“Connecting children with Jesus and His Story should be the priority of the church today!” This, according to the keynote message at the December 2014 Forum of Bible Agencies- North America meeting in Niagara Falls.
“God’s Word for a Young World”, the theme of the FOBA-NA meeting, centered attention on the importance of reaching children and youth. “A new focus is needed for a new era . . . what we’ve done in the past will not cut it in the future . . . each successive generation (in the Western world) has fewer Christians than the previous generation . . . we must do all we can to share the Scriptures with our children and grand-children while we still can!”
These impassioned comments were fuelled by the injunction in God’s Word to “Impress them (the Scriptures) on your children” Deuteronomy 6:7 (NIV). Or, as Eugene Peterson paraphrased this verse in The Message, the task is to first “Get them (the Scriptures) inside of you and then get them inside your children.”
The call to connect children and youth with the Bible is amplified by research. According to the Pew Research Centre, the religious unaffiliated in Canada has gone from 4% in 1970 to 24% in 2011 and in the USA from 5% in 1970 to 20% in 2011. Couple the rise of the “Nones” with the growth of other religions in North America and the need to impress the Scriptures on our children is more urgent than ever before.
So how do we do Bible engagement with a special concern for children? Forum members were encouraged to review, revise and restructure their operational budgets. Finances could then be used to envision and develop new resources. The work should not be done in isolation. Collaboration and working partnerships with children’s/youth agencies should be integral to the efforts as well as the creation of innovative marketing/promotions that invite and encourage children and youth to engage with the Bible.
But the challenge to connect children with the Bible involves much more than the creation of, distribution or marketing of resources. Stress was placed on the fact that “Belief matters! When people love Christ, they will love His Word.” A correlation of findings from Bible engagement studies revealed that most people who intentionally engage with the Bible are people who embrace Christ by faith. Bible engagement paradigms must therefore include evangelism, specifically child evangelism, as a core component of a 4/14 Bible engagement strategy.
With the above in mind, the concluding comment of the opening address was, “The decline in Bible engagement is primarily a relational problem – people aren’t getting connected to Jesus . . . we need more than a Bible reading revival – we need a Jesus revival!”
© Scripture Union Canada 2014