There are a lot of ways to fight poverty and share the love of Jesus. Some organizations improve access to safe water. Others provide literacy training and education. Many focus on nutrition and hunger, health care or disaster relief.
At Compassion, we focus on children. They are the heart of everything we do. Our programs touch on many of the poverty-alleviating strategies listed above — but they all revolve around one clear goal:
Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.
Why children? In fighting the enormous, complex task of global poverty, why did we choose to tackle it from the most-vulnerable, least-influential, most-soft-spoken voices? Children don’t have a lot of money or political power or social standing. They aren’t (yet) world leaders, doctors or respected economists.
So, what do children bring to the table?
Here are five reasons why children are the heart of Compassion.
1. They matter to Jesus.
There are many stories in Scripture about how precious children are to Jesus. Mark 10:13-15 shares a time when people brought little children to Jesus for him to lay his hands on them. Thinking Jesus wouldn’t want to bother with children, the disciples rebuked them — but they were wrong. We read in verses 14-15 (NIV), “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'”
2. They are the most receptive to the gospel.
We read in Proverbs 22:6 (NIV), “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Research shows that almost two-thirds of Americans who give their lives to Christ do so before age 18. Still other global studies suggest that children are most receptive to spiritual and developmental input between ages 4 and 14.
Want to learn more? Check out research on the “4/14 Window” about evangelism among children.
3. There are a lot of them.
According to the CIA’s World Factbook, over 40% of the global population is under the age of 25. About 85% of the world’s youths live in low- to middle-income countries. The sheer number of children around the world — and the number of those living in poverty — is staggering. An estimated 385 million children currently live in extreme poverty (on less than US $1.90 a day). One in 2 — or 689 million — lives in a multidimensionally poor household, which means they experience at least one indicator of poverty in their daily life, such as poor health, lack of education or inadequate living standards.
4. They are the hardest hit by poverty’s effects but the least able to do anything about their circumstances.
When it comes to the effects of poverty, children are the most vulnerable. They are the most impacted by malnutrition. They are often the earliest to succumb to disease. In times of war or instability — when education and basic needs like love and security take a backseat to survival — it’s children who suffer the most. And it’s those in their youngest, most formative years who are the worst off. Over 20 percent of all children under age 5 in the developing world live in extremely poor households, compared with 15 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds. That’s why Compassion’s holistic child development program starts even before a child is born with prenatal care for the mother.
5. They have a lifetime ahead of them.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of working with children is the incredible potential for lifelong change. In speaking about his book “Too Small to Ignore,” President Emeritus of Compassion International Dr. Wess Stafford shared, “When a child is small it takes very little effort to make an impact for good or [an impact] that can destroy them. A child’s life can be launched or derailed, and the effects will last a lifetime.”
Compassion’s 2022 Prayer Calendar focuses on “Faith Like a Child.” Check out the prayer requests and praises for this month. We hope it encourages you with new ways to pray for the world, and especially for the Church, to see children as Jesus sees them.