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RAISING UP A NEW GENERATION FROM THE 4/14 WINDOW TO TRANSFORM THE WORLD By Luis Bush


Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. 
Psalm 8:2 (NIV)

 

At the end of the last century I wrote a pamphlet entitled: The 10/40 Window: Getting to the Core of the Core.[i]  In the first years of this new century, I am urging a new missional focus: the 4/14 Window. Although in a different sense, it too can be called “the core of the core.” The10/40 Window referenced a geographic frame; the 4/14 Window describes a demographic frame - a life season comprising the ten years between the ages of 4 and 14.

 

This chapter is an urgent appeal to consider the strategic importance and potential of the 1.2 billion children and youth in the 4/14 Window. It is a plea to open your heart and mind to the

idea of reaching and raising up a new generation from within that vast group - a generation that can experience personal transformation and can be mobilized as agents for transformation throughout the world. Our vision and hope is to maximize their transformational impact while they are young, and to mobilize them for continuing impact for the rest of their lives. I invite you to join with many others who are making a commitment to fulfill this vision and realize this hope.

 

To maximize the transformational impact of children and youth in the 4/14 Window we must address the spiritual, mental, physical, relational, economic, and social issues they face. We

must also confront their “ministerial poverty” - the scarcity of opportunities for them to exercise their gifts and achieve their potential in ways that honor God and advance His Kingdom.

 

It is crucial that mission efforts be re-prioritized and re-directed toward the 4/14 age group worldwide. This requires that we become acutely aware of what is taking place in their lives. We

must also endeavor to understand their nature and the essential means to nurture them. Only with this kind of informed awareness will we be able to reach them, shape them, and raise them up to transform the world.

 

This chapter presents an overview of the needs, nature and potential of children and youth in the 4/14 Window. It also addresses the very real opposition and obstacles to raising them up as a transformational generation. We must not be defeated by the opposition or deterred by the obstacles; and as we engage in strategic global thinking and answer God’s call to catalytic

action, we must do so within a biblical framework.

Scripture makes it absolutely clear that the transformational mission of God involves bringing together all things under the headship of Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10) through the church, which is His body. The church is the fullness of Christ on earth, who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:22-23), with the result that all things on earth are reconciled and aligned to Him (Colossians 1:20).The body of Christ worldwide—including children and youth in the 4/14 Window—are God’s agents of transformation under the headship of Jesus Christ. Every Christ follower in every community and nation - even children and youth - are called to involvement in Christ’s transformational mission.

 

As we approach this bold initiative, engaging and seeking to equip a new generation to transform the world, we do well to adopt the watchword, “transformed and always transforming.”

This simple phrase reminds us that transformation is a process and is not fully realized until Jesus comes again. We are co-laborers with Christ, under His headship, collaborating with

Him in His transformational mission to raise up a new generation from the 4/14 Window to transform the world.

 

Such global transformation will only take place as God’s people are individually re-made through the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:1-2). Then they will discover the good and perfect will of God, this will be their “spiritual act of worship,” and they will be led to engage in God’s mission.

 

The 4/14 Window: Ages of Opportunity and Challenge 

 

In human development there is no more critical period than the decade represented by the 4/14 Window. It is a profoundly formative period when perspectives are shaped either positively

or negatively and when a view of one’s own significance (or lack of significance) is formulated. The needs and potential of this age group should inspire a purposeful response by those charged

today with forming the world of tomorrow. It is a call to turn “the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6).

 

The Intersection of the 10/40 Window and the 4/14 Window

 

In 2008, fifteen years into a worldwide mission emphasis on the 10/40 Window, there are encouraging indicators that this has been a region highly responsive to the presentation of the Gospel. The annual growth rate of Christ followers in the 10/40 Window was almost twice that of those outside the 10/40 Window.[ii] Christ followers in the 10/40 Window nations increased from 2.5% of the population in 1990 to 4.7% in 2005. The general population grew at only 1.5% annually, while the population of Christ followers grew at an amazing 5.4% per year![iii]

 

If we correlate these statistics with the fact that almost 70% of the world’s 4- to 14-year olds (833,378,750) live in the 10/40 Window, we can begin to see the intersection of the 10/40 and

the 4/14 Window.[iv]   The 10/40 Window is the geographical area with the greatest need and opportunity. The 4/14 Window is the demographical grouping that is the most open, receptive, and moldable to every form of spiritual and developmental input.

 

The most compelling conclusion regarding the relationship between the 10/40 and the 4/14 windows is that efforts be refocused on the 4/14 within the 10/40 in order to reach the

most receptive persons in the area of the greatest need and opportunity. In so doing we are also recognizing the importance of children and youth in God’s work of transforming the world.

 

When he was asked by His disciples “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a little child, whom he placed among them. And He said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes a humble place - becoming like this child—is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones - those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were drowned in the depths of the sea”(Matthew 18:1-6 TNIV).

 

Have we really listened to Jesus’ teaching about the place of children in the kingdom of God? First, they model the essence of gospel faith and faithful discipleship by showing us how to

humbly repent and to trust in the God of salvation. Second, to ‘welcome’ a child—that is, to accept, love, value and respect a child - is to welcome Christ Himself! Finally, as Jesus made very clear, whoever neglects, abuses, hinders, or turns away a child from faith in Christ will face severe judgment from God Himself.

 

The 4/14 Age Group Around the World

A country-by-country comparison of the nations with the most 4-to-14ers is revealing. India, with almost 20% fewer people than China, has over 30% more children and youth. This is largely due to China’s infamous “one child” policy. Nigeria and Indonesia, with half the population of the U.S., actually have more children and young teens in absolute numbers. In the U.S., 25% of the nearly 42 million school-age children are Hispanic – though Hispanics comprise only 15% of the general population. It is important to note that in Africa and in places such as Gaza, Afghanistan, Pakistan and most Middle Eastern countries, 40 to 50% of the population is under 15 years of age.[v]

 

Contrast this with the countries with the lowest percentage of persons under age 15—Italy (13.8%), Japan (14.3%), Germany (14.4%),[vi] etc. It can be readily seen that by far the greatest

population growth is taking place in the least developed and often most conflicted countries of the world. 

