Age Appropriate Evangelism Part 1

There are over 6 billion people in the world and it is estimated that one in six (or 1 billion) profess Christ.

For several years now missiologists have provided information about the 10-40 window. This is a geographic designation 10 degrees south and 40 degrees north of the equator, and is inhabited by a vast number of people groups that have yet to be reached with the gospel. It is estimated that as many as two-thirds of the lost people in the world live in this window.

kidsAnother window of opportunity to present the gospel is the 4-14 Window. This 4-14 window, however, is not a geographic location. The 4-14 window is a chronological, developmental window. This window identifies that children in the age bracket of 4-14 years have a 32% probability of accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. Researchers now suggest that adults 18 and over have only a 6% probability of accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.

While research into this phenomenon is recent, the phenomenon itself is as old as mankind. Developmental and educational psychologists in the 20th century discovered a fact of life built into humanity from creation: children grow and mature in a developmental sequence which leads them to be sensitive to and aware of spiritual influences in their middle to late childhood. This tendency is so strong that some educators assert that what a child believes by age 13 remains relatively unchanged throughout their life.

If evangelism is the process of individuals coming to understand the gospel and responding positively to it, how might we aid that process for our children?

First, it is always important to use simple, clear language when presenting the gospel. This is true whether we are focused on winning children or adults. This means we must avoid “Christianese”, with its tendency toward theological language and church slang that often seems obscure to those outside the Church. Using age appropriate lessons and visual illustrations, even acting out stories or playing games, may help overcome this difficulty.

Second, instruction that is simple and clear will aid the process of response to the gospel. A printed sample prayer can aid in reflection. Discipleship classes can be built around this simple, clear instruction, and can be tailored to specific age groups.

Third, age appropriate evangelism understands the implications of development while being sensitive to the 4-14 window. Children’s workers and pastors do not need to be trained psychologists to understand that children process information differently as they grow and develop. Noted psychologist Jean Piaget observed his own children and developed a broader understanding of the human development of thought. A very simplified description of his work shows four stages of development. While Piaget assigned a chronology to those stages, more recent investigations suggest that there can be significant individual variation within the middle childhood years, during which children in the United States begin the early years of elementary education.

 

Piaget’s Developmental Stages

Sensorimotor Stage 0-2 years

       Largely non-verbal communication

       The idea that objects to not cease to exist when out of sight develops

Preoperational Stage 2-7 years

       Language and symbolic thought begin to emerge

       Intuitive thought is favored over logical thought

       Egocentric thought (If I feel this way, surely you do, too)

Concrete Operational Stage 7-11 years

  Simplified use of time, space, volume and number

       Begin to see the world from other perspectives

Formal Operations Stage 11+ years

       Can now think on abstract principles and hypothetical possibilities

       Inductive and deductive reasoning are now used

Practicing for the Big Day

Since Christmas was just a few weeks ago, I thought I would share a short story about my four year old grandson, Samuel. With the family Christmas tree sparkling and the house decorated, it was no surprise that my grandson could barely contain his excitement about Christmas.  Shortly before Christmas, my daughter shared that Samuel had spent hours keeping busy by finding an old toy or other common item like a shoe, and wrapping it up in scrap Christmas wrapping paper.  When his “gift” was wrapped, he would carry the “gift” gently, sit in front of his mom and dad, and proceed to tear open the package to reveal the old, worn toy.  He would go so far as to practice his expressions of surprise and excitement so he would be ready when the real Christmas morning came.

I admit I have never heard of a child wanting to practice for Christmas in this way, but Samuel believed it made absolute sense to practice so he would be 100% ready for that special day – Christmas.

