Children, Youth and Mission
The IAMS study group Children, Youth and Mission was organised in the preparation of the 14th IAMS Assembly to be held in Seoul in August 2016. It was felt that the other IAMS study groups, as important as they are, have missed the young generation in its relation to the mission of the Church. The new group thus aims to fill this “generation gap” and focus on the various issues of children, adolescents and young people as viewed from the perspective of the Church and its mission.
Scope of work and organisations and scholars involved
Children, Youth and Mission study group’s work and research is defined by the work and research of different Christian organisations engaged in Christian mission with and along children and young people and in holistic Christian development of the young generation. These are organisations such as the Child Theology Movement, the 4/14 Window global initiative, the Holistic Child Development global alliance, and the various Mission and Youth movements and groups. The scholars and practitioners working in these communities, who have joined the new IAMS study group, are committed to continuing their work and research within the framework of the study group while shaping this work and research in missiological terms and attributing more inter-Christian perspective to the study of children, youth and mission.
The Child Theology Movement is very much concerned about the role and significance of children for the Christian faith, especially when reflecting on the narrative where Jesus put a child in the centre of the disciples when they were having a theological argument about greatness in the kingdom of God. It becomes clear that Jesus thought the child’s presence would give the disciples a clue to the essential truth they were missing. Occasionally over the centuries, the child has disturbed theologians at work, but has not been in a position to shape theology consistently.
In Child Theology, the scholars and the practitioners are invited to take good note of the child in the midst as they think about, for, to, from and with God in Christ. The researchers embark afresh on the journey with Christ into the open secret of God in the world. They encourage all followers of Jesus Christ and others to explore and engage with this specific type of theology by various means, including:
– Facilitating workshops and consultations;
– Publishing printed and digital materials;
– Contributing to symposia, conferences, private meetings, development of curricula, etc;
– Holding open-ended theological conversations with partnering organisations and individuals, such as denominational leaders and thinkers, seminaries and other theological research and teaching institutions, organisations that work with and for children (advocacy, care, equipping).
The 4/14 Window Global Initiative refers to the demographic group from age four to fourteen years old, which is the most open and receptive to every form of spiritual and developmental input. The Initiative is in fact a global missions movement helping churches and families build strategy, community and resources for empowering the next generation of Christian leaders. Its goal is to support churches in every nation to reach, rescue, root, and release children (the four R) into relationship with Jesus Christ and His ministry around the world.
The Nurturer is an emerging Christian movement within the 4/18 Window global initiative. Its slogan is “I am my brother and sister’s keeper” and it aims to release the power of children and youth where they become able to nurture new followers of Jesus Christ, especially within the framework of families and communities.
The Holistic Child Development global alliance is a voluntary group of seminaries, Bible schools, and other Christian academic institutions working together with researchers, trainers, practitioners, and other Christian leaders to create a global movement of academic programs in holistic child development. The Alliance scholars seek to bring together theological institutions, organisations and ministry influencers to advance the cause of children through holistic child development. The Alliance’s programmes focus on the following:
– Emphasizing on biblical and theological research and reflection as foundation for all courses and approaches to learning;
– Viewing children as present and visible, at the very heart of what the Scriptures say about God’s kingdom, the Church, and mission;
– Producing Christian leadership who view ministries to children as strategic to the mission and growth of the church;
– Providing opportunities to develop skill competencies in all aspects of ministry to children both inside and outside the church;
– Understanding the reality of the “4/18 Window”, thus carefully and sensitively promoting evangelism and discipleship of children as part of the caring strategies.
The various Mission and Youth groups and programmes are missionary and pastoral engagements and an apostolic movement recognised by the Whole Church. The movement aims to:
– Attract youth: to challenge young people to step out into their world and live their faith in concrete ways. Youth are called to make a difference in their communities through service, evangelization, and personalized attention to the needs of others;
– Form youth: the experience of the mission of the Church calling young people to grow in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ, encountering His love and having a desire to bring that love to others;
– Launch youth: encountering Christ allows missionaries to bring Him to others, sharing His love and hope with all they come into contact with. The Mission and Youth movement challenges young people to follow Jesus Christ as modern day apostles being active members of the Church and ready to share the Gospel with the world.
In this way, the Children, Youth and Mission study group tries to bring forward important and timely issues characteristic of the mission of the Church to, with and along the growing generation so that everyone, young and old, become an active participant in the mission of God (Missio Dei) and in Jesus’ Great Commissioning. Our aim is through research, practical mission and caring work, publications, academic programmes and liaising with seminaries and other Christian theological schools to facilitate the various processes and research in the field of child, youth and mission, thus contributing to the overall missiological and theological understanding of the significance of the “little ones” for this life – a life in Jesus – and for the Kingdom of God as felt by the believers today and as revealed by Jesus Christ in His putting a child in our midst.
The Children, Youth and Mission study group convener is Dr Dan Brewster, General Secretary of the Holistic Child Development Global Alliance, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; the group’s coordinator is Dr Valentin Kozhuharov, Freelance Lecturer and Researcher in Missiology, member of the IAMS Executive Committee and IAMS’ representative for Europe, email: email@example.com. Please feel free to contact us and also join us in our efforts to more efficiently and successfully develop the issues of child, youth and mission, thus serving every community in our local context and in every part of the world.