 

Characteristics of the 4/14 Window

 

The world’s 4 to 14-year-olds present us with several pressing realities. The 4/14 years represent a “season of awakening” in which a person’s understanding of life emerges and one’s conscience is awakened to judge right from wrong. But the life circumstances of today’s typical 4/14er is a cross between a minefield and an obstacle course.

 

A disturbing number of 4/14ers in the 10/40 Window are condemned to a life of serfdom, brutal labor, sexual exploitation, spiritual oppression and emotional abuse. Most of those exiting the

4/14 Window quickly leave behind their parents’ supervision.  When formal schooling ends they either enter the work force to make ends meet or further their education in an environment fraught with the dangers of secular ideology and materialism.

 

Parents and older siblings serve as the most potent and positive influence for many 4/14ers. But sadly, for many others, parents are negligent and siblings are morally damaging. This is especially true when those older brothers and sisters are themselves adversely influenced by today’s toxic youth cultures.

 

While challenges and pitfalls abound, and the pessimism of many adults is amply warranted, the possibilities and potential of 4/14ers is astonishing. For many, the tendency has been to ignore or dismiss their potential or to view those in the 4 to 14 age group as a nagging problem to be endured. We have often failed to grasp the inestimable value of these young lives, made in the image of God. Most significantly, we have failed to recognize that most people who will ever make a decision to follow Christ will do so during the critical years between the ages of 4 and 14.

 

From a missions standpoint, our interest in the 4 to 14 age group is not only because they are the most receptive, but also because as we will see, they are often the most effective agents for mission. Of course, Jesus understood their worth: “I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth,” He said, “because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure” (Matthew 11:25-26).

 

In a three-year project called The Child in Law, Religion and Society, researchers examined the so-called mystery of the child. Their final report urges readers to reject the prevalent view that a

child is a problem to be controlled. Instead, the authors contend, adults ought to nurture wonder in children while seeking their own “childlikeness,” or “childness.” They warn against the fallacy of reductionism, the philosophy that attempts to reduce a complex system to the sum of its parts. In this case, reductionism endeavors to categorize a child through various problematic

elements; for example, the incidence of delinquency, abuse or autism. Some reductionists have gone so far as to define a child as “the sum of neuron firings in the brain” or “nothing but a victim of original sin.”[vii] Such thinking demeans the wondrous, mysterious nature of childhood—a mystery that is rooted in the Scriptures, particularly in the words of Jesus.

 

Christ is the King of the Kingdom, and the faith of the child is the model for all who would enter and live out their lives in the Kingdom with King Jesus. The Gospel elevates children to a very

high place of honor in the Kingdom and gives them moral agency. Children are addressed as responsible members of the family of God, as those who are “in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1).

 

It is imperative that we see children and young people as a crucial, strategic force that can transform a generation and change the world. Speaking of children, Jesus said, “to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16). Clearly, from the time of the first disciples (Mark 10:13-16) to the present day, we have often underestimated the value and potential of children. Time and again, we have failed to effectively and strategically reach them. The challenge before us is to raise up today’s 4- to 14-year olds to experience the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10b), to free them from spiritual, mental, physical, relational, economic, social, and ministerial poverty, to harness their immense potential, and to deploy them to change the world.

 

The Modern Context of the 4/14ers The 4/14ers

 

The Modern Context of the 4/14ers (and their older siblings) are called the “Internet Generation” because the Net is their primary influencer. While their parents are digital immigrants, the world’s children and young people are digitally native. They are less defined by

geography than by technology.

 

It is true that there are still parts of the world where the Internet does not yet have a major culture-shaping role, due to lack of accessibility. However, with the shrinking of the “global village,” more and more young people in remote areas will become connected and correspondingly influenced by the culture of western materialism and hedonism.

 

Today’s children and young people have been given a host of labels such as “Digital kids,” “Millennials” or “Mosaics.” These labels suggest that today’s kids are vastly different in culture and worldview from the Baby Boomer era. They are living in a postmodern age where the spirit of deconstructionism is pecking away at their values, affecting their self-identity and changing

their view of the home, school, and society at large.[viii]

 

Today’s young people are “Facebookers” and “YouTubers” who do not think twice about sharing their opinions online with strangers whom they call “friends.” Technology provides them

with a powerful weapon to bring change, but it is also a powerful poison that can bring destruction. This generation wants their opinions to be heard and they want to make a difference. They are creative and speak openly of their feelings.[ix]

 

The 4/14ers are riding a technological wave in to the future.  More than any previous generation, they are plugged in - all the time - with a world of communication and information at their

fingertips. “The youth of today, due to the strong influence of technology in their everyday lives, are constantly confronted with the problem of self-definition. To most adolescents, technologies

such as mobile phones are implicated in the production of individuality and personhood.[x]

 

Traditional values face unprecedented challenges in the digital world. The Internet provides youth the world over with instant access to a wide variety of cultural styles, and “McWorld” values and the technological culture reaches around the world, replacing even long-held values. India, for example, is a nation where communication technology has produced dramatic changes in youth culture resulting in a drastic decline in traditional values. India exemplifies the global youth culture phenomenon. The revolutionary information age is widening social distances,

weakening family ties and changing the child-parent relationship.

 

The World Values Survey[xi] findings accentuate the conclusion that intergenerational changes are taking place in basic values related to politics, applied economics, religion, gender roles,

family and sexual norms. The values of younger generations differ consistently from those prevailing among older generations, and are transforming social, economic, and political

life; in some cases displacing thousands of years of traditional cultures in the span of a single generation.