That story reminds me of what all believers should be doing in this new year of 2015.  Each and every Sunday this year we will gather together and, in some sense, unwrap the joy and celebration of the birth of Jesus through our worship and service to the Lord.  For some, this time of worship may actually look and feel a little old, worn, outdated, and no longer worthy of our excitement.  It is then that we must remind ourselves that each new worship experience is essentially a rehearsal or practice for that special day.  On that special day, there will no longer be things that are old, worn or boring.  Everything will be new!  On that special day we will see our Savior face to face!  The joy and excitement will be everything that the Apostle Paul said that it would be:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)

Until that special day comes, each worship service should be a holy rehearsal.  We must practice our expressions of joy by rejoicing with new believers in their newfound faith and baptism.  We must practice our words of praise and adoration by proclaiming our love and appreciation for our Savior through preaching, singing and prayer.  We must direct our overwhelming anticipation for that special day by communicating an urgency for the lost to accept Christ as Savior through the services in our churches and our testimonies of God’s forgiveness, provision, and guidance to our friends, families and co-workers.  This holy rehearsal is not a child’s game – it is the most important thing any of us can do in 2015!

May all General Baptists practice, practice, practice until that real day comes!  May this year of 2015 be marked as a continuous celebration of worship, service and proclamation of opening the greatest Christmas gift ever – JESUS!

Conserve the Results

By Franklin Dumond

Any outreach strategy that focuses only on expanding the attendance at one worship service may have the unintended consequence of settling back into the routine of business as usual after that day passes.  Successful outreach strategies include special efforts to conserve the results of this special day.Lancaster_Baptist_Church_Main_Auditorium

Three types of effort are necessary to conserve the results of any outreach strategy, and especially those of a Big Day.

First, efforts must be designed to identify, connect with, and encourage the return of first time guests who are present on any Big Day.

Second, leaders must have a disciple-making strategy in place that will not only introduce first time guests to faith in Christ, but will also facilitate their spiritual growth.

Third, leaders must have a working strategy in place to involve as many new people as possible in service roles in the ministries of the local church.

Because of the conservative nature of most of our General Baptist churches, the third effort just described is often the most difficult.  Nevertheless, assimilation strategies that work can be identified and customized to each local church.

This is also true of disciple-making.  There are many small group and one-on-one disciple-making strategies that can be easily adapted to most local settings, if we will simply make the adaptation.

Working with the structures of a local church, however, to quickly empower new servants can be very, very difficult.  Here are a few suggestions that can assist church leaders from any size congregation to develop a mindset and a practical strategy to include more people in the working life of the church by serving in a ministry setting.

1.  Identify how many volunteer positions are required to operate the ministries of your church.  Think through every ministry task that is needed.  In the established church, many of these roles will be identified in the organizing documents that guide the life of the congregation.  In the growing congregation, there will be just as many informal adaptations to new ministries and new opportunities.  Be sure to identify all the ministry tasks that occupy volunteer time and effort.

2.  Identify who is currently serving in these positions.  Write down their names beside the ministry role they occupy.

3.  Review your list.  Are a few people engaged in several ministries?  If so, you could expand your list of volunteers if folks are limited to how many positions they can hold.  Perhaps they can mentor and train those who will come alongside to share the load.

4.  Expand your opportunities.  Can the opportunity to serve be shared?  Can several people take turns doing ministry?  For example, if four ushers generally collect the tithes and offerings along with the communication cards, ask these questions:

  • Should the same four people serve in this capacity every Sunday?  Could a team of 16 serve by each serving one Sunday a month?
  • If four ushers can collect the offerings and communication cards, why not use eight and expand the number of workers by purchasing a few new offering plates and by dividing the auditorium into smaller sections?

By applying this same logic to greeters, parking lot attendants, welcome center attendants, and those who set up the coffee makers, it is possible to double or even triple the number of people actively engaging in ministry!

5.  Identify how many volunteers would be required to operate as a church twice your size.  This will at least double your volunteer base and will probably expand it even further.  Keep in mind that as you gain new people, they are not coming to just watch the show.  They are coming so they can find meaningful opportunities for relationship and responsibility.

