I am so blessed to have wonderful wise Ugandan friends who serve on our NGO Board. I’m thankful for their advice, counsel, and input. One Board Member noted while reviewing our statement of faith that we don’t have anything specifically on what we believe about children. What invigorates us to focus on ministry to children and youth? He suggested that we need to put in a section about what we believe the Bible teaches about children. We do cover these things in staff training, but he suggested we should add a section in our statement of faith regarding the people our ministry is geared to. He was so right. I enjoyed studying and thinking through what the Bible says about children. Here it is:
What We Believe the Bible Teaches About Children:
We believe that just as each of us were created in the image of God, children are also made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Each person regardless of how young or old they may be, have inherent value because they were created and ordained by God and are made in His image. As such, we should treat one another and children in the same way we treat God. Jesus says: “As you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me” (Matthew 25:40). We will always treat each child, youth, and all those we interact with in a manner that honours Jesus Christ.
Some tend to disvalue children and give them a lower place—however, Jesus Himself when He was on earth stopped his normal activities with the “important” people of His time to take time for ministering to children. Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 9:14) May we never be like the disciples, who had to be corrected by God for seeking to push away children (Matthew 9:13). We believe that we should rather warmly welcome and enthusiastically minister to children.
Jesus placed a greater importance on children and noted that children have inherent potential for mature faith and belief in Jesus Christ : “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, verily I say unto you: Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven… Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-10).
We also believe that children need special care and training when they are young, so that they know the way in which God asks them to relate to others, to their world, to authority, and especially to God and to His Word. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Ephesians 6:4, Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 22:15)
A genuine mark of true religion is one that places a high priority on the care of children and widows: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27). Therefore, we believe that God has placed a high priority on the spiritual AND physical care of children and youth, particularly those who have been abandoned or neglected, or who are orphans through physical death of a parent.
We also recognize that children and youth are in a formative and important time of life. The negative impact of mistreatment, abuse, neglect, anger, or discouraging words is exponential. Jesus warned that those who harm young ones will carry a greater punishment: “…it would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these young ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:2, Mark 9:42) God gave us specific instruction that we are to bring children up in the care and admonition of the Lord with special care that we do not provoke them to anger (Ephesians 6:4). A few of the ways we can provoke to anger is by favouritism, pushing them to achieve beyond normal, discouragement, failing to sacrifice for them/making them feel unwanted, failing to let them mature at a normal pace, using love as a tool of reward or punishment, or physical or verbal abuse. (See MacArthur’s Commentary on Ephesians 6 for more detail here.)
We believe that while we have a strong responsibility to teach, train, and care for children, we also have much to learn from them in regards to faith. Children exemplify the type of faith that God desires from all believers, and their prayers are especially important to Him. (Matthew 18:3) God loves their honesty and vulnerability, their sincerity, their trust and satisfaction in God. (see more explanation here) It makes us smile, but children honestly know who they are and will readily admit their sin and their neediness. We believe we all need to grow in dependence on Christ, and our greatest desire is to teach children that their greatest need can be met in the person and work of Jesus Christ.