Several years ago I was talking with a long-retired literature evangelist who was old enough to remember being called a “colporteur.” We were talking about “the church.” He identified the challenges of his local congregation— the children’s Sabbath School had very few children attending, the local church school had downsized considerably, and there was no longer a Pathfinder club. “My church is just getting older and older,” he lamented. “Most of us are gray-haired or no-haired!”
What had once been a youthful, vibrant congregation seemed to him to be in its waning years. “I fear,” he said sadly, “my church isn’t the only one like this.”
As we talked, he made an observation. “Years ago,” he said, “we had large numbers of literature evangelists, and the two core products we sold were Bible Stories and Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories! Because we were selling books for young families with children, these were the ones we would give Bible studies to and who would join the church. Thus, the work of the literature evangelists brought many young families into the church.”
“I fear,” he continued, “that our outreach isn’t as sharply aimed toward families with young children as it once was.”
While we probably won’t roll back time and once again have the numbers of literature evangelists we once had, selling large numbers of children’s books, I believe this man’s observations are a reminder that no matter what type of outreach and evangelism we conduct, we must never forget the importance of reaching young families.
“Through the children many parents will be reached,” states Ellen G. White in writing about the importance of planning programs for children.1
Here are just a few ways we can focus our soulwinning to not only bring in just “numbers” of people, but to intentionally reach family units that will bring children to our Sabbath Schools and church schools:
- Every evangelistic meeting series should include a strong children’s program—not merely “childcare,” but a program so interesting that the children beg their parents to attend night after night. The children’s meetings should receive the same intentionality and resources as are put forth for the “adult” meetings. This includes making the children’s meetings a focal point of advertising.
- Create top-notch Sabbath School programs for every age group—filled with fun and learning activities. Make sure every child feels welcome—and find ways to encourage them to come back every week. One easy way is when a child is absent, put a copy of the latest Sabbath School paper in the mail to them. Even in this electronic age, kids love to get mail.
- Conduct Vacation Bible Schools in every community—make it “the talk of the town.” Find a time of year and time of day when it can impact the most children; do not simply plan according to the convenience of church members.
- When giving Bible studies, make sure there are studies available for the children in the family. Great resources for all ages are available at ToolsForEvangelism.com.
- When the church is involved in literature distribution programs in the community, make sure you have good, attractive literature that will capture a child’s attention.
While our mission is to take the gospel to the entire world and to every person, let’s make sure to remember the children and families, and find ways to reach them in a special way!
1 Ellen G. White, Evangelism, 584.
Dale Galusha is president of Pacific Press in Nampa, Idaho, USA. This article was first published in the Best Practices (January 21, 2019) and has been lightly edited for Elder’s Digest.