 

We Only Have Two Kids!

By Franklin Dumond

“We only have two kids,” the pastor reported. He then asked, “How do we connect with younger families?”

girls-462072_1920This scenario plays out in all too many single cell, well-established churches. The single cell church only has one group of folks. Typically there will be only one worship service and perhaps only one adult class. Generally, attendance will average 30-50 weekly. The single cell church embodies the organizing principle that we are always more comfortable around people who are similar to us.

In the single cell church the group tends to age together and over time can become a senior citizen’s church with few, if any, children present.

The obvious answer to connect with young families would be to invest in children’s ministries that would include both Sunday morning and weekday options for children. Sometimes the missing ingredient is the lack of ministries targeted for children and their families.

Often this obvious answer requires too many people to implement and to many dollars to provide it. When the obvious answer is not appropriate, then some short-term entry events and adapted on-going programming is necessary.

  • Organize a one-day Vacation Bible School and recruit children. If you can get them to the church once then you have an opportunity to work with their families in follow-up activities to enlist them in the local church.
  • Consider week-day ministries. Many churches provide after school programs for latch key children. Others invest in some of the club type ministries like Pioneer Clubs or Awana.
  • You can consider a video curriculum that will include recorded music so the children you have can sing along with the other children on the DVD.
  • Include a children’s message as part of your morning worship. The children’s message should be presented by the pastor in a story telling, object lesson format. When the pastor announces, “Children, meet me down front” both the children and the adults will share in this special message. One way to start this practice is to use Advent, the four Sundays prior to Christmas, to light candles on an Advent Wreath and tell portions of the Christmas story using figurines to build a Christmas display. Children love to help and young boys especially like playing with fire, which is essential if you are to light a candle!
  • Use a children’s bulletin. These are available from several sources and can generally be photocopied on site so the proper number can be prepared. These may provide age appropriate learning activities that could even be the focus of the children’s message.
  • Develop an organized prayer ministry. It is amazing what the Lord does when we ask him to do things! Pray for children to attend. Pray by name for the children you know who should attend.

Continue teaching and training even if you only have a few children. If you only have a few, then be sure to find a way to provide individualized instruction. Make it part of your church’s discipleship plan.

“I was that kid.” This was the report from a pastor reflecting on growing up in smaller churches where he was often the only child in a class. As he reflected on that heritage, he realized that the faithfulness of a few teachers and leaders had positioned him to hear the Lord’s call and to enter vocational ministry. That faithfulness continued week after week when someone studied and prepared a lesson even when there was only one student enrolled in the class. That type of faithfulness will someday warrant a “well done” from the Lord Jesus himself!

Update on Typhoon Hagupit

Dear All,

Here’s an update…It is Monday morning here and the sun is out.  The weather on this side of the country has been fine since Saturday.  Some areas in the Visayas were really affected by Typhoon Hagupit on Saturday, especially in Samar.  Today, the typhoon has moved to Luzon and is expected to leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility tomorrow or Wednesday.

There has been no complete report yet as to casualties and damages since some areas are still inaccessible because of flooding, road blocks, communication lines that have been cut off, and also because the typhoon is still traversing slowly across the country.  But initial reports say that the damage has not been like Yolanda/Haiyan of last year.  From a “super typhoon” status as predicted, it was downgraded to “typhoon” as it entered the Philippines.

We praise and thank God because of early announcements and forecasts that have enabled the people to prepare and evacuate earlier, and this time the government had a better plan in preparing and reducing risk.  Previous experiences have taught us all and given us a better understanding of disaster management and risk reduction.  Although there has been property damage, we praise and thank God that it was not like the previous super typhoons the country has experienced.

We thank all of you for your prayers.  The storm has been so inconsistent and unpredictable in its direction, strength, and speed that the typhoon did not really live up to its hype when it made landfall.

