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The future is . . . ? When you consider the future, what are your thoughts and feelings? Hollywood has long portrayed visions of what lies ahead. As a young boy growing up in the 1980s, I was enthralled with ideas depicted in movie franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek—tablet computers, smart homes, smart watches, 3-D printing, robots, military drones, virtual reality headsets, self-driving cars, space tourism . . . the list could go on and on. As I now look back nearly 40 years later, it is intriguing to consider how these glimpses into the future foretold advancements and innovations that would come to pass in my lifetime

For most of us, thoughts about the future bring both excitement and apprehension. The future holds boundless dreams, opportunities, and possibilities. It also has its share of uncertainty and potential difficulties. We navigate our future with a mix of anticipation and perhaps fear, aware that the future may bring victory or failure, progress or pain, breakthrough or calamity.

While thinking about the future can trigger anxiety, it can also bring greater meaning and purpose to our lives. Scientists call “prospection” the ability to consider the future. It is found in both the human and the animal world. For example, when a dog gets excited because its owner has retrieved his leash, the dog is anticipating that a walk is coming. But prospection has unique benefits for us humans. Scientists say we can think about our own futures and, based on our experience, consider multiple outcomes for our future. Just as gold prospecting made people wealthy in the past, research suggests that prospecting about the future can enrich and prosper your life.

As we consider the future of the church, I want to invite you to go prospecting with me.

If you are concerned about our future, you are not alone. In a 2023 study by Lifeway Research, almost seven in ten pastors (69%) stated they believe there is a growing sense of fear within their churches about the future of the nation and world.[1] Lifeway also found that 63% of surveyed pastors said their churches also have “a similar increasing dread specifically about the future of Christianity.”

These statistics are not surprising for those of us who have acknowledged that the church is contending with rising hostility toward the gospel, the spread of secular culture, the influence of the media on society, challenges to orthodox views of Scripture, and the collapse of the family, among many other challenges. Scripture warned us of these times of suffering, tribulation, and trial (John 16:33; Romans 12:12; James 1:2–8; Romans 8:18).

Will these forces continue to rise and overtake us? We know the answer is “no.” While local churches might fall away or die, Jesus promised in Matthew 16:18 that the gates of hell would never overcome his church. Despite persecution, being driven underground, or the falling away of masses, the church will always prevail.

While for some our future may look perilous and wearisome at times, I have come to find great hope in the future of the church. I believe actions can be taken today to create a fearless tomorrow for the next generation of believers, and these actions can be best taken through the discipleship of our children.

As we apply the earlier idea of “prospection” to the future of the church through the lens of child discipleship, I believe we impact the church’s future in four ways:

  1. We will make wise, strategic decisions.
  2. We will determine and set achievable goals.
  3. We will improve our perspective of the future.
  4. It will impact this generation now.

We will make wise, strategic decisions.

Thinking about the future helps us decide what course of action must be taken here and now. I believe children’s ministry is the most strategic ministry of the church. Consider the following statistics from the Barna Organization:[2]

  • More than half of people who will ever accept Jesus as their Savior, do so before the age of 12.
  • Less than one-fourth of current believers came to Christ after the age 21.
  • By the time a child turns 9 years old, their basic moral foundation and worldview has been formed.
  • By age 13, a person has “irrevocably” formed the majority of their beliefs about the nature of God, the existence of Satan, the reliability of the Bible, what they believe about the afterlife, the Deity, the salvation experience, and the importance of the Holy Spirit.

If these statistics are true, the church must recognize that what a child believes by the time they turn 13 years of age is most likely what they will believe for the rest of their life. Between the ages of 4 and 14, we have a window of opportunity to reach souls at the time they are most receptive to the gospel. In addition to the spiritual importance of reaching children when they are young, many statistics also affirm the value of children’s ministry in serving families and communities:[3]

  • When asked how important is the children’s ministry in whether a family remained involved in their current church, 62% of parents said it is “very important” with an additional 25% saying it is “moderately important.”
  • 66% of parents said the children’s ministry plays an important factor in whether they stay at a church, and another 24% said it plays a moderately important role.
  • When parents ranked the three greatest benefits their current children’s ministry offers, the number one benefit by far was that it helps their kids “develop a personal, growing faith.”

The words of researcher George Barna, in his book Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, summarize the strategic importance of children’s ministry when he says, “If you want to have a lasting influence upon the world, you must invest in people’s lives; and if you want to maximize that investment, then you must invest in those people while they are young.”[4]

We will determine and set achievable goals.

Research tells us that thinking about the future motivates us to set and attain goals, but only if we believe the effort is worth it.

When I look into the eyes of the children I serve in my local ministry on Sunday mornings, I cannot help but be motivated to pray for their future as Christ followers. What I provide to them today in the form of godly care and instruction must be of value. I must give them the foundation, knowledge, and tools to grow as fully devoted followers of Jesus—not just entertain them or make them good citizens.

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) reminds us, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” As we think about our ministry goals, we must remember that they are about the future, “what we hope for.” Our goals are what propel us toward something new, the “assurance about what we do not see.”

Measurable goals and clearly defined objectives aid in the allocation and accountability of our resources in children’s ministry. They have power to motivate people and move them toward action. Goals are considered those larger, overarching concepts for your ministry, whereas objectives provide the means to measure your progress toward the achievement of those goals and keep you accountable. Objectives are usually short-term and easy to measure.

What are the goals for your ministry? Having clearly defined goals and objectives for your ministry serve as a road map for the year. Goals communicate to everyone connected with your ministry what the priorities are. As goals are achieved, celebrate them with your team.

We will improve our perspective of the future while impacting a generation NOW.

Focusing on the future and intentionally discipling your children will impact your congregation now! As international director, I will occasionally encounter a pastor who reports, “We have no children in our church.” When I visit these congregations, most often I find a sad environment with no life. Conversely, when I visit a church that is reaching the next generation, no matter how few or many, I find life. As we actively disciple the coming generation, we cannot help but look to the future with hope while enjoying the benefits of life children bring to our community.

In this issue of the White Wing Messenger, we will consider the future of the church and give attention to the call to ensure that we are discipling the children God has entrusted to us. It is the hope of International Children’s Ministries that you will prayerfully read through these pages and ask God how he would have you respond to his call to disciple kids—the ones in your home, your neighborhood, or your community.

Additionally, we want to inspire you concerning the future of the church. Our future is bright as we cling to His great promise, “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17).

[1] Aaron Earls, “Fear Prevalent in Pews, According to Protestant Pastors.” Lifeway Research, August 8, 2023,

[2] “Evangelism Is Most Effective Among Kids,” Barna Group, n.d.,

[3] “Children’s Ministry’s Impact on Your Church Growth,”, accessed September 18, 2020,

[4] George Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 30.