India (MNN) — Kids are in mission news all the time: kids' summer camps, kids' Vacation Bible School, kids' Bible clubs. The Christian community is constantly working on outreach to children.
But does all that work really pay off? Are kids grasping the concepts of Christ?
Dave Stravers with Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India says their children's programs are not only paying off, but they are vital to building God's Kingdom in India.
"We don't usually think of nine-year-old kids as being super evangelists, but really they can go places that other people can't," says Stravers.
One particular example is of a nine-year-old boy who began attending a Mission India Bible Club. His parents were not believers, and he lived in a place so hostile to the Gospel that "if an adult evangelist had gone to that village, he would've been chased out," says Stravers.
The child began teaching his parents the things he'd learned at the Bible Club. Eventually, the walls crumbled, and Christ broke through to the whole family.
Another girl had a sick mother, so she walked barefoot to a holy Hindu city to pray. When her mom wasn't healed, she asked the leaders at her Bible Club to pray for her. Following their prayers, the mother was healed. The young girl, followed by her entire family, came to Christ.
Stravers says these stories are incredibly common. Kids go to Bible Clubs and bring home the Good News they've learned. And parents respond to the Gospel.
"When parents in India–some of the poorest people–observe that, hear that, and experience it, all the barriers to change are broken down, and their hearts are receptive to the Good News."
The doors are wide open. Parents of all faiths are willing–and even glad–to send their kids to these Christian clubs.
"People in India–Hindus and Muslims–respect Christians' ability to work with children," explains Stravers. "Christians have a reputation for education. So when a Christian offers to help form a club and help children with their homework, games, songs, and also Bible stories, people say, ‘That's fine. You can do that.'"
Adds Stravers, "They don't realize that their own children are going to become evangelists for the Gospel."
Jesus valued the faith of a child, and it is indeed this innocent faith that is leading entire families to the Truth.
These stories have led Mission India to believe that children's programs are essential to building the church in India. They train church leaders in all 32 Indian states and territories with Bible verses, Christians materials, songs and more, so that they are equipped to lead Bible Clubs in any one of 22 Indian languages.
The training is available, the kids have open hearts, but the one piece missing is still funding.
Stravers says they get dozens of requests to come and train churches and leaders so they can start their own clubs. But Mission India is only able to respond to about 30% of the requests they get due to lack of funding. It's inexpensive to sponsor a child or a club–only about a dollar per child–but more help is needed.
"$30 would provide 30 children with a Bible club," says Stravers. "Most Bible clubs are between 30 and 40 kids, so a $40 gift would actually provide an entire Bible club for a village somewhere in India."