The PCA, as a biblically reformed church, has a particular perspective on the Church and the kingdom. Being reformed in doctrine requires a strong commitment to covenant theology, and covenant theology gives special attention to the rising generation in its implementation. God has instructed us to make kingdom disciples by teaching his people to observe all that he has commanded, and that definitely includes our children and grandchildren, “that the next generation might know them, and the children yet unborn,”(Ps. 78:6). One of the things that makes the PCA distinct in this process is its focus is not simply on programs for the children and youth, but in helping them from the earliest to know what it means to be a child of the covenant and member of God’s church and kingdom and the difference that makes in the way a person thinks, lives, and perceives all of reality.
CEP Targets the Rising Generation
The fact that the PCA’s Strategic Planning Committee has identified this as one of the four areas of their focus indicates that our theology really does play the major role in determining our mission as a church. Though much of the PCA’s ministry to the rising generation is done locally, five PCA committees and agencies have ministries that reflect God’s commands regarding the next generation. Ministry to the rising generation has and continues to be a high priority within the PCA. It is and has always been the focus of Christian Education and Publications with its role of emphasizing the process of making kingdom disciples that know what they believe and why and are able to stand strong and firm in that faith.
Recognizing the need to carry out God’s command regarding the next generation because they are tomorrow’s leaders in the church, home, community, and world, the goalis to assist local churches and parents in the process.The CEP staff regularly evaluates the situation regarding the rising generation. Through the training and resources we attempt to assist, coordinate, and make available those ingredients to fulfill our Lord’s assignment. For example, our annual children’s ministry, WIC, and YXL conferences are some of the training opportunities that we offer. CEP sets its focus to enable churches and families to be more affective not only in their own spiritual growth, but in their children and grandchildren as well.
Periodically, we bring together selected people across the church with particular expertise in children and youth ministries to brainstorm, discuss, and identify those areas that must be on the agenda. For example, we are in the process of developing a profile of what a typical PCA teenager, graduating from high school, should look like–what should they know, be, and do to serve God in his kingdom? This hopefully will assist churches and leaders to develop a process of moving them toward that goal.
Young people are facing some extremely difficult but important issues morally and ethically, especially in areas such as biotechnology. This is made more difficult because scientists operating in this area generally accept a dualistic view of life that separates values and morals from their work. Their mantra tends to be “if we can do it, it is alright to do so.” This manner of operation has already caused many problems that we have to face. Our young people must be taught and encouraged to think from a biblical perspective and have God’s thoughts as their guide.
CEP begins with covenant children through its Sunday school, teacher training, and commitment to help churches and parents in discipling children and youth. More than 60 percent of PCA churches are using our Sunday school curriculum from Great Commission Publications. CEP regularly trains and assists teachers and church leaders in developing their Christian education or discipleship program. Leaders of children’s ministries, as well as youth leaders, meet regularly for training opportunities conducted by the CEP staff. CEP offers counseling and consulting to churches and individuals involved in this ministry. CEP focuses on intensive, in-depth training for selected teenagers with leadership potential from across the denomination, helping them develop a kingdom framework with a biblical world and life view.
Resources are supplied from CEP’s staff, regional trainers, bookstore and electronic media to help local churches disciple the rising generations. Conferences on Christian schooling are an ongoing part of CEP’s ministry as well. CEP will be partnering with Briarwood Presbyterian Church to present a conference on Christian schooling. Check our website for details about that conference to be held June 2007 at Briarwood in Birmingham, AL.
A major focus of our mission of “discipling God’s covenant people” has been training older men and women to disciple the younger generations. CEP makes available to local churches and presbyteries training and resources to assist in making kingdom disciples. Producing resources and training defines CEP’s role in equipping for this task.
Christian Education and Publications will continue to expand its training and resources. Specifically, CEP will intensify efforts:
to bring together the church, home, and school as they minister to the rising generation. At our annual children’s ministry conferences we offer workshops on that topic. We are presently teaching at several cooperating seminaries.
to study the trends relating to the culture of the rising generation to assist churches in their discipleship ministry.
to give attention to the multicultural needs in the PCA, relating to training and resources.
to facilitate more effective ministries among women and men, as they relate to the rising generation. That was the theme of our recent 2006 WIC Conference in Atlanta with 4,000 participants.
PCA Committees and Agencies Target the Rising Generation
Not only does CEP have a key ministry to the rising generation, so does Covenant Collegeby educating college students to become more intentionally kingdom-oriented. All of Covenant’s career paths are focused on preparing students to see the totality of the Christian life and how to integrate their faith in all that they do. The college focus is to disciple students with a kingdom perspective and a biblically reformed world and life view.
Covenant College and CEP are presently partnering with our unique summer Youth Excelling in Leadership (YXL) conference for high school students. This conference attracts key teenagers from local churches who spend a week on the Covenant College campus. They are taught a biblical world and life view perspective and how that impacts their lives daily. Covenant College has also agreed to offer some scholarship assistance for college to those who participate in YXL. Covenant College is a valuable resource and we are pleased to be able to work with them in jointly ministering to the rising generation.
Covenant Theological Seminary is another PCA agency realizing the need to challenge and equip their students to consider fulltime ministry to children and youth. The seminary offers opportunities to study today’s youth culture both in urban and rural context as part of students’ training. It demonstrates a strong commitment through the youth ministry track to train people for this ministry and has worked with us in that task.
Ridge Haven, our PCA conference center, is also committed to the rising generation through its facilities and programs by bringing together cooperative efforts with other PCA committees, agencies, presbyteries, and local churches in this task. These efforts are seen in its summer camps and conferences, weekend retreats, and special events such as YoWAW (jointly sponsored by several of our committees and agencies for high school students).
Reformed University Ministries is another indication of the PCA’s commitment to the rising generation. RUM establishes ministries to college students in their environment to help them know the meaning of being a kingdom disciple and seeing all of life under the Lordship of Christ. They develop opportunities through both corporate and personal ministries to students, some of whom are struggling with a variety of things such as postmodernism, the rugged individualism of Western thought, and the need to be involved in ministry either in the local church or other areas of opportunity.
RUM sets forth a clear message and ministry that seeks to connect the rising generation with solidly biblical and reformed theology with special emphasis on their place in God’s kingdom and especially in his church.
Mission to the World is also a part of helping churches expose their young people to other cultures and ministry needs through its short term missions programs. Thousands of PCA young people have been able to experience another culture through their ministry.
We are attempting to impact the rising generation throughout the PCA by reflecting a clear priority to minister to them. As the committee responsible for coordinating discipleship by providing training and resources, we believe we have never faced a more challenging moment where the rising generation is concerned. With the obvious revival in spirituality, Christianity is viewed as only one among many options. With the dualistic philosophy permeating our Western churches and society in general, the Lordship of Christ is not clearly understood. Connecting Sunday with the rest of the week is not the focus. In this context, the future offers a multitude of opportunities. We have a growing sense of challenge to minister to the rising generations, plus, we are becoming more and more aware that we can be more effective working together than alone. It is true that the whole is larger than “the sum of its parts,” and that is clearly evident as we think of the rising generation.
We will continue to challenge local churches to focus on discipling all their people, especially their younger generations, with a kingdom world and life view. Our role is to encourage, challenge, and assist you in that process.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea,” (Matt 18: 1-6).