want nothing of it. This younger generation is looking for something authentic, something real. Until we are willing to model, teach and celebrate all that a true disciple is, our children won’t be inclined to say,“When I grow up,I want to be...a disciple of Christ.”


The change starts with us. Imagine what would happen if each of us committed to being a disciple of Christ in all that we said and did; if we made a decision to model this lifestyle to the generations around us; if we committed to bringing others along on this spiritual journey of adventure—letting them see the failures, the miracles and the blessings up close and personal. Can you imagine if, over the course of this year, we intentionally decided that our ministry was no longer going to be our job but our life...and we began to live that life on our streets and in our communities? The next generation wants to model their lives after real people they admire and can learn from. Discipleship begins with us. It’s up to you and me to make this dream our reality.

“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)

Recommended Reading and Resources:

Parents’ Guide to the Spiritual Growth of Children by Focus on the Family
The Fabulous Reinvention of Sunday School by Aaron Reynolds
The Last Christian Generation by Josh McDowell, David H. Bellis
Re·Create: Building a Culture in your Home Stronger Than the Culture Deceiving Your Kids by Ron Luce

Looking for strong foundational and truly Pentecostal discipling materials for children? Check out Radiant Life Sunday School resources (www.radiantlife.org) and HighPoint or Beginning and Young Explorers discipleship curriculum (www.gospelpublishing.com).

To order any of these resources, call Corinne Storms, your Customer Service Representative, at Wordcom Christian Resources: (905)-542-7400, ext. 4248. By doing so, you are supporting Mission Canada and helping us effectively reach our nation.

“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)
Is history repeating itself?

As a district leader, Kathy Maietta, Children’s Specialist in the PAOC’s Eastern Ontario District, shares some insightful thoughts:
Statistics reveal that the upcoming generation is lacking in biblical knowledge and basic fundamental beliefs. Identifying contributing factors is paramount in unveiling the potential of a generation deficient of biblically sound doctrine and an authentic relationship with God. Relationship is essential. We are seeing a generation that has more means of communication than ever before, yet research exposes that they are desperate for relationship.

Relationship was the foundation of Christ’s ministry on earth as He led twelve ordinary men to become His extraordinary disciples. Yet across our nation, ministry to children is carried out by teams who commit on a monthly basis, or sometimes less, to the spiritual nurturing of the most impressionable members of our churches. In observing this convenient model of ministry, biblical truths are being taught but without regular and genuine connection with students. Sadly, strong relationships are not built. It is time we ask ourselves the question, “When auth- enticity is modelled, is the student/teacher relationship, directly connected to spiritual formation?”

It has been said that “students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Consider your favourite Sunday school teacher. What impacted you more: their lesson time or their godly character and consistent care for you? Perhaps today’s more common model of rotating individuals or teams—while it gets the job done and seems to present an alternative in a society less willing to commit to more than a couple hours a month—is producing a less than desirable result.

Interestingly, consistent commitment without a relationship that is transparent and genuine seems to have the identical effect on this generation. A leader who is present on a weekly basis but does not demonstrate a real and genuine Christian life or commitment to care for their students is quickly rejected. This generation is seeking role models who demonstrate a life worthy of imitating and will not hesitate to identify hypocrisy.

The church, however, cannot assume total responsibility for a biblically illiterate or spiritually declining generation. Parents must be the primary influencers in their children’s lives. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 gives clear instructions to parents: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Impress these commandments on your children ...”

As parents, we must understand that what impresses us will, in turn, impress our children. Influence is a powerful force. Scripture continues to instruct parents: “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Clearly, the teaching of God’s Word is a responsibility placed upon parents and must not be transferred solely to the church or its leadership. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that parents, in partnership with the church body, must live out authentic relationships with God and with one another. Together, we must commit to the spiritual development of the next generation of Christ followers, regularly and with great care. It is then that we will see the stats and facts which reflect decline turn around.

So where does it begin and how do you measure success? It begins at the cradle. Success will be measured down the road when: pilots are heard to be sharing faith journeys with their entire crew; doctors are relying more on the power of God than on medicine itself; moviemakers are upholding godly values on the big screen; authors are incorporating Bible-based principles for living in their writing; and there are many more pastors and missionaries.

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NATALIE ROGGE
is National Coordinator for Children’s Ministries, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada
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