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How Young Is Too Young for Evangelizing?

How Young Is Too Young for Evangelizing?

When I was about 7-years-old, I remember fondly a week that I spent at day camp. We had a morning of face painting one time, and every afternoon we learned new songs. There were a few sessions of bell ringing, which I was fascinated by, and at the end of the week, we put on a play.

It was all about the story of Noah and the Flood. I didn’t know what it meant, but the songs were catchy. In fact, I still remember most of them today.

Children are sponges when it comes to information and ideas, and that makes them ideal subjects when it comes to any form of teaching. It’s no wonder, then, that some religious groups see them as the perfect audience when it comes to recruitment, and the younger, the better. My day camp was a Presbyterian bible study, more about getting young kids out of their parents’ hair over the summer and offering wholesome activities at the same time, and yes, a little smattering of God came along for the price of admission. Others, however, use far stronger tactics, and they are ramping up their attempts to recruit elementary school aged children to the fold.

According to The Associated Press, an evangelical group in Portland, Ore., is explicitly targeting young school aged children, all the way down to kindergarten, by trying to pick them up at neighborhood pools and parks, or anyplace a large number of them may be gathering. However, the organization, known as Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News Club, isn’t your typical bible study or vacation bible school camp; instead, they put extreme pressure on children to see the world according to their own narrow biblical worldview, according to locals.

“Mia Marceau, a mother of two in the Portland suburb of Vancouver, Washington, said she was intrigued when the group approached her apartment complex pool last week. She said she, too, believes in Jesus Christ,” reports the AP. “Within a few hours, however, she didn’t like what the group was telling her 8-year-old son and his friends: They were headed to hell, needed to convert their friends and were duty-bound to raise money for the organization.”

Recruitment wherever a massive number of children can be found is quite commonplace, however. I experienced it myself just this month, when my daughter attended an annual 4th of July parade in her grandparents’ hometown. Children lined the street, holding bags to collect the candy, stickers and bracelets being tossed to the crowd or handed out one by one by the community organizations and businesses that co-sponsored the parade. Near the very end of the city-sponsored event, a Baptist church tailed behind, handing out leaflets to their upcoming vacation bible study camp, complete with a drawing of Jesus on the crucifix, his hands dripping blood.

In the case of the leaflet the children (or at least their parents) have a pretty clear indication of what their children will be exposed to if they attend. Other efforts are less transparent, such as invites sent to schools to promote Easter egg hunts or field trips to learn the “true story” of Easter.

It may seem innocuous. After all, children don’t have to be involved, and parents can keep them away from such events if they disagree. But seducing children into events, where they will then be exposed to ideas that they may not be cognitively ready to cope with, is a danger in itself to their future development, according to a recent study.

“The study found that, of the 66 participants, children who went to church or were enrolled in a parochial school were significantly less able than secular children to identify supernatural elements, such as talking animals, as fictional,” reports Huffington Post. ”By relating seemingly impossible religious events achieved through divine intervention (e.g., Jesus transforming water into wine) to fictional narratives, religious children would more heavily rely on religion to justify their false categorizations.”

Should children be exposed to religious ideas? Of course. But in an age appropriate way, guided by the caretakers in their lives who can help them separate true from false and morality versus judgement. Anything else is little more than seduction and brainwashing.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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166 comments

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2:13AM PDT on Aug 5, 2014

It makes me sick to think to get up in the morning and need to read the Bible first!I am very slow and sleepy at 06am!Then feeling forced to be somebody I am not.Why do I have to change for God?I am Always softspoken and kindhearted.The Evangelical world is constantly unhappy ,not grateful, complaining and therefore preaches to change.The simple hard working believer is regarded as not as spiritual because he does not WORK for God!In Europe, most American/Canadian missionaries live a luxury life,travel all over and do sightseeing to their hearts Delight.They think they DO the work of God but its a covering.Europe IS a great place to live,of course!I love it!But most Belgians have no idea what they are here to do.They manage to escape Tax here AND the US.These so to speak high believers:spiritual leaders are just accomodating their luxury lives.Flying is common as a busride for most simple peoplehere.
Children Evangelisation is not unharming.Some kids have nightmares about the bloody stories from the OT when they hear "The Lord killed them all or The Lord took away the lives ..
I am still recovering from the Hyper Judgmental Christian Organised Religion.

