Worldwide, 85% of those who receive Christ do so before the age of 15* and most life-long spiritual values and beliefs are set in place during these same years. No other age group is as open to the gospel. Never again will Christian discipleship make such an impact.
Meanwhile, George Barna, American author and researcher, has spent most of his adult life exploring the relationship between God’s church and his people. Well, his “big” people at least.
After a lengthy career attempting to help church leaders be more effective in their efforts to shepherd adults, Barna hit a wall. His own research showed that the situation was getting worse, not better. What good had research and statistics done to strengthen the church? Seemingly very little.
Then he got an idea. He re-focused his research on children. What he discovered led him to conclude, “All those years I hadn’t just missed the boat. I’d missed the ocean!” His findings have been published in the landmark book, Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions.
In fact, he discovered that the childhood years may be our last significant opportunity to make major impact in the lives of people for the kingdom of God. Barna declares: “Children’s Ministry is one of the primary mission fields of the church today.”** And children may well be the missions movement of tomorrow!
What Barna discovered scientifically is what most of us who have worked with the spiritual formation of children have known intuitively for many years. But now we had proof! George Barna’s research confirmed the incredible importance of evangelizing and discipling children at a very early age.
- “The importance of building strong spiritual foundations at an early age is confirmed…There was virtually no difference between the spiritual standing of adults and those exiting their childhood years…In other words, by the age of 13, your spiritual identity is largely set in place.”***
- “By the age of nine, most of the moral and spiritual foundations of a child are in place.”****
- “If you want to shape a person’s life – whether you are most concerned about his or her moral, spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional or economic development – it is during these crucial eight years [5-12 years of age] that lifelong habits, values, and attitudes are formed.*****
This is why KidZ at Heart exists. To equip people to reach and teach kids for Christ…before it’s too late for them!
Perhaps this is why Jesus commanded his disciples not to prevent the children from coming to him. Jesus loves the little children…all the children of the world!
*Larry Sharp, Children in Crisis, p. 249.
**George Barna, “Leading Your Church Forward,” The Barna 2003 Seminar.
***Barna, Transforming Children, p. 38.
****Barna, p. 58.
*****Barna, p. 18.