 

There is much that is frightening and disheartening in the exposure and “flatness” in this “brave new world.” As uncomfortable as we in the older generations might be in the Internet culture, it is undeniable that the 4/14ers are very much at home there, and will be ever more so as it continues to unfold at unprecedented pace. However, we must understand and accept that this very connectedness and instant information access and sharing is part of the great potential of the 4/14ers to transform their world.

 

The Challenge: Maximizing Transformational Impact in the 4/14 Age Group

 

Any sensible parent knows the childhood years are formative.  Anyone who has been a child knows it too! Our brains are 90% formed before we reach the age of three[xii] and 85% of our adult personality is formed by the time we reach six years of age. There is substantial truth in the Jesuits’ refrain, “Show me a child when he is seven and I’ll show you the man.” A biblical proverb attributed to King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, instructs us, “Train

up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). In light of that truth, our task is to “train up” the 4/14 generation in the way they should go, so that as they grow older they will be used by God to transform the world.

 

This is a multi-faceted challenge we face, and it can be met only with a holistic approach. In raising up the 4/14 generation for transformational impact, we must address their physical needs

(especially the physical needs of those in poverty), their intellectual needs, and all the relational, social and spiritual dimensions of their lives. We must embrace the whole person, endeavoring to see 4/14ers as God sees them. In relating to those who live in impoverished conditions we must look beyond the lack of assets and advantages and see the complete individual. We must also recognize the cyclical, negative forces at work.  Jayakumar Christian, a leader with World Vision in India, describes poverty as a set of disempowering systems that result in ongoing or even intensified poverty.[xiii]These exploitative systems interact with each other to supplant the role of God in the lives of the poor. This results in the development of god-like structures that oppress people and produce a distorted view of God. Cultural systems legitimize these god-complexes and reinforce the distortions. All of these systems are based on deception and lies about who people really are and who God really is. They systematically victimize people who are made in the image of God, exchanging the truth for a lie and causing people to worship and serve created things rather than the Creator. (See Romans 1:25).

 

As a result of their marred identities and vocational insecurities, the poor believe that they were born to be oppressed. They also conclude that they have nothing to offer, and the negative self

identity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The non-poor, on the other hand, often believe that they have the right to exploit and enjoy the fruits of the poor’s labor. As long as these core perspectives remain in effect, a fatalistic mindset will lock the poor into their poverty. What is true of the entire world’s poor is especially true of the children and youth whose lives are molded and futures cast during the 4/14 years.

 

The 4/14 Window is the first point of access to reverse the systematic lies of culture and remake a generation through holistic development. Let’s examine each of seven basic challenges we encounter in the 4/14 Window.

 

1.     The Spiritual Challenge

 

As noted previously, most people who will ever make a decision to follow Christ will do so before their 15th birthday. In the USA, nearly 85% of people who make a decision for Christ, do

so between the ages of 4 and 14.[xiv] During the 20th century, that age group was the single largest source of new believers for the American church.

 

In his book Transforming Your Children into Spiritual Champions,[xv] George Barna presents the results of three years of research that confirm that timeless principle from the wisdom literature: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 ESV).

 

Barna’s research verifies that a person’s lifelong behaviors and beliefs are generally developed during childhood and early adolescence. In the overwhelming majority, most of the moral and spiritual foundations are in place by age nine. Fundamental perspectives on truth, integrity, meaning, justice, morality, and ethics are formed at this early stage of life.

 

In the 4/14 age group we also see the natural confluence of evangelism and discipleship. Barna observes, “By the age of 13, one’s spiritual identity is largely set in place.”[xvi] If we can reach

children and youth and disciple them when their life perspectives and worldviews are being shaped, we will set them on a rock that cannot be easily moved.

 

These statistics reveal a vast spiritual harvest waiting to be reaped. For too long, the ministries of most churches, Christian organizations and mission agencies have focused primarily on adults, with fewer personnel, minimal funds, and limited creativity devoted to young people and to children. In no way should we abandon the outreach to any age group, but the call of the 4/14 initiative is clear: We must prioritize our efforts to reach the world’s largest, most receptive and most moldable group - the 4 to 14-year-olds.

 

Admittedly, focusing on the 4/14ers is a challenge more easily met in some nations than in others. However, just because children tend to be receptive to the Gospel does not mean that we can be carefree in how we approach them or their parents. Indeed, that heightened receptivity should cause us to be even more cautious and discerning, for the possibility of exploitation or abuse is also heightened.

 

Cross-cultural missionaries must study the cultures and the contexts of the adult peoples to whom they minister. The same applies to those who would do inter-faith “mission” among

children. When ministering to children, the servant of Christ must be wise, sensitive, cautious, discerning and holistic in reaching out to those from non-Christian contexts.

 

In 2008, the Global Children’s Forum (GCF) was formed. The GCF is a partnership of children’s ministry agencies that operate on a global or regional basis. Its focus is on the strategic need for

evangelism and discipleship among the world’s two billion children.  Its goal is to ensure that every child is given the opportunity to know who Jesus is, what He offers and how to know Him personally.

 

The Outcome of Spiritual Transformation Brings Community Transformation through the Presence of God at Work in and through His People

 

The heart of transformation is the transformation of the heart.  The central need is spiritual in nature. This is clear from God’s Word where He reveals His perfect plan to reverse the effects of

the fall on His creation. Spiritual transformation does not only mean the forgiveness of sins; it encompasses all of life, recreated by God. The spiritual transformation of the individual through

the power of the Gospel therefore provides the platform upon which all the spheres of society can be transformed.

 

By transformation we do not mean behavior modification or a striving to “make the world a better place.” Transformation entails a passionate seeking after God, submitting to His

transforming power and allowing Him to realign every facet of our lives according to His design and plan.

 

Although God desires to transform each individual, there is also a communal component to transformation - the Body of Christ, a community comprising individuals who have been transformed by the Gospel. The Body of Christ is the place where societal transformation begins and from which individuals emerge as agents of transformation in their various spheres of influence.

