Barna Research did a three year study of children and ministry. What did they find?
A child’s moral foundation is formed by the age of nine. A child’s outlook on truth, integrity, meaning, justice, morality, and ethics is formed early. After the first decade of life, morality may be refined, but there is usually not a dramatic change.
A commitment to faith in Jesus Christ is usually made before age eighteen. The majority of Americans make a lasting determination on the meaning and significance of Jesus by age 12.
For most people, spiritual beliefs are formed by age thirteen. What you believe about the nature of God, the existence of Satan, the reliability of the Bible, life after death, the nature of Jesus Christ, and how to be right with God will stay with you through adulthood. That does not rule out the possibility of those who make a dramatic conversion later in life. This is dealing with statistics of what happens in the majority of cases.
Four out of five who become church leaders later in life were involved in ministry to children before the age of thirteen. The reality is that the church leaders of tomorrow are in Sunday school today.
Despite the above facts, a large portion of church-going people drops out of church between the ages of 18 and 24. What is the difference between those who stay and those who drop out? Barna notes that the difference is parents. Children who become mature Christians grow up in a situation where the parents and the church are partners. The parents are concerned with spiritual development at home, but they also make certain that their family is part of the life of the church. The church encourages the parents in raising their children. The children receive instruction in Bible school, and they receive instruction and reinforcement of spiritual training at home. It takes both the church and the home.
What shall we conclude? We all need to take our Sunday and Wednesday Bible classes seriously. The activities that we provide our children are important, whether a service activity or a fun get together. As families, we also need to live the faith at home. Christian living is 24/7/365, so is training our children. The bottom line is that we need reach them when they’re young.
Barna Research , “Research Shows That Spiritual Maturity Process Should Start at a Young Age” (November 17, 2003) http://www.barna.org