Evangelism Most Effective With Children

From here:

Currently representing 38% of all adults and one-third of all teenagers, there are an estimated 98 million adults and children who have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. A substantial majority of the people who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching their 18th birthday. This insight comes from a new research study from The Barna Group, based on interviews with 992 born again Christians nationwide. The survey also revealed that young people respond more positively to different outreach influences than do people who embrace Christ later in life.

Most Christians Were Young When Saved

For years, church leaders have heard the claim that nearly nine out of ten Christians accept Jesus as their savior before the age of 18. If that statistic was accurate in the past, it no longer depicts U.S. society. The current Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. One out of eight born again people (13%) made their profession of faith while 18 to 21 years old. Less than one out of every four born again Christians (23%) embraced Christ after their twenty-first birthday. Barna noted that these figures are consistent with similar studies it has conducted during the past twenty years.

The survey data show that Catholics who become born again are even more likely than Protestants to do so before reaching high school. Among those currently associated with a Catholic church and who are born again, two out of three (66%) accepted Christ before age 13; one-fifth (21%) did so from 13 to 21; and the remaining 13% made that decision as an adult. In contrast, born again people aligned with a Protestant church make that choice at an older age: 40% did so as children, 35% during the 13-to-21-age span, and one-quarter (25%) as adults.

Means to Salvation Vary By Age of Commitment

The precipitating event for someone to accept Christ as his or her savior varied by the age of the individual making that spiritual commitment.

For instance, among Christians who embraced Christ before their teen years, half were led to Christ by their parents, with another one in five led by some other friend or relative. Comparatively few accepted Jesus in response to a minister’s personal prompting (7%) and only one out of eight cited a special event as the turning point in their journey. Among those who mentioned events, about half identified a church service. Just 1% mentioned media evangelism or other special situations as being responsible for their conversion.

Among people who accepted Christ when they were age 13 through 21, the process was much more diverse. One out of five credited a friend with bringing them to Christ, and a similar proportion said their parents were responsible for their decision. One-fifth also recalled an event as the trigger for their commitment. One-sixth of the people saved as teens (16%) listed a relative other than their parent as the primary influencer. Ministers were cited by one out of every ten Christians who accepted Christ during the 13-to-21-age bracket, while media and special personal situations were listed by only 1%.

Adults who accepted Christ as their savior generally responded to different stimuli than did younger people. The most common precipitant was a friend (19%), followed by mass media experiences (14%), a live event (14%) or a relative (13%). Ministers were responsible for leading one out of every ten adult converts to Christ while parents of adults were named as the evangelistic influence by one in twelve (8%) of these believers.

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Perhaps the most significant outcome of the research, in Barna’s eyes, is the prevalence of decisions made during childhood. “Families, churches and parachurch ministries must recognize that primary window of opportunity for effectively reaching people with the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection is during the pre-teen years. It is during those years that people develop their frames of reference for the remainder of their life – especially theologically and morally. Consistently explaining and modeling truth principles for young people is the most critical factor in their spiritual development.”

1 Response to “Evangelism Most Effective With Children”


  1. 1 John in the Middle August 6, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    Thanks for linking to this. I cited it to our vestry a few years ago to a chorus of yawns. They were wondering why more children weren’t in church, suggesting that if we wanted programs for children, we should fund and staff them ourselves. Sadly, it’s easier to take the kids to churches that offer programs for kids, and it’s hard to find that in an Episcopal church.


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