 

2.     The Mental/Cognitive Challenge

 

By the time the typical child reaches age nine, the mental gears are shifted and the child begins to use internal cues to either confirm or challenge an existing perspective. As the child grows

into adolescence, change becomes more and more difficult. By adulthood, only with great effort or under great influence will a person replace existing views and understandings. George Barna

notes that “adults essentially carry out the beliefs they embraced when they were young.”[xvii] This view challenges the stages of intellectual development[xviii] formulated by Jean Piaget, et. al., contending that one must reach the age of 15 to be capable of reasoning as an adult.

 

Every mature society recognizes childhood and adolescence as a time to prepare the young for the remainder of life. Most often this is done through the establishment of primary and secondary

schools. Educators worldwide understand the critical importance of the 4/14 Window in the correct formation of children; however, despite the efforts of many governments, untold millions

of children receive little or no education. This problem of substandard education is exacerbated by other factors - the disintegration of the family unit, poverty, ill health, poor nutrition, to name but a few. This then results in masses of unmotivated, poorly educated men and women, barely capable of earning a meager income. And the situation is further complicated for children whose own parents deprive them of an education by forcing them to work in order to help support the family.

 

The Need for a Transformational Approach to Education

 

While universal primary and secondary education may be considered a worthy goal, its ultimate effect is often negative.  Unless the teachers and those who run the schools are Christ

followers, the worldview that is taught will not transform the minds of the 4/14ers to be able to test and approve what God’s will is for them (Romans 12:1-2). A further complication is that

childhood education in many countries has been taken away from the jurisdiction of the parents and the church.

 

Secular education does not enlighten; rather, it dims one’s grasp of the “real reality” acknowledged in the truth of Scripture. It seeks to remove the notion that God exists or that we owe allegiance to a Creator.[xix] Naturalistic worldviews and rationalism in secular education have conspired to predispose against the supernatural, even to despise it. By forcing children to be taught a curriculum that robs God of his rightful preeminence, such educational systems are sabotaging the blessing of Jesus who “came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

 

Godless, secular indoctrination is an age-old problem, one that we see described in the Bible. Consider the experience of Daniel and his three friends (Daniel 1). They were only boys, 11-14 years old, taken from their parents and shipped off to pagan Babylon. Their captors even gave them new names—a practice that continues in Christless authoritarian systems to this day. What happened to Daniel and his friends was like the name changes given to local residents on the Korean peninsula at the beginning of the 20th century and just a few years later in the Soviet Union after the Communist Revolution. The four boys in Babylon were given heathen names in replacement for their covenantal names associated with the one only true God.

 

The plan was to subtly win them for Babylon, to transform their minds until they were completely captivated by the Babylonian thought forms, worldview, culture, religion and way of life. The Babylonian system of public education with its goal of a pervasive secularism reminds of us of government-run public educational systems in our world today. But all of the attempts at mind control and behavior modification failed miserably. Daniel and his friends did not forget their early God-centered education; they did not lose their faith; they would not be robbed of trust in the one true God.

 

As we consider the public education systems in our nations at the beginning of the 21st century, we must find encouragement from the Book of Daniel that God is supreme, that He is in control, that He can be trusted. More than once, the worldly king of Babylon, the feared Nebuchadnezzar, was moved to declare about God, “His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation” (Dan 4:3, 34). Through his own trial as a result of denying the God of the universe, King Nebuchadnezzar ultimately delivered this edict: “I issue a decree requiring that in every part of the kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end” (Daniel 6:26).

 

We can learn today from those who have gone before us - from Daniel and his friends, from educators like Augustine, and from others who stayed faithful in pursuit of God’s purposes. A

transformational approach to education begins with the premise that all truth is God’s truth. The legacy of St. Augustine is that it is the duty of the Christian to learn as much as possible about as many things as possible including scientific inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge and of beauty, recognizing that God is the ultimate source of all truth and all beauty.

 

Therefore we encourage parents and their children to be discerning in what they learn in whatever educational context to reject what is anti-Christian, to accept and use what is true, and

through the Gospel to transform “secular” knowledge and culture into serviceable “Egyptian gold” to serve and worship God (Exodus 35:20-29).

 

The Outcome of the Transformation of the Mind is the Transformation of the Culture and Nation

Like Daniel, the renewing or metamorphosis of the mind (Rom 12:1-2) can result in the transformation of the culture. The manifesto of a new influential school of thought on human progress and nation building is called Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, by Samuel P. Huntington and Lawrence E. Harrison.[xx] These scholars ponder the question of why, at the beginning of the 21st century, the world is more divided than ever between the rich and the poor, between those living in freedom and those under oppression. The concluding thought summarizes their findings: Cultural values shape the development of nations. It offers an important insight into why some countries and ethnic/religious groups have done better than others, not just in economic terms, but also with respect to consolidation of democratic institutions and social justice. Former Singaporean Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew said, “More than economics, more than politics, a nation’s culture will determine its fate.”[xxi] In our world there is no greater example of two nations which share the same family roots yet have found two

totally different cultures and fates than North and South Korea.

 

3.     The Physical/Health Challenge

 

A primary measure of human well-being is theUnder-5 Mortality Rate - an indispensable gauge of children’s health for NGOs around the world. (See State of the World’s Children Report for

2008 by UNICEF.)

 

One of the motivations for focusing on children is that more so than any other segment of society, the world’s children are suffering, often as a result of the sins of adults. Key statistics

reveal the critical nature of this problem:

 

·       More than 91 million children under 5 suffer from

debilitating hunger[xxii]

·       15 million children are orphaned as a result ofAIDS[xxiii]

·       265 million children have not been immunized against

any disease[xxiv]

 

Health interventions during childhood can prevent damage that is virtually impossible to repair later in life. Addressing the physical and emotional health issues of the young can result in significant advances in lifelong well-being and personal development. Working to improve the health of children not only provides them a more promising future, it is also an invaluable opportunity to minister to their families and communities. In fact, strategic efforts to improve children’s health can lead to the stability of an entire nation.

