Monday, August 22, 2011

Then and Now...

In 1967, nearly 45 years and two generations ago, Johns Hopkins University did a story of some 1000 grade school children to find out about their greatest fears.

In 1967 the greatest fears of children were:
    ∙    animal attack
    ∙    being in the dark
    ∙    high places
    ∙    strangers
    ∙    loud noises.

In 2003 they repeated the same study among another set of 1000 grade school children and discovered the worst fears that confront children today.

This list showed children were afraid of:
    ∙    divorce of their parents
    ∙    nuclear war and terrorist attack
    ∙    cancer (or other terminal illness)
    ∙    pollution and natural disaster
    ∙    being mugged, kidnapped or assaulted.

Most of the things our children feared in 1967 were imaginary fears (darkness, loud noises, etc) or ordinary fears (high places, dog bite, etc).  In contrast to that the fears identified by children today are real fears – knowledge of which has been fueled by the news media and their real threats all around them.

Marriages fail at the highest rate in history; our children have something to fear.  More children live in homes affected by divorce than those who don’t. Many children live largely on their own even when they have two parents still married (but each work one or more jobs).  I read one statistic that said 70% of all Black women are presently unmarried (single, widowed, or divorced).  Sept. 11, 2001, and the wars  in Afghanistan and Iraq all remind us that our children’s fears of war and terrorist violence are real.  They do have something to fear.

Cancer, AIDS, SARS, and worse than average flu seasons all combine to threaten children with fears about their health.  These are honest fears.  Pollution and natural disasters are all around us – from the global warming and climate changes to forest fires, our children have real fears about real problems.  The increase in violence that touches the lives of children is well reported.  Some have a greater chance of suffering violent attack than they do reaching the age of 21 (especially Blacks).  

The Lord is my helper... I will not be afraid... Children now more than ever need the comfort of the love of God and His presence to support and protect them.  Yet since 1967 church attendance by children has dropped 20%.  At the very time our children need to know the grace and mercy of our loving God, they are further and further from the places where that love is revealed and shared (in worship).

If we need to see the relevance of Sunday school, church youth groups, and children’s ministries, all we need to do is look at the survey of a child’s worst fears.  Is there any more important or relevant ministry we can provide than to teach our children well the God who is with us always and whose love is our strength and our shield forever?  This God, whom we know in Christ, forgives our sins, calms our fears, and leads us through trouble and trial.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Christian parents have the God-given
responsibility to teach their
children to fear, love, and trust in
God above all things.

You can have the best parish youth
group in town and the best Sunday
School in town, but if Christianity
is not reinforced by the parents in
the home, then their children will
have a tough life.