Our church in Cagnipa, Samar was used as an evacuation center.  The people there are safe and the church building is intact.  However, the house of one GBBC graduate and teacher was reported to be completely destroyed.  We have been trying to reach the district moderator in the area for more updates from other churches but we have not heard back from him yet.  His phone has been ringing but he has not been picking up.  He lives in Masbate and the typhoon also made its way there.  So we are anxious to hear from him.

We will continue to update you as reports come in.  We continue to pray for safety for al,l especially in the areas that are currently experiencing heavy rains and flooding.

Thank you very much for your support and prayers.

Love, Joyce Porcadilla

President of General Baptist Bible College

Update: Just heard from the district moderator in Eastern Visayas (Samar and Masbate).  They are safe in Masbate.  The church building was not damaged.  There is just one tree that fell right in front of the church but it did not cause any damage.  He has not been able to check with the members yet, as their surroundings are still flooded.  He has not heard from the other church in Nacube yet.  But he said all is well except for the flooding.

We really praise God for His power and mercy…He alone can calm down the typhoon and we praise and thank Him for sparing our brethren from further destruction.

Grace and Acceptance

By Phil Warren

A few weeks ago, I took my wife Cindy on a tour of the General Baptist Bible College in Davao.Phil and Cindy  As we walked around the beautiful campus I became aware of a spy following us.  She watched us from behind the green shrubbery in her pink dress. She could not have been more than five, and wherever we went she followed, scurrying from bush to bush watching our every move.  My wife began to giggle and said, “Have you noticed we have an escort?”  We found out later she had left her room to use the bathroom, but in the process her curiosity had gotten the better of her.  After a little while my wife and I sat down, and she slowly inched closer to us.  Her dark, mahogany-brown eyes twinkled with mischief and her long black hair danced in the slight breeze.

Finally, her curiosity pushed her beyond the safety of her self-imposed boundaries and she came over to me and began to rub the hair on my arm.  I smiled; this was a first for me.  She had touched me with grace and acceptance and I gently reached over and rubbed her arm as well.  Grace and acceptance: the heart of missions.

Whenever you leave home and enter another country, you do not attempt to impose your cultural values upon them.  Rather, you hold loosely your values and integrate as best you can into your new surroundings.  You eat different foods.  You travel in different modes of transportation.  You experience different forms of worship.  You don’t worry as much about time, and value relationships instead. However, there are two values you must always give and receive: grace and acceptance.

Jesus said if you give it will be given back to you in disproportionate amounts. Give grace and receive grace. Give acceptance and gain acceptance.

This is not only true in international missions but in the local church as well.

Our spy took a big risk to approach these people who looked different from her. I saw her the other day at the college and she ran over to me and gave me a high five. Once fear is broken by little acts of grace and acceptance, a whole new world can open up for you.

6 Reasons Churches Never Address Decline

By Franklin Dumond

Churches, like other organizations and the people who participate, move through predictable cycles.  In the institutional memory of every church there is the awareness that average attendance varies from year to year.  Anyone who has been part of a congregation for any length of time will have experienced those occasions when more people attend now than used to attend.  Seasoned members will also have experienced those occasions where fewer people attend now than in the past.

Some years ago, one church consultant described churches and their attendance patterns as either being on the incline (growing and increasing), on the recline (stable, on a plateau), or on the decline (fewer attending now than used to attend).  Most observers of the American church landscape suggest that at least 80% of churches are reclining or declining.

The net result of long term decline is always death.   So why don’t more churches address the serious issue of decline?

  1. Poor record keeping disguises decline.  I once helped stage a picture for some church publicity.  We wanted to show the auditorium as full of people, but it was a weekday and only a handful of people were in the building when the photographer arrived.  No problem.  He simply staged them along the center aisle and framed the shot looking down the aisle.  By cropping out the rest of the picture we had a full house with only a couple of dozen folks present!

inside-of-a-church-pews-hanging-cross-shiny-aisleMy wife observed recently that the church looked “pretty full this morning” but in actuality the seating capacity was seriously          underutilized at only about 50% occupied.  I counted.  She observed.  My count did not match her observation although she admitted the seating patterns made it look like a larger crowd was present.