 

Where do we begin to address this problem? One of the principal solutions is through the establishment of a biblical worldview.

 

4.     The Economic Challenge—the Physically Poor

 

The physical health needs of children and youth are closely related to the broader problems of poverty. The staggering reality is that more than one billion of the world’s children - 56% - are

living in poverty or severe deprivation![xxv] A stunning 37% of the world’s children - more than 674 million[xxvi] - live in absolute poverty. Additionally, children living in what is defined as

“severe deprivation” struggle with a “lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods.” They are also victims of “hunger and malnutrition, ill health, limited access or lack of access to education and other basic services, increased morbidity and mortality from illness, homelessness and inadequate housing, unsafe environments, social discrimination

and exclusion.”[xxvii]

 

Raising up a new generation from the 4/14 Window to transform the world demands that we address the physically poor among the 4/14ers.

 

·       Over one-third of children have to live in dwellings with more than five people per room

 

·       134 million children have no access to any school whatsoever

 

·       Over half a billion children have no toilet facilities whatsoever

 

·       Almost half a billion children lack access to published

information of any kind

 

·       376 million children have more than a 15-minutewalk

to water and/or are using unsafe watersources.[xxviii]

 

Of special concern amongst the poor in the 4/14 window are the millions of orphans. Indeed, God makes them His own special concern throughout Scripture, so His concern must be ours as well. The overwhelming lack of one-on-one holistic care for orphans makes them one of the most neglected groups in the 4/14 Window.

 

According to the World Health Organization, 85 percent of the world’s orphans are between the ages of 4 and 14. Orphaned girls are “easy targets” for sexual exploitation, due in part to a lowered self-image, loss of family structure, and psychological distress.  Orphaned boys within the 4/14 Window often turn to crime, drugs, and are prone to become abusive in adult relationships.  This is largely the result of an absence of male leadership, mentorship or protection. In many nations they are easy prey for evil men who bully them into forced labor or recruit them for participation in rebel armies (groups that find abandoned

children to be easy fodder to fuel their separatist agendas).  According to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, at least 300,000 children, many as young as 10 years of age, are

currently participating as “child soldiers” in armed conflicts around the world.

 

The Outcome of the Transformation of the Poverty of a Nation

 

The outcome of God’s transforming power in a nation occurs as God’s people are reconciled and raised up to fulfill His purposes in building a nation. For the term transformation to be properly

applied to a community, change must be evident not only in the lives of its inhabitants, but also in the fabric of its institutions. Its people must have sufficient health to work productively; they must have sufficient resources to meet basic needs and live above the level of deprivation and poverty. “A transformed community emerges when both the people and institutions have been

overrun by the Kingdom ofGod.”[xxix] The river of life begins to flow in the communities where death has reigned and the result is the healing of the nation (Revelation 22).

 

 

5.     The Relational Challenge

 

Most of us are aware of these and other telling statistics about the needs of poor children around the world. But the fact is that it is not just poor children who are at risk. Actually, all children are at risk. Millions are at risk from poverty, but millions are also at risk from prosperity! Many children and young people today have everything to live with, but nothing to live for.[xxx] At the deepest level, poverty is what happens to people whose relationships do not work for their well being. A person’s well-being is rooted in wholesome relationships.

 

The Outcome of a Biblical Worldview is the Transformation of the Relationships in a Nation, Resulting in Shalom Communities

 

Transformation involves seeking positive change in the whole of human life materially, socially and spiritually, by recovering our true identity as human beings created in the image of God and

discovering our true vocation as productive stewards, faithfully caring for our world and people.[xxxi] This description of transformation addresses the core issues of identity and vocation.

 

Restoration of human relationships is rooted in one’s spiritual relationship with God. This will result in shalom communities which are the visible fruit of a transformed world. They begin in

the home, for at the heart of our earthly existence are family relationships. OneHope has observed a dominant global trend of decaying family relationships, specifically associated with the problem of absentee fathers. There has never been a more glaring need for turning the hearts of the fathers toward their children.[xxxii]

 

6.     The Social Challenge

 

Children and young adolescents can contribute much to positive social change. What often prevents this from occurring is an absence of adults who believe in them; as a consequence, many 4/14ers do not believe in themselves. Nevertheless, most children and young people respond well to challenges and can participate in opportunities to better their surroundings and their societies.

 

It is unfortunate that today’s 4/14ers are too often sheltered from such challenges and not given opportunities to use and develop their gifts. Many adults have a mistaken idea that children are stressed out, and so should not be “burdened” with additional responsibilities. But, as William Damon, author of the book Greater Expectations, reminds us,

 

contrary to what some adults think, they really do not need to

come home after their six-hour day and ‘cool out’ in front of the

TV. They do need to have their energies fully and joyfully

engaged in worthwhile pursuits. Stress for a child is not a

function of keeping busy; rather, it is a function of receiving

conflicting messages about the self and experiencing troublesome

life events beyond one’s control. Activities that children gain

satisfaction from, and accomplishments that children are proud

of, relieve rather than induce stress. Activities that provide

genuine services to others are ideal in this regard.[xxxiii]

 

The fact is that where children and young people are given a significant challenge, intentionally by wise adults or “accidentally” through necessity or disaster or obligation, children usually readily adapt to such demands. Given such challenges, Damon notes that children have always “pitched in with energy and pride, with all the natural vigor of childhood.  Such experiences gave these children invaluable opportunities to learn personal and social responsibility. In an old fashioned phrase, they were character-building experiences.”[xxxiv]

 

William Damon continues,

 

In systematically underestimating the child’s capabilities, we

are limiting the child’s potential for growth. In withholding

from children the expectation to serve others...we are

preventing them from acquiring a sense of social and personal

responsibility. We are leaving the child to dwell on nothing

more noble than gratifying the self’s moment-by-moment

inclinations. In the end, this orientation is a particularly

unsatisfying form of self-centeredness, because it creates a

focus on a personal self that has no special skills or valued

services to offer anyone else. Paradoxically, by giving the child

purposes that go beyond the self, an orientation to service

results in a more secure belief in oneself.[xxxv]

 

7.     The Ministry Challenge

 

The ministry challenge is about encouraging and equipping the children and youth of the 4/14 Window to use their gifts and potential as agents in transforming the world. They represent an

enormous untapped pool of influencers with sensitivity to the voice of God and willingness to do His bidding. We need to understand again that God can and does use children and young people—their prayers, their insights, their hands and their feet - in changing the hearts of mankind.

