In missions, we talk about the 10/40 window. It refers to a section of the world stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific and 10 to 40 degrees north of the equator. Within that window lie the bulk of the world’s population, the poorest of the poor, and the majority of unreached people groups in the world. You can find the major religions of the world—atheism, animism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam.
This week, I was introduced to another window, the 4/14 window. It refers to a different type of people group, children. The 4/14 window covers the span of ages when children are most open and receptive to every type of spiritual and developmental input. Rather than being limited to children ages 4-14, the window refers to children and youth in general.
In 1996, the Southern Baptists did a survey and discovered that 71% of Christians came to faith before the age of 14. The Barna Group did a similar survey in 2004 and discovered that 43% came to faith before the age of 14, and 64% before the age of 18. While the numbers may have changed, both highlight the fact that children and youth are spiritually receptive.
In Mark 10:13-16, we see two crystal clear facts about Jesus. Jesus loved children. Jesus believed that children could grasp spiritual things. Because Jesus loved children, we should strive to help them become spiritual champions.
The passage opens with people—parents, siblings, friends—bringing children to Jesus. “Children” is a term that covers an age range from birth through 12 years of age. These folks wanted Jesus to touch the children and give them a blessing. I find it ironic that we would never dream of letting our children decide whether or not to go to school, brush their teeth, clean their room, or go to the dentist, but we will let them decide whether or not to attend church. We should be like these parents and bring our kids to Jesus.
Instead of helping these folks in their quest, Jesus’ disciples get in the way. Perhaps they are tired after all the travel. Maybe they are on edge because of Jesus’ talk about suffering and death. Chances are they don’t think children are all that important. Whatever the reason, the disciples act like gatekeepers, limiting people’s access to Jesus.
We have this mythical notion of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” Contrary to popular belief, Jesus was downright indignant on this occasion and told the disciples to knock it off. Jesus welcomed the children and demonstrated how much he loved them.
Jesus affirmed that children are able to grasp spiritual things. They belong in his kingdom. In fact, we adults need to follow their example in receiving Jesus’ gift. A child doesn’t worry about whether or not they deserve a Christmas present. They are not concerned about earning a birthday present. They merely receive it with great joy and proclaim, “It’s what I always wanted.” We need to receive Christ’s kingdom in that same manner.
The passage closes with Jesus taking the children in his arms and blessing them.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on August 9, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. You can download a copy of the sermon notes by clicking on the link.
The synopsis above represents the first half of the sermon where I explained the meaning of the passage. During the second half, I interviewed two of our children’s ministry leaders, Robin Dolbow & Carol Wheeler, about what our church is doing currently to minister in the 4/14 window. I asked them the following questions which they took turns answering:
- What is your favorite part of children’s ministry?
- What are the challenges that kids face today?
- How do you answer the person who says that children’s ministry is only babysitting?
- What is the benefit of serving in children’s ministry? What do the leaders get out of it?
- What is the True North program? What does it try to accomplish?
- What are the opportunities/needs in children’s ministry?
- What is your vision for the future of children’s ministry?
- If you could add one word of encouragement to those considering serving in children’s ministry, what would you say?