Unless church leaders count and compare the counts from week to week, from month to month, or from year to year decline may easily be disguised.

  1. Righteous Remnant Theology often predicts a falling away from the church because people in general just cannot accept the hard truth of the Gospel.  Decline in this scenario has to do more with decline in standards and errors in theology rather than loss of numbers.
  2. Decline is the new normal.  Congregations that experience long term decline can reach the point that decline is expected.  Many worshippers have little if any experience in another church and are simply unaware of any other scenario.
  3. We’ve built it so they should come.  This philosophy of ministry worked very well in the 1950’s when it was expected that folks should attend church.  That social or cultural expectation no longer exists, so new folks now attend church only if they are invited by someone they know and trust.
  4. A lack of introspection, and thus lack of personal responsibility, can speed decline.  As a young pastor I found a box of old church newsletters.  While reading through them I noticed a particularly personal confession from a former pastor.  He was a seasoned veteran.  He also took a hard look around and noticed that there were no conversions for three months.  At that point, he began looking inside himself since he felt a keen responsibility to model personal evangelism.  If he had not taken the time for this personal introspection the decline would probably have continued.
  5. Churches prefer to reach one person rather than one neighborhood full of people.  Remember a broken clock is still correct twice each day.  It is very easy to excuse what we are currently doing because once in a while we connect with one person.  Isn’t it worth it to reach even one?  Maybe not, when similar resources of time, talent and treasure could reach a neighborhood full of people by intentional outreach.

Periods of decline are inevitable.  Persistent decline, however, was never the intention of the Lord Jesus who announced that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church.

Grains of Sand: An Update from Faith Home

By Christina Massey

sandHow did November come so quickly?  The past few months have flown by and been filled with so many special moments that it is hard to process them all.  With so many kids involved in different school activities and events, sometimes it is hard to keep up.

One of my favorite moments during the busy last few months was a field trip with our 7th graders to the beach and Botanical Gardens.  This group has blossomed this year since they first walked out of our gates to attend Emanuel (a private Christian school) in San Manuel.  These previously shy children have matured and grown into amazing teenagers. As I watched them interact with their new friends at the beach, I thought about how far each of them have come this school year, and how all the little moments of their lives have built on each other like grains of sand to bring them to this point in their life.  As I watched Emerita writing ‘I Love Jesus’ in the sand along with her school friends, I was so proud of her witness and her love for Christ.

The children and young adults at Faith Home have each experienced so much in their lifetime.  The pain and sadness of their pasts mix with the laughter and joy they have experienced at Faith Home to create the amazing young men and women of God they are becoming.  God is sifting those moments and memories and helping them to become stronger as He is writing His name, not in sand, but on their hearts.  It’s a blessing to see Him shine through each of them as they interact with others at school, church events, and out in the communities.  We are thankful for every moment and blessing as the sands of time pass and we see God’s plan unfolding in each of their lives.

 

Independence Day Parade:

Groups of Faith Home children represented the outside schools they attend in FH kids in paradethe Independence Day Parade in San Manuel.  The day concluded with all of Faith Home marching together.  Our kids received applause when they continued to march in formation even though it poured down rain.  We were even presented a plaque in the stadium at the end of the parade-the kids were so excited and we are so proud of them!

 

 

 

 

FH childrens dayChildren’s Day:

Children’s Day was celebrated at Faith Home with a water slide, piñatas, games, and refreshments.  The younger children got to go to the swimming pool, and the older kids celebrated with popcorn, sodas, and the movie, ‘God’s not Dead’.

