Cynical evangelisation of children

All parents are concerned when they send their children out into the world. We all hope that our schools, and other places our children go, are going to be safe. We are rightfully shocked when we find adults entrusted with the care of children have actually been preying on them.

Sexual predators get the headlines. But children can also be subject to unhealthy interest of adults who interests are more political or ideological than sexual. I am beginning to think we should look at the way religious instruction operates in our public schools as an example of this unhealthy interest.

There has been a lot in the media lately about “bible in schools” and similar programmes. Simon Greening, the chief executive officer for the main provider of these religious instruction programmes (the Churches Education Commission),  has been assuring everybody that their interests are not evangelical. They are not trying to convert children – just educate them about values (see Their mission – values or advancement of religion?). It hasn’t helped him that other spokesmen for his organisation have presented a different story – admitting that they see religious instruction in public schools as a great opportunity for their religious mission. There has even been talk of creating disciples out of children in these religious instruction classes.

George Higinbotham (@streligionVIC) a recent commenter here pointed me to a document which is very relevant to this issue. Partly because one of the drafters of the document is Mitch Jordan who is currently Chairperson of the CEC board. But also, and more seriously, the document outlines a cynical programme for the evangelisation of children that seems to actually now be in place in New Zealand.

The document is Evangelisation of Children.” Prepared several years ago, it’s seen as part of a general plan of world evangelisation. I’ll present some extracts from the document and compare them with what is actually happening here.

Identifying children as a fruitful group for evangelisation

We are all aware of the importance dogmatic religions place on the early indoctrination of their own children. But this document describes the same approach to your children.

“Children represent arguably the largest unreached people group and the most receptive people group in the world. “

“Children are more open and receptive to the gospel than at any other time in their lives.”

„ “Between the ages 5 and 12, lifelong habits, values, beliefs and attitudes are formed.  Whatever beliefs a person embraces when he is young are unlikely to change as the individual ages.”

„ “If a person does not embrace Jesus Christ as Saviour before they reach their teenage years, they most likely never will.”

“The data show that churches can have a very significant impact on the worldview of people, but they must start with an intentional process introduced to people at a very young age.  Waiting until someone is in their teens or young adult years misses the window of opportunity.”

“Unevangelised children generally become adults who see no relevance of Christian faith to real life, make no contact with a church, who live and die without knowing that Jesus offers eternal life.  Ineffectively-evangelised children in our churches become ‘well-intentioned, inadequately nurtured, minimally equipped secular people who dabble in religious thought and activity.”

The organisations currently operating religious instruction classes in public schools all seem to express the same belief in the importance of reaching young children.

Evangelisation of children, by children

The document cynically advocates to: “invite children to be active participants in the task of evangelization:”

“The focus of mission and the call to mission do not have any age limitations.”

“The work of mission can be shared by a generation of children equipped to be faithful witnesses for Jesus”

“peer evangelism among young children – one kid leading another kid to the foot of the Cross for a life-changing encounter with Jesus”

“Children bring unique gifts to the task of evangelization.  For example, they have access to thousands of children outside the church – and are often the only means of reaching these children.  They have a simple faith that is attractive.  They put their whole heart into reaching out.  Children will do the job of evangelism in simple obedience.  Even adults will listen to children because they are perceived to have no hidden agenda.”

“Challenge children to be witnesses and challenge them at an early age”

“Marketing companies have recognised that children have the power to enthuse others. Imagine if the church worldwide could harness the enthusiasm of children and encourage them to tell their friends and get them involved as well.”

“existing worldwide initiatives that focus on child evangelism could encourage children who are already churched to take ownership of the event – be trained to share their testimonies, invite their friends and do discipleship.”

What a horrible task to place on children – that their friendships be destroyed by the need to evangelise.

Action plans for influencing children

The action plans advocated in this document are very similar to what is occurring in New Zealand:

“ACTION PLAN for the local church: Think about how a values-based programme might give unexpected access to local non-Christian communities (e.g. schools) and become a vehicle for evangelization”

Provide “Quality interactive websites for children” and  Email, chat-rooms and ‘mailbox clubs’ which are tools to help children to follow Jesus.”

“Going to where the children are in their world.  In every continent, there are more children outside our churches than inside: we dare not be content with hoping that children will come to visit a strange place with strange rituals and unknown people.  Many children require stepping stones before they can cross the cultural barriers represented by church as it is now.”

It advocates “specific application to the evangelization of children in different social contexts.” And “Working within the web of relationships to which the child belongs – friends, gang, family.’

Church groups in New Zealand are forming special relationships with public schools as the document outlines. These also include web sites and email clubs for children who are initially contacted through the religious instruction classes. the Cool Bananas Kids Mailbox Club operated by the Cool Bananas group in Tauranga is one example. The same group offers an Annual 5 day Adventure Camp. Other local groups do the same.

There is a video in my post What really happens in religious instruction classes? describing how Pentecostals in Australia use such camps to further indoctrinate children attracted through religious instruction classes at school.

Tactics – winning the cooperation of care-givers

“For the local church to plan evangelism that minimises offence and maximises effectiveness, it must:  1. Commit to long-term effort, preferably involving a partnership of interested people such as teachers or health care workers”

“6. Be prepared to work within the limitations while taking the opportunities”

“1. Use the window of opportunity  Parents may well have an interest in introducing values, ethics or belief frameworks to their young children.  The church will be one option they may consider.  Make it an attractive one!”

„ “Church members join school boards, volunteer for sports coaching”

This is a cynical agenda for the infiltration of places our children attend with the sole purpose of evangelisation.

Confidence of their plans for your children

“We can bring about a transformational shift even through the timespan of a single generation if we seriously address the challenges and opportunities that face the evangelism of this generation of children.”

This document reads like a cynical action plan for a political/ideological group wishing to carry out a political/ideological change in society. And they are concentrating on our children because they see them as the group most easily captured or evangelised. And as a group which itself can further evangelise others.

When we send our children to public schools with a legally prescribed secular curriculum we do not expect they should be preyed on, evangelised, by such groups.

It’s time this was stopped.

Image credit: God Discussion

See also
Human values are secular
Mixing values and Jesus in secular education
Their mission – values or advancement of religion?
Mixing values and Jesus in secular education
What really happens in religious instruction classes?

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