By Mark A. Taylor
It’s tough to be a child in America these days, especially if you’re one of the children described by statistics like these:
• More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse, and about 80 percent of these are under the age of 4. A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds.2
• One-third of American children—a total of 15 millions—are being raised without a father. Nearly 5 million more live without a mother. According to the 2010 census, the number of children living in single-parent homes had nearly doubled since 1960.3
• Millions of Americans, including 16.2 million children—live in households lacking the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis.4
• A 2014 report showed more than 400,000 children in foster care. Another child entered foster care every 2 minutes.5
• In 2011, there were 1.05 million abortions in America.6
Some of this pain and dysfunction is most acute in poor urban areas. But those leading rural, small town, and suburban congregations also see every one of these problems among those they’re serving, some of them their own members.
Many congregations take “welcome the children” as an example to follow, if not a command to obey (Matthew 18:5; Mark 10:13-16). Some do this from a pragmatic, church-growth perspective. (Church planters know effective children’s ministries are a key factor leading first-time visitors to come back.)
Others operate out of a deeper concern prompted by a biblical understanding of how God values children, not to mention how he loves every human being of any age. Certainly we can look at troubled and suffering children around us and imagine how God is hurt by their hunger, their heartache, their confusion, their unmet needs.
The solutions to their problems are more complicated than any single church program, and many require ideas and initiatives leading far beyond our church buildings. But the starting point for every remedy is the love of Christ. Even in a society and time where too many children are little more than a nuisance at best, Christians can have a higher view.
We can remember not only Christ’s exhortation to welcome them, but also his principle for recognizing those society ignores. By meeting the needs of children in distress, we’re serving Jesus himself (Matthew 25:40).