 

I’ll Do My Best

By Clint Cook

A few weeks ago I joined six other General Baptist pastors on a journey to the Philippine Islands. I had the privilege of leading this team of pastors in the important task of teaching and challenging our Filipino brothers and sisters in leadership and spiritual growth. The team consisted of Chad Hensley, John Brumfiel, Dr. Jim Pratt, Barry Cullen, Jim Rudolph, Clint Pagan and myself. It was a hectic but life-changing trip. Each member of our team had the privilege of preaching in one of our local General Baptist churches during Sunday morning worship and visiting with the members. We traveled to the Matigsalog area to view the General Baptist work there to encourage our teachers and leaders hard at work in this important region at the Matigsalog Bible Institute. We also held a conference at the General Baptist Bible College called the 360º Leadership Forum where we met, taught, trained and encouraged young students determined to win the Philippines for Christ. How uplifting it was to see how God is using them!

While in Davao City we also hosted the first ever American-Filipino Minister’s Retreat. It was a wonderful time of worship and training with our Filipino counterparts. We shared meals with these ministers, listened to the triumphs and struggles of their ministries, and cried and rejoiced with them as they told us stories of rebuilding after Typhoon Pablo in December 2012, a project made possible by the generosity of General Baptists. What a solemn sight it was to see Ground Zero for Typhoon Pablo, a pile of rubble where a thriving community once stood, and where over 1,000 people lost their lives.

It was an awe-inspiring experience to see our work on the island of Mindanao. A special note of thanks and appreciation goes out to Joyce Porcadilla and all of her staff at the General Baptist Bible College and the Matigsalug Bible Institute for making the 360º Leadership Forum and first ever Minister’s Retreat a definite success. Out of the 120 college students that attended the 360º Forum, 90% of them are General Baptist students, and nearly 80% anticipate continuing in ministry as Christian leaders, preachers, and pastors. How bright the future of General Baptists is in the Philippines! How blessed we are to have this Gospel-proclaiming, gates-of-hell-storming work thriving on the other side of the world!

Although the seven members of our team were sent to train and encourage these Filipino students and ministers, each of us left with hearts full of thankfulness, humbleness and excitement for the General Baptist work in the Philippines. The students at the General Baptist Bible College repeatedly displayed their burning desire and passion to serve the local church as Christian leaders. Prepare to be blessed as you watch this short video of 3rd and 4th year students at GBBC telling, through song, their General Baptist brothers and sisters in the U.S. that they will do their best!

Where in the World are the Warrens?

By Cindy Warren

A family steps off an airplane and is greeted by the Bowers family (Keith, Carrie, Jason, and Lucas), General Baptist Bible College president Joyce Porcadilla, and many other sweet, welcoming faces.  Who are these new arrivals?  Aren’t they General Baptist missionaries to the tropical island of Saipan?  Not anymore?  The Warren’s mission trip has turned into two destinations instead of one.

The Philippine countryside

The Philippine countryside

My husband Phil and I are now living in Davao City, Philippines, along with our two youngest sons, Oliver and Harley.  There are a few things we have to to adjust to here.  The money system is different than on Saipan, and the language is sometimes a barrier.  I exchanged my first US currency for Philippine pisos at the information desk at the mall!  Other major differences are the congested traffic, the many open air markets, and the fact that some of the mall include grocery stores.

Our two youngest sons are now attending a Christian school with the Bowers’ sons just four blocks from our home called Faith Academy International.  They have a great school and they enjoy being close enough to walk over to shoot hoops and play on the new soccer field with the other students.

We have been trying to build relationships with our pastors here in the Philippines.  So far we have visited the Matigsalug Bible Institute and the General Baptist Bible College and met with the staff, have attended a baby dedication, attended a Sunday morning service at First General Baptist of Davao City, and attended both the Pastor’s Conference and the 360 Conference.

The Warrens are now serving General Baptist work in the Philippine islands.  We pray that they will adjust seamlessly to this new assignment, and facilitate General Baptist work there in a way that allows us to do together what cannot be done alone.