It should come as no surprise that children’s programs in our new church plants are bursting at the seams. Forty-two percent of Ethiopia’s population is under the age of 15!
How would your church handle 220 wiggly children between the ages of 7 and14? Or perhaps “only” 110 kiddos?
One Christian community that is just getting off the ground with a couple dozen believers sees 34 children consistently come every Saturday morning from 8-10 a.m. to learn about Jesus.
Aware of the masses of children in villages where churches are being established, NewLife Ethiopia initiated children’s programs several years ago, appointing an energetic young man, Mikiyas, as Children’s Director. We knew it would be challenging to establish well-run “Sunday schools” in the new churches – primarily because it was difficult to find literate people who also had a heart for children, plus there was no church culture for such a thing.
SIM, a reputable missionary organization, designed a children’s curriculum that is simple and effective and can be implemented in rural areas. It has taken awhile, with much encouragement from Miki and continued teacher training from SIM, but we are now seeing vibrant children’s ministries in most all of our church plants.
Our missionaries are highly involved in cultivating the hearts of the very young. Some are hands-on teachers themselves, some are a resource and encouragement for volunteer teachers from the congregation. Many of our missionaries have taken on the additional challenge of holding literacy classes to teach reading in places where there are no schools. The missionary in one Muslim village holds literacy classes in the church Monday and Tuesday mornings with a bible story following. Many Muslim children come to learn. Then Saturday and Sunday mornings missionary “A” teaches about 62 children from Christian families.
We are encouraged with the dedication the churches are showing to reach this large and impressionable demographic! Mikiyas is planning another teacher training for 25 new teachers. The time has come to fine tune the program by breaking these large numbers of children into age groups to more effectively teach at the child’s maturation level.
It has taken time to develop teachers and for church leaders to grasp the value of discipling the next generation. There is still a learning curve, but we are encouraged… big time!