 

The 4/14ers have great capacity to understand the faith, and great courage and effectiveness as they share their faith. Adults will fail the 4/14ers if they fail to equip them with the vision and

opportunity to do something beyond themselves. Indeed, many churches discourage children and young people from finding and developing their natural gifts and aptitudes for character and

competence in areas like missions awareness.

 

Much (most?) of what goes on for children in our churches today is geared to entertaining them rather than equipping or challenging them. It is OK for children and youth to have fun.  But there are missed opportunities in making that the focus. We must ask, what are our children not doing and learning while they are being entertained?

 

Alex and Brett Harris, two 19-year-olds, have written a book called Do Hard Things. The Harris boys note that “Being considered a good teen only requires that we don’t do bad stuff like taking drugs, drinking and partying. But is it enough to know of the negative things we don’t do?”[xxxvi]

 

The 4/14ers thrive on challenges. Children and young teens love opportunities to gain skills and to prove themselves. Generally they respond with energy and enthusiasm when provided opportunities to test their abilities. When denied such challenges, they can become insecure and apathetic.[xxxvii] And could there be a more exciting and life-changing challenge than learning about the world, sharing God’s love for the peoples of the world and transforming a generation?

 

Let us not forget that 4/14ers are capable of engaging in spiritual warfare. They have great capacity for fighting spiritual battles through their child-like faith. Certainly, God is no respecter of persons! He can anoint children with the Holy Spirit just as He empowered the apostle Paul and the disciples. Children are sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading because they have not yet

developed the spiritual barriers that many adults have erected over the course of their lives.

 

The Outcome of Ministering Children Is Increased Faith in God, Answered Prayer and Shalom Communities

 

Some have stopped to consider the spiritual life and capacity to minister that is within a child. One of these is Robert Coles, who writes about it in The Spiritual Life of Children. He provides

overwhelming anecdotal evidence that children connect with God on many levels.[xxxviii] Coles notes that the discovery of what may lie within a child’s spiritual being is rewarding for the adult who

listens carefully. The way a child talks about God and the world has an innocence and purity to it that is often lost by adults in this age of multi-tasking.

 

The potential for children engaged in the ministry of prayer cannot be underestimated. John Robb, chairman of the International Prayer Council and the Children’s Prayer

Network, believes that some of the praying children of today will become rulers of nations. Many more will be influential for Christ in their generation, bringing His transformation to our

world. There is a window of spiritual receptivity in children between the ages of 4-14. Like Samuel, they have a greater openness to hearing God’s voice and this is the time to nurture

them and invest in their future. After age 14, it can be much harder for them to come to Christ and to give their lives to Him for His purposes on earth.

 

It is the clear testimony of Scripture that God has chosen to work in human history through the intercessory prayers of His people - including children. In fact, children may be the most powerful source of prayer for community and national transformation.

 

Psalm 8:2 says that there is power in the prayers and praise of children, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”

 

Robb comments, “Our work with children is all about introducing them to a life of intimacy with the Lord through prayer. Prayer is the way we relate directly to God so this work is fulfilling Jesus’ command to enable children to come into relationship with Him, a relationship that will change their lives and transform the world around them.

 

Jesus loved to have children around Him. Roy Zuck notes that “While few of the world’s religious leaders have had regard for children, Jesus was different. Not only did He welcome them; He even used them to teach adults some essential spiritual lessons!”[xxxix]

 

Those who angered Jesus were not just the Pharisees and the vendors in the temple, but also the disciples. On one occasion Jesus became “indignant” when they considered children too

unimportant to warrant his attention.[xl] Might He also be indignant with those who are negligent and indifferent to the world’s children today?

 

 

Models of Holistic Approaches for Transformational Development

 

Transformational Development is a process by which people become whole. It is characterized by growth, change and learning. It is a process of becoming. The direction of development is always toward completeness. As Dan Brewster notes,

 

It is not enough to improve only one dimension of a person’s life

and leave other dimensions in inadequacy. To treat parasitic

infection is noble. But if a treated child is left in an unsanitary

environment with contaminated water, the intervention is

incomplete. If a child receives an education, but social structures

prevent him from getting a job, the intervention is incomplete. If

a person is introduced to faith in Christ and enjoys spiritual

freedom but is left in poverty and oppression, the intervention is

incomplete. The scope of development is toward completeness.[xli]

 

Luke 2:52 provides a model for the kind of development involved in the 4/14 vision. This verse simply says, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.” It cites four pivotal components (wisdom, stature, favor with God, and favor with man) and it neatly encompasses all aspects of the whole person and provides a useful model around which one can create meaningful programs that produce holistic development. Our objective through holistic, Christian development is for every child to have the opportunity to grow and develop in each of these areas: in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man.

 

One example of a holistic approach is that of World Vision International, as described by Jaisankar Sarma, International Director of TransformationDevelopment.[xlii] The ministry focus is

on bringing justice to the poor and the needy; and of the poor and the needy, none is more poor and needy than the child.

 

World Vision International has prioritized transformational impact in order to affect the whole child, producing well being in each of the child’s developmental areas. For instance, again using Luke 2:52as the starting point, a child might grow in stature but if the child doesn’t grow in wisdom, then he or she will be incapable of living a productive and meaningful life. A child who grows in wisdom, stature, and favor with man will be spiritually bankrupt if not led to favor with God. Holism is the process by which one experiences the “fullness of life” that Jesus described in John 10:10.

