If you do much reading in the area of Christian missions, evangelism, justice ministries or the alleviation of human suffering due to abject poverty then you’ve likely heard of the 10/40 window. The term was coined by a Christian mission strategist in 1990 to refer to those regions of the eastern hemisphere, plus the European and African part of the western hemisphere, located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator. In 1990, people living in the 10/40 window had the highest level of socioeconomic poverty and lowest level of access to the Gospel and Christian resources. Many amazing ministries now focus their energy and attention on the 10/40 window to great positive effect.
So today I’d like you to consider another window: the 4/14 window.
Think 4 to 14 years old. Yes, kids — the ones right outside your window.
4/14 is the window of opportunity that’s currently open for reaching people in the United States for Jesus Christ. These are not people living in a foreign land — these are children living in spiritual poverty right down the street from you and me.
Look out the window … see the children. They are little now … but not little for long. The older we get the more we recognize that 10 years evaporates in an instant. We also know surveys (by Barna, Gallup and others) that the likelihood of a person making a lifelong commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior drops from 32 percent to just 6 percent after the age of 14.
The research on this in the fields of both religion and children’s moral/value/character development dates back a decade now. That means that when the current 14-year-olds who are now graduating from the 4/14 window were just toddlers, we should have taken Proverbs 22:6 seriously: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
We all know what God says in Proverbs 22:6 is not a guarantee, but it is a statistical probability. And those stats change dramatically when a kid leaves junior high. Our window of opportunity for reaching those kids is closing — fast.
Barna’s research in particular shows that church attendance by children has lifelong impact. Sixty-one percent of adults who attended church as children continue to attend regularly today. Yet, only 22 percent of those who were not churched as children participate in the life of a church today.
School’s back in session. Kids are naturally gathered together. The window is open. What opportunities do you see?
Do you actively pray for your local schools, provide support during the vulnerable times for kids to and from school by simply being present and watchful, praying over them as they walk, bike, drive or congregate at the bus stop?
Do you know even one child in the 4/14 window? Do you pray for them by name? Do you invite them to age appropriate events at your church and offer them a ride or financial scholarships if that is needed?
Does your church partner with a local school for prayer and classroom support?
Does your church honor those who participate in the education of our kids? Do you honor the vocational calling of teachers, school counselors, coaches, administrators and after-school caregivers?
Do you have a “backpack” ministry to help alleviate hunger among the children in your community?
Do you have a mentoring or after-school ministry designed for kids who would otherwise be home alone during the most vulnerable hours of the day?
Do you support homeschoolers by offering your church facility for co-op days?
Are you familiar with Child Evangelism Fellowship and do you sponsor a CEF club at your local school?
Need more ideas? Talk with the principal or counselor at the local elementary school. Ask them what they need and then find a way to make that happen. It may be shoes for kids who have outgrown theirs, it may be people to stand at bus stops, it may be sleeping bags and pillows or hygiene kits for homeless kids sleeping in a car with their mom. Prepare yourself. Life for kids in America is not what it was when you were young. The 4/14 window in America today looks more like the 10/40 window of 10 years ago than we want to admit. If you look into this window you will surely find a mission field.
The window stands open … what vision do you have to reach into it?