SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2012.
YOUTH AND CHILDREN: KEY TO SUSTAINING CHURCH GROWTH
‘Children are heritage, a reward from the Lord’. Ps. 127v3.
THE Anglican Church, nay Church of Nigeria, is adjudged as one of the fastest growing churches in the Communion. Currently, it has about 164 dioceses and boasts of large number of worshippers. Its future in terms of growth (numerical and spiritual) may not be a total guarantee, why? In recent times, it has lost a large number of its youths to new generation churches. More seems to be on their way out. They have various complaints ranging from: dull liturgy, non-vibrant preachers, exclusion of youths in services and programmes of the church, no budgetary allocations to cater for their needs, among others.
No doubt, should our church have a future, its young ones must be planned and catered for.
We need to think and pray seriously about the future of our church, its continued growth and the answer lies in these ones, who will take over from us: in industries, education, politics, ministry, etc. They will sit where we are sitting now and remain faithful to the gospel mandate of: ‘go ye and make disciples of all nations…’ Matt. 28v19ff.
Youth – ‘the period between childhood and adulthood, qualities of vigour, freshness, immaturity’. Some ages put forward are: 14, 16, 17, etc.
Child – (Pl) Children, ‘a young human being below the age of full physical development, a son or a daughter of any age’. Some say 1-13 but not above 14. Usually innocent, trusts, believes easily, forgives, loves and experiments too. For the sake of this paper, youths and children will be fused into one, they are not adults but are young members of the church. You can call them: ‘greater tomorrow’.Indices of a growing Church •Is grounded in a consistent vision and message •Passionately preaches the word of God •Loves to celebrate God’s presence through worship •Fellowships in small groups •Quickly assimilates newcomers •Hold their leaders accountable in personal life and ministry •Takes the Great Commission seriously.
These young ones are to sustain the above. The scripture says: ‘children are heritage, a reward from the Lord’. Ps. 127v3. It is God that gives children and this should give us hope for the future. As long as God blesses us with this group, there is no fear of tomorrow.
As a church we are called upon:
•To teach the children: Deut. 6v6-7, 31v12-13
•To train/nurture: Prov. 22v6
•To allow them to come: Mk. 10v14
The church is not doing much presently, hence the exodus of our young ones to other churches. This is a pointer that the future growth of the church may not be sustained. For me, we seem to concentrate more on buildings, acquisition of expensive cars, payment of assessments and quotas, paying attention to our dressing, and then in love with materialism, etc, rather than focusing on our young ones, who will take over from us. A renowned Anglican teacher Enemo once asked: What are the Anglicans doing?
• What is the content of our teaching? – academic or spiritual?
• What type of training are we offering our children in the light of ICT?
•Do we really budget for our young ones in our churches?
•Do we have time to sit and listen to them sing and dance?
•Who are their tutors and relationship with Christ?
•Are we really concerned about their peers and programmes they watch on the internet, television?
•What constitutes their relaxation packages?
If a growing church like ours must be sustained, we need to do something about our young ones now.
•We need schools owned and run by us to help us catch them young for Christ.
•We need to budget for them.
•We need to keep them busy with Godly programmes and activities.
•We need to make our services interesting, introducing varieties.
•We need to involve ICT, screen projectors, into church settings.
•We must open up a functional counselling unit, which should include career choices.
•We must ensure that they have encounter with Jesus as Lord and personal Saviour.
•We must teach them on how to give including: tithing, offering, sowing of seeds into God’s work.
•We must learn to commend them and not to be judgmental or too
•We must avoid writing people off, rather we must show them love at all times.
•We should also encourage them to live decent lives and dress decently too.
•We must prepare them as battle-axe. For we struggle not against flesh and blood but principalities and powers. Eph. 6v12
•We should encourage our theological colleges to include in their curriculum special training on youths/children.
•Training and retraining of youths/children coordinators, teachers and pastors should be done from time to time.
•We should also ensure that those who look after the youths/children are innovative, spirit-filled, loving, sociable and patient people, etc.
Anglican Church needs to ensure that things concerning their spiritual, physical, social and well-being are not toyed with. Let us prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit of God to help us play our roles and ensure that the church growth is sustained by these greater tomorrow.Ven. Ernest Onuoha Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.