In his devotional book, The Chosen, Dwight Nelson shares the following statistic regarding people who have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior: 75 percent of all Christians in America today accepted Christ before the age of 14. This means that three out of four men and women who are Christians chose Him as their Savior sometime between birth and 13 years of age. The conclusion is that the most fertile, receptive target group of all spiritual endeavor is before a child turns 14. The most successful evangelistic field is among children; and the most significant investment the church can make is to pour its resources and personnel into the lives of the youngest. We need to realize that Christ’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom are heavily investing in our children.
George Barna, the Christian demographer, compiles some interesting statistics in his book, Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions: Why Children Should Be Your Church’s #1 Priority. He states that of the 31 million children in the 5-12 age bracket, more than four out of five use a computer regularly in school. Kids between ages 2 and 7 average nearly 25 hours per week consuming mass media, with the number jumping to 48 hours a week for ages 8-13. Fortyfour percent of all preteens admit they have no role model. When naming the three most important people in the world to them, only one out of three names a mother or father; yet nine out of 10 say they get along well with parents, and one-third of 8- to 12-year-olds say they want to spend more time with their mother. These are sobering statistics.
Another interesting discovery I have made concerns the South Pacific Division, where our first quarter 13th- Sabbath mission offering was designated. On the back of the Sabbath School Quarterly for first quarter one can find the following regarding the large continent of Australia and the island of Papua New Guinea (PNG): the population of Australia is 22,674,000, and the population of PNG is 6,888,000. In Australia there are 421 churches; in PNG, 904 churches. There are 98 companies in Australia and 2,812 in PNG. Church membership in Australia is 56,741; in PNG church membership is 247,756. How does one account for the difference?
According to the Mission Quarterly, ever since Adventists first began work in PNG, education has been the focus of outreach. There are numerous primary, middle, and secondary schools and a college dotting the island. They are committed to education because it is recognized that our schools are the greatest evangelistic effort there is.
Many of our students, upon graduation from academy, choose to attend a secular college rather than an Adventist college. Is Adventist education cost prohibitive? Lifestyle prohibitive? How do we keep students in our educational system and gain a better chance of keeping them in the church, or more importantly, in a vital, growing relationship with Jesus? We can help in this process by mentoring them, realizing their potential, working with them in service, involving them in church, and being the example they look for. All of this involves the family, school, and church working together for our young people.
And vital to all of this is keeping our schools going and growing, supporting them with our finances, volunteering, praying, and being committed to our schools and their leaders.
If a small island in the South Pacific recognizes the value of Christian education as an evangelistic tool for growing the kingdom of God, how much more should we have the same vision for our youth and the growing of God’s kingdom in our corner of the world.
Roberta Merrow is a retired English/religion teacher.