Compassion CEO: Church Is Always One Generation From Going Extinct

As many churches look for ways to grow and maintain their congregations, one author argues that an important and often overlooked component is children.

Dr. Wess Stafford, president and CEO of Compassion International and author of the soon-to-be-released book Just A Minute, believes churches should put more focus on children’s ministry.

“I think it’s important,” said Stafford, highlighting that the Church is always one generation from going extinct.

“My one stringed violin is to wake up the Kingdom of God to the importance of children.”

In his book, Stafford laments how many churches do not put a great emphasis on children’s ministry.

“It is a rare church that spends more than 15 percent of its budget on ministry to children,” wrote Stafford.

“The cultivation of young minds is central to history, for good or evil.”

In the interview with The Christian Post, Stafford said that he believed that it is “a wonderful thing” for children to be “involved in the worship process.”

He warned that not giving good attention to children’s ministry can be fatal for a congregation, citing the experience of friend and colleague Tony Campolo. Campolo, a professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University, decided one day to visit his childhood church only to find it had closed down. With the permission of the former elders, Campolo got access to the church documents and decided to look at the records for the year when as a kid he decided to give his life to Christ.

Campolo read the record and saw that the writer had talked of it being a rough year for the congregation, as they had only three conversions and these three were “just children.”

“A church begins to die when they say ‘they are just children,’” said Stafford.

The Importance of Moments

Throughout Just a Minute, Stafford documents several anecdotes from the childhoods of people famous, infamous, and unknown to show the importance of certain moments.

There was Oprah, who as an insecure child had “a seed of confidence planted in her” when the wife of a prominent Tennessee politician treated her with great kindness after a church meeting. There was Pat Riley, the famous NBA coach who as a boy hated playing basketball until his father told him that he must play because of the value that competition can bring to character.

Stafford also compiles stories of lesser known individuals, people who endured troubles in their youth and yet through one moment – a kind word or some encouragement – became positive contributors to society as adults.

Yet, the importance of moments goes both ways. Stafford also wrote about people who experienced something that led them to do awful things. Stafford wrote about incidents in the lives of dictators like Josip “Tito” Broz and Adolf Hitler that contributed greatly to their mentalities as adults.

The “Divine Appointment”

A major theme in the book is what Stafford dubs the “Divine Appointment,” which is when an adult has the chance to do something minor yet significant for a child.

“You, even for a moment, are part of a tapestry of people engaged in the life of any child with whom you have a minute,” wrote Stafford.

When asked by CP if he felt any particular style of parenting is more effective at creating an important moment for a child, Stafford believed the most important element to any parenting was “alertness.”

“Being alert to the signals of your child is probably the biggest key regardless of your style of parenting,” said Stafford.

“Sometimes you’ve got to orchestrate them,” he said, however “it can’t be all planned” because ultimately “God orchestrates the lives of children.”

Dr. Wess Stafford’s latest book Just A Minute will be released on New Year’s Day 2012.