 

Sarma’s definition of “transformational development” involves a process through which children, families, and communities move toward wholeness of life which brings dignity, justice, peace, and hope.[xliii] The scope of transformational development is wide, including economic, political, environmental, social, and spiritual aspects of life at the local, national, regional, and global levels.

 

Human transformation, according to Sarma, is a continuous process of profound and holistic change brought about, ultimately, by the work of God. The process and the impact of transformational development are never being divorced from the principles and values of the Kingdom of God.

 

Transformational development is evidenced by:

·       The well-being of girls, boys, families, and communities.

·       The empowerment of all girls and boys as agents of

transformation themselves.

·       The restoration of relationships.

·       Communities that are interdependent and empowered.

·       Transformed social systems and structures that will

empower another generation to begin within the

transformed culture.

 

In the second domain of change, girls and boys participate in the development process in an age-appropriate manner, preparing them to be agents of transformation in their families and

communities both in the present and in the future. 

 

These community-based transformational indicators serve as key measures, derived from the transformational framework in the illustration to the right. They provide a helpful, quantifiable basis for assessing impact in programs that seek transformational development—as shown in the chart. This rubric tells us whether our programs and processes are successfully meeting their goals.

 

The ConneXions Model for Healthy Leadership Development

 

Within the greater holistic approach a particular emphasis is needed toward holistic spiritual transformation and the development of healthy leaders from an early age. The ConneXions model of healthy leader development provides a Christ-centered set of working principles.[xliv] It is a framework for life transformation that is widely applicable to the spiritual aspect of the transformation required to reach the 4/14 age group.

 

Our goal should be nothing less than the entire transformation of the lives of children as they are nurtured in five specific areas of life: Christ, Community, Character, Calling and Competencies.

Children first, by faith, come to know God (Christ) because union with Christ is the first and foremost aspect of life transformation.  Their union with Christ is encouraged and strengthened through living and growing in a supportive and accountable family, surrogate family and/or church (Community). Within the context of life in community, they grow in integrity (Character), and they are prepared to discover God’s purpose for their life (Calling). Finally, they are nurtured to grow in their biblical knowledge, overall education and life skills so that they might fulfill their calling with excellence (Competencies).

 

All of this needs to happen for the 4/14ers in an effective, holistic transformational context. Jesus carefully created a transformational context to serve as a laboratory to prepare His emerging leaders. It was...

 

·       A spiritual environment that was conducive towards

growth in one’s relationship with God (with Himself, as

well as the Father through prayer).

·       A relational web that involved a relationship with a mature

leader/mentor (Himself) as well as relationships with other

likeminded followers (the community of disciples).

·       An experiential context involving challenging and

diverse assignments that forced his followers to have

cohesion between their “action” and their “confession.”

 

From this transformational context Jesus instructed them and this produced nothing less than a total change of their lives and circumstances! The same careful approach will serve as an

incubator for a generation of changed lives within the 4/14 window. Not only will they be more apt to live a meaningful life, they will also have found fulfillment in their relationship with

world, and have a mission and purpose to live by. 

 

These principles serve as a framework through which we can design programs that will transform the lives of children in the 4/14 Window. This framework can be applied in any context, and in any culture resulting in transformational impact. It is a paradigm, not a program.

 

Raising Up a New Generation To Transform Our World

 

I began this chapter with a call for a new missional focus. I said that just as the 10/40 Window focused our attention on “the core of the core,” so the 4/14 Window was a focus on the core of

the core. My purpose was to turn the spotlight on those in the 4/14 Window—the Ages of Opportunity. We have seen that this group is an enormous “people group”—one that is suffering, neglected and exploited. At the same time, those precious ones in the 4/14 Window are also, without question, the most receptive people group on the planet.

 

Both their receptivity as subjects for holistic mission, and their transformational potential as agents for transformational mission have been largely overlooked by the mission community. I said that this chapter was an urgent appeal to consider this potential, and the strategic importance of those 1.2 billion children and youth in the 4/14 Window. And it was a plea to open your heart

and mind to the challenge of reaching and raising up a new generation that would be transformed and mobilized as agents to change the world.

 

In this document I have presented the tremendous needs and opportunities for the 4 to 14 age group to be raised up in every nation. We have seen the importance of having a holistic

ministry approach to those children. And we have called the Body of Christ to give priority to reaching this age group and to mobilizing them to carry out the church’s mission.

 

I close with another invitation to join with many others around the globe who are seeing the tremendous needs of this remarkable group. They are reading Scripture again with the “child in the midst” and are finding that not only are 4/14ers present, but indeed everywhere throughout the Bible - very often in transformational roles. They are seeing that we are to care for and nurture children because they are so close to the heart of God. They see that we must take the4/14ers seriously, because God surely does!

 

Realizing the need to reprioritize my own missional focus on the 4/14 Window was a transforming moment for me, as it was for many others. “Moments of transforming significance radically reopen the question of reality.”[xlv] I am praying that in reading this chapter you will experience your transforming moment - the instant you realize the need for change and say “yes” to intentional engagement in raising up a new generation from the 4/14 Window to change the world.

 

To learn more about Transform World New Generation visit:

http://4to14Window.com

 

 

 

 

 

Endnotes


 

[i] Luis Bush, The 10/40 Window: Getting to the Core of the Core,

AD2000 & Beyond, www.ad2000.org/1040broc.htm (accessed Feb.

17, 2009).

 

[ii] Bryan Nicholson, Global Mapping International (Colorado Springs,

CO, 2009) using data from UNICEF.

 

[iii] Bryan Nicholson, Global Mapping International (Colorado Springs,

CO, 2009) using Patrick Johnstone data prepared for two upcoming

publications.

 

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Jason Mandryk, “Status of the Gospel 2006,” Joshua Project,

http://www.joshuaproject.net/great-commissionpowerpoints.php

(accessed February 17, 2009).

