Book Review: Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions : Monday, Feb. 2, 2004
February 2 2004 by Don Bouldin

Book Review: Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions : Monday, Feb. 2, 2004
Monday, Feb. 2, 2004

Book Review: Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions

By Don Bouldin

George Barna has done it again. In recent years Barna, founder and directing leader of the Barna Research Group, Ltd., has become a prolific author. His books are typically well documented, highly biblical, challenging books addressed to the Christian community. This time he has narrowed his focus a bit. In "Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions", his target audience is parents and church leaders. Still, his book is filled with excitement and energy, commitment and confrontation that speak to most believers.

In the opening pages he confesses that in his attempts to help the church "revolutionize life and faith in America," he has previously missed the mark. "My perceptions regarding worship, evangelism, discipleship, stewardship, community service, family - in short, just about everything related to ministry," Barna wrote, "have been altered." His studies, prayer and experiences have led him to a new conclusion. Writing to church leaders he stated: "If you do not share my view that ministry to children is the single most strategic ministry in God's kingdom, then I hope this book will challenge your prevailing notions."

The book's early chapters present a sometimes chilling picture of the challenges facing today's children and youth. "The effects of cohabitation, divorce, births to unmarried parents, and working mothers," Barna insisted, "are taking a significant toll on a growing body of children. One out of every three children in the U.S. each year is born to an unmarried woman." Add to that the fact that one out of every four children in the U.S. presently live with a single parent and three out of five mothers are in the work force and one can see some of the issues that today's parents must face.

One of the most interesting aspects of this book is the extensive research Barna records that deal with randomly selected national samples of 13-year-olds. He discovered that "nine out of ten young people consider themselves to be Christian by age 13 but, for a large portion of these kids, 'being Christian' doesn't correspond to having a grace-based relationship with Jesus Christ." Only one-third of this group indicated that they saw themselves as "absolutely committed to the Christian faith." Fifty-nine percent of all the 13-year-olds surveyed are "notional Christians" - people who say they are Christians but are not in any discernable way committed followers of Christ.

This is particularly disturbing, Barna said, when one considers the discovery that "if a person does not embrace Jesus Christ as savior before they reach their teenage years, the chance of them doing so is slim."

Barna's argument is strong as he points out the inadequacies of both parents and the church in helping children have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and develop into the person God has designed them to be. Using his extensive research well, he contends that most parents and churches have spiritual expectations for their children that are far too low. "Parents maintain some rather superficial expectations," he wrote. Essentially they want the church to "teach the kids some of that Bible stuff, make sure they stay out of trouble, and give the parent some encouragement along with a few ideas on how to survive until next week!"

He then presents a very clear argument that parents have a spiritual and moral responsibility to help their children become spiritual champions. It is the church's task to assist them. This is extremely important to both the individuals involved and our entire society since adult ideas reflect primarily the concepts they had formed in their thinking by age thirteen. In other words, we decide as children who and what we will be as adults. Nothing, then, is more significant for the church and our society than the spiritual development of children.

"Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions" presents the "whys" and the "hows" of helping a child's spiritual transformation. This book is a must-read for Christians who are serious about impacting the spiritual life of children. Parents will be both disturbed and encouraged by Barna's clear evaluation of today's situation. Often parents are doing their best to help their children mature spiritually but really don't have the proper tools. This book will provide some of those tools.

This is the kind of book that pastors sometimes dismiss without reading. Too often the tendency of the shepherd is to move on to more serious reading while encouraging those working with children to check out books like this one. Wrong! Few books are more hard-hitting and practical for pastors. Unfortunately, if we're honest, too many of us will see ourselves in Barna's descriptions of those who have taken little interest in developing the spiritual lives of the little ones who are part of our charge. So, read it, consider its message for you, and then pass it on to a co-laborer. Our children and our churches will benefit from it.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Bouldin is executive leader of Congregational Services, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)
2/2/2004 12:00:00 AM by Don Bouldin | with 0 comments

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