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Opening the 4/14 Window

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A friend recently introduced me to the 4/14 Global Missions Movement. When I visited the 4/14 website I was struck by the fact that nearly 50% of the world’s population are under 20 years of age – indicating that children are the largest people group in the world yet to be connected with Christ!

In Canada, 65% of Canadian Christian adults came to faith in Christ before they were 12 years old and 80% came to faith in Christ before they were 19 years old (Child Evangelism Fellowship). Worldwide, 71% of Christians commit their lives to Christ before the age of 15 and an additional 10% before the age of 19. Only 19% of Christians come to faith in Christ as adults (Based on a study by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1996).

With these statistics in mind, one would think that the majority of the efforts to connect people with Christ would be child focused. But they’re not. Most of what we do is geared to adults. Look at any local church budget and you’ll see that pastor’s salaries (those who are teaching/preaching adults), buildings (where the largest and “most important” space with the best audio visual system is the place where the adults meet), and adult related programs are the big ticket items.

Our priorities are back to front. A new focus is needed for a new era. How long will it be until we wake up to the fact that each successive generation in the Western world has fewer Christians than the previous generation? And what will it take for us to hear Christ, really hear Him, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” Matthew 19:14 (NIV).

It’s time to act. For those who would move forward, consideration must be given to how we can “reach, rescue, root, and release children into relationship with Jesus Christ …” (the goal of the Global Missions Movement).

Of course, Bible engagement should be an essential component of any and all missional strategies to connect children and youth with Jesus. If children are going to have a relationship with Christ that matters deeply, then we must do everything we can to help them acquire a deep commitment to the Scriptures. But that’s easier said than done. From the vantage point of a CEO/Executive Director charged with leading an organization that works to connect Canadians with Jesus and His Story, I’m keenly aware that we have a long way to go.

So a question for my colleagues in the Bible agency world. How should the 4/14 Window figure into our plans? Historically, most Bible agencies, translators, publishers and distributors have invested the lion’s share of operating capital into developing resources for adults. Maybe it’s time to take stock. Do we need more English versions of the Bible for adults? Isn’t 800+ versions more than enough! Why, like the Titanic, do we continue full steam ahead with developing new Bible Apps, resources and delivery systems for adults? Especially when we know that “women’s Bibles, men’s Bibles, student Bibles, even software Bibles or the Bible on-line have not increased the numbers of people reading (the Bible).” (cf. Barna).

Opening the 4/14 window. There are 3 billion children and youth. Can we reach them together? Developmentally speaking, children between 8-12 years old are more inclined to matters of faith than at any other stage of life. Imagine what could be done if the budgets of all the entities producing Bibles or Bible related resources were restructured to develop resources that would significantly help “reach, rescue, root, and release children into relationship with Jesus Christ.”

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5

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3 thoughts on “Opening the 4/14 Window

  1. I have seen this kind of survey result before but I am suspicious about the methodology used, so I would like to have access to the original studies. It seems to me to be counter-intuitive that only 20 percent of people who come to faith do that after age 19.

  2. Hi Alan,

    Here are some sources for consideration:

    Bryant Myers, “The State of the World’s Children: A Cultural Challenge to the Christian Mission in the 1990’s.”
    Paper presented at the EFMA Executive Retreat, 1992.

    George Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions. Ventura, California: Regal, 2003.

    Dan Brewster, “The 4/14 Window: Child Ministries and Mission Strategy” (2010).

    Hope this helps.

    Blessings!

    LM

  3. Let me start with the most important point. Everyone should have the chance to hear the gospel and respond to it, whether they are four or four- score years old. There may be ages at which it is easier to present the gospel, but we should never give up.

    Thank you for getting back to me. I tried to get the study done by the Southern Baptist Seminary you referred to at the beginning of this article, but their Research Department could not help. I am looking for original studies establishing the age at which people turn to God and I am curious how that could be done. If people make their peace with God on their deathbed, as some must do, the question would have to be asked after death!
    So by all means let Scripture Union concentrate on children’s ministry but in my time most of the supporters were elderly.

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