 

[vi] http://www.nationmaster.com/red/graph/peo_age_str_0_14_yea-agestructure-

0-14-years&int=-1&b_map=1 (accessed February 20, 2009).

 

[vii] Glenn Miles and Josephine-Joy Wright, Celebrating Children

(Kingstown Broadway, Carlisle, UK: Paternoster Press, 2003), p.130.

 

[viii] Dan Brewster, “Themes and Implications of Holistic Child

Development Programming in Seminaries,” (paper written for Asia

Theological Association (ATA) conference on Leadership in an Age

of Crisis, unpublished) p.6, 51

 

[ix] Ibid.

[x] James E. Katz and Mark Aakhus, ed., Perpetual Contact: Mobile

Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance(Cambridge, UK:

Cambridge University Press, 2002), p.138.

 

[xi] The World Values Survey is an ongoing academic project by social

scientists to assess the state of socio-cultural, moral, religious, and

political values of different cultures around the world which has

produced more than 300 publications in 14 languages.

 

[xii] Susan Greener, Celebrating Children (Kingstown Broadway,

Carlisle, UK: Paternoster Press, 2003), p.130.

140 RAISING UP A NEW GENERATION FROM THE 4/14 WINDOW

 

[xiii] Adapted from Bryant Myers, “Transformational Development Course

Notes,” Fuller Theological Seminary: School of Intercultural Studies,

January 2003.

 

[xiv] Dan Brewster, “The 4/14 Window: Child Ministries and Mission

Strategy,” Children in Crisis: A New Commitment, ed. Phyllis

Kilbourn (Monrovia, CA: MARC, 1996).[xiv]

 

[xv] George Barna, Transforming Your Children Into Spiritual

Champions (Ventura, CA: Regal Publications, 2003).

 

[xvi] George Barna, “Research Shows That Spiritual Maturity Process

Should Start at a Young Age,” The Barna Group,

http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaU

pdateID=153 (accessed February 19, 2009).

 

[xvii] George Barna, Transforming Your Children Into Spiritual

Champions (Ventura, CA: Regal Publications, 2003) p.58.

 

[xviii] Jean Piaget, Stages of Intellectual Development In Children and

Teenagers, Child Development Institute,

http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/development/piaget.shtml

(accessed February 17, 2009).

 

[xix] Thomas Jefferson’s definition of religion: “The duty that we owe to

the Creator.”

 

[xx] Samuel P. Huntington, Lawrence E. Harrison, Culture Matters:

How Values Shape Human Progress (New York, NY: Basic Books,

2000).

 

[xxi] Fareed Zakaria, “A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew, (Palm Coast,

FL: Foreign Affairs) March/April 1994.p.52

 

[xxii] D. Gordon, et.al, Study: Child Poverty in the Developing World

(Bristol, UK: Centre for International Poverty Research, 2003).

 

[xxiii] D. Gordon, et.al, Study: Child Poverty in the Developing World

(Bristol, UK: Centre for International Poverty Research, 2003).

 

[xxiv] “Children on the Brink 2004 Factsheet,” UNAIDS,USAID,

UNICEF,

http://www.unicef.org/media/files/COB_2004_fact_sheet.doc

(accessed February 17,2009).

 

[xxv] Ibid

[xxvi] D. Gordon, et.al., Study: Child Poverty in the Developing World,

(Bristol, UK: Centre for International Poverty Research, 2003).

 

[xxvii] Ibid.

[xxviii] Dan Brewster and Patrick McDonald, “Children: The Great

Omission,” Lausanne 2004 Forum,

http://www.viva.org/en/articles/great_omission/great_

omission_booklet.pdf (accessed February 17,2009).

 

[xxix] George Otis, Jr., “International Fellowship of Transformation

Partners Definition and Values,” Transform World Indonesia 2005,

(May 2005).

 

[xxx] Dan Brewster, “Themes and Implications of Holistic Child

Development Programming in Seminaries,” (paper written for Asia

Theological Association (ATA)conference on Leadership in an Age

of Crisis, unpublished),p.6.

 

[xxxi] Bryant L. Myers, Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of

Transformational Development (New York: Orbis Books, 1999).

50 Chad Causley, (International Director for Global Ministries,

OneHope) in discussion with the author, January2009.

 

[xxxii] William Damon, Greater Expectations (Free Press Paperbacks: New

York, 1995), p.84.

 

[xxxiii] Ibid., p.84-85

[xxxiv] Ibid., p.86.

[xxxv] William Damon, Greater Expectations (Free Press Paperbacks: New

York, 1995), p.128.

 

[xxxvi] Alex and Brett Harris, Do Hard Things (Multnomah Books:

Portland, 2008), p.97.

 

[xxxvii] Robert Coles, The Spiritual Life of Children (Boston, MA: The

Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990).

 

[xxxviii] Roy Zuck, Precious in His Sight (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books,

1996) 201, quoting from Leon Morris, The Gospel According to St.

Luke: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B.

 

 

[xxxix] Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), p.226.

 

[xl] Mark 10:14

[xli] Dan Brewster, Child, Church and Mission (Colorado Springs:

Compassion, 2005), p.40.

 

[xlii] Jaisankar Sarma (Director of World Vision Transformation

Development International; International Director for

Transformation Development; Facilitator Transformation

Indicators Task Force for WVI), Personal interview in Washington

DC, 25 January 2006.

 

[xliii] Ibid.

[xliv] Malcolm Webber, “The ConneXions Model,” adapted with

permission of Malcolm Webber, Leader Source SGA. For the

complete models see Healthy Leaders: Spirit-Built Leadership #2,

and Building Leaders: Spirit-Built Leadership #4,

www.leadersource.org andwww.leadershipletters.com.

 

[xlv] James E. Loder, The Transforming Moment (Colorado Springs, CO:

Helmers & Howard Publishers, 1989), back cover.

Reprinted from The 4/14 Window. © 2009 by Luis Bush. Used by

permission of Compassion International: Releasing children from poverty

in Jesus' name. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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