It’s easy to lean in one direction or another when it comes to prioritizing age groups. Preschool is so foundational. It’s when kids are creating their very first impressions of God, church and the Bible. High School is the final stage before they venture off into adulthood. It’s when we have to shore up everything we’ve been working towards. Middle School is a MASSIVE transition. Elementary is so formative. Which one is most important? I don’t know. All I know is that every age is important. Every age has its critical moments.
Elementary though, it’s a big one. Probably because of when the elementary years take place. It’s all about timing, there is no other time like the years a kid will spend in elementary school. Churches are uniquely positioned to make an eternal difference that can’t they afford to miss. Here are three big reasons why.
The church today (and for a very long time) is made of people who put their faith in Jesus when they were children. It is during this elementary school age that kids are most likely to receive Jesus.
For years, church leaders have heard the claim that nearly nine out of ten Christians accept Jesus as their savior before the age of 18. If that statistic was accurate in the past, it no longer depicts U.S. society. The current Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. One out of eight born again people (13%) made their profession of faith while 18 to 21 years old. Less than one out of every four born again Christians (23%) embraced Christ after their twenty-first birthday. Barna noted that these figures are consistent with similar studies it has conducted during the past twenty years. Barna Study
That’s a lot of numbers, but they all point to the same thing. The majority of Christians in the world today became Christians when they were kids. Most of them during the elementary school years. There is even a massive worldwide missions movement called the 4-14 window. Becuase most decisions for faith are made between the ages of 4 and 14, efforts are underway to reach the younger populations of the unreached parts of the world.
People often minimize or discount the young faith of a child. Kids just don’t know enough yet. They can’t comprehend the significance of what Jesus has done. Kids simply mimic and copy what they see their parents or family do. However, this young faith develops and matures and most adults always point back to this new faith as a child as a point of salvation.
Beyond just evangelism, how a person sees the world is cemented in place during the elementary years. If we don’t help kids establish what truth is at this age, it’s far more difficult to change it later.
First, a person’s moral foundations are generally in place by the time they reach age nine. While those foundations are refined and the application of those foundations may shift to some extent as the individual ages, their fundamental perspectives on truth, integrity, meaning, justice, morality, and ethics are formed quite early in life. After their first decade, most people simply refine their views as they age without a wholesale change in those leanings. Bana Study
Moral training is happening in the elementary years. Kids will either learn from a mentor, teacher, or parents. However, they’ll also pick up belief systems from media, friends and other influences. Regardless of intentionality, the moral code will be set before they finish elementary school. This is just more reason for intentional relationships to be in place during the elementary years.
Relationships are significant for kids. From the outside, they may look chaotic, rambunctious or simply random – but there is more happening than you know.
For instance, among Christians who embraced Christ before their teen years, half were led to Christ by their parents, with another one in five led by some other friend or relative. Comparatively few accepted Jesus in response to a minister’s personal prompting (7%) and only one out of eight cited a special event as the turning point in their journey. Among those who mentioned events, about half identified a church service. Just 1% mentioned media evangelism or other special situations as being responsible for their conversion. Barna Study
So many churches and ministries rely upon alter calls, evangelistic events, and other opportunities to see kids come to faith. However, that’s not really where it’s happening. More kids are coming to faith through relational opportunities. The best chance you can give a kid to know and follow Jesus is the platform of a relationship.
Small Groups in Elementary is a big deal. Let’s leverage this short phase in a child’s life for maximum impact.
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