5:39PM PDT on Aug 4, 2014

I'm a Christian and I try to follow the teachings of the Lord. But as far as Evangelical religion is concerned; I can't see how these people claim to be Christians.

You may be sincere in your religious worship, but being compared to others, being forced to tithe even if you don't have the money, being told that if you're not receiving lots of money and goods that you are NOT following the religious rules is a bunch of bunk.

Either a congregation practices the Old Testament OR the New Testament. Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament and His main teachings are to LOVE GOD and to LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF. You can't 'pick and choose' which rules and laws you'll follow from the Bible.

When you are nitpicking at others' shortcomings or comparing your bank account to others or pushing your young children to accept everything they are told you are NOT following the teachings of the Lord. Evangelicals are NOT Christians. Sorry, but that's my opinion and I'm sticking with it.

12:22PM PDT on Aug 1, 2014

@Rene M. Did it surprise you that you were labeled as a COMMUNIST, for questioning the BIBLE as being the BOOK of books...the teachings of Jesus and of course the word of GOD???!!!...Now the right wing McCarthy sympathizing TeaSippers favorite prey no longer seem to be the GODLESS Commies, but rather the GODLESS Muslims...Everything else has pretty much remained the same...Except for the fact that the TeaBaggers are every bit as loony as the fanatical Muslims they would like to annihilate, and vice versa...As long as there is such a plethora of KNUCKLEHEADS who do not allow ANYONE to question the scriptures, we are never going to have PEACE on EARTH...The sad thing is that both sides want to RAM PEACE right down the throats of the others...and feel that it is their GOD(ALLAH)-given right to do so!!!!

12:45PM PDT on Jul 30, 2014

Does feeding a child pasta count as Pastafarian evangelizing?

10:05AM PDT on Jul 30, 2014

(continued)to the parents while the child is under the age of consent, to do otherwise interferes with parental rights and is unfair to developing minds. In my opinion.

10:04AM PDT on Jul 30, 2014

"Should children be exposed to religious ideas? Of course. But in an age appropriate way, guided by the caretakers in their lives who can help them separate true from false and morality versus judgement. Anything else is little more than seduction and brainwashing."

I'm not so sure of that "Of course." part. I was. Both my mother and grandmother were Sunday School teachers. I read before school and my first book was a HUGE children's bible. It was not long after starting Sunday School that I was forbidden from asking questions in class. I mean they start right off the bat - there are four people in the world, Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel. Cain kills Abel and is exiled with his wife. His who now? Where did SHE come from? I to this day do not understand how literalists can reconcile all those contradictions. So as I grew up I formed my own conclusions about what I believe and don't. But I had some background from which to work. I did the same for my sons, sent them through confirmation, then left it up to them to do as they chose. For me that is how it should be. Choose for yourself, and give everyone else the same freedom. That's the line I draw in the sand with those who wish to proselytize as part of their faith experience. Their freedom to do so ends with my choice to not be proselytized. But I am an adult and can freely make such a choice. A child may not have that kind of will, nor know that he or she can say no. So, personally, I'd say leave this to the pa

4:25PM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

I promised myself from a very young age, that the day I left school and home would be the last day I go to church! I was never satisfied with the illogical stuff being preached. They were never able to satisfactory answer my many questions. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO QUESTION THE BIBLE!!!! Yeah right, because you know it is a bunch of fairy tales!! In my day I was even accused of being a communist because I did not believe some stuff and questioned some things.

4:25PM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

I promised myself from a very young age, that the day I left school and home would be the last day I go to church! I was never satisfied with the illogical stuff being preached. They were never able to satisfactory answer my many questions. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO QUESTION THE BIBLE!!!! Yeah right, because you know it is a bunch of fairy tales!! In my day I was even accused of being a communist because I did not believe some stuff and questioned some things.

2:00AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Allow children to develop their own belief system instead of brainwashing them with crap. Give me one religion which has the truth!!! There's none!!

12:31PM PDT on Jul 28, 2014

The first thing they teach is DON'T ASK QUESTIONS, which effectively keeps their victims from any hope of being ripped from their grasp.
And the first thing they scream if anyone does question is RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION!

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