As people get older, they become harder to reach with the gospel than when they are in their formative and impressionable years. In Third World countries steeped in non-Christian traditions, it is much more difficult for someone to convert to Christianity once they are in their late teens or older. As one pastor from the U.S. who has founded missions in two developing countries says, “Give me a chance to reach the youngest generation, and I will reach the nation for Christ.” Matthew 10:42 shows the heart of Jesus for the little ones that the world has forgotten.
Do child sponsorship programs really make any difference?
This is a question that was examined by a top economist in a meticulously researched article recently published in Christianity Today. In the June 2013 issue, writer Bruce Wydick, studied the outcome of children who had been involved for years in the programs of Compassion International, which had an age limit of 12 and under during their major worldwide expansion in the 1980s. Information was obtained on the children who had gone through Compassion’s programs, as well as their older siblings who had been slightly too old to enroll. This unique situation eliminated differences due to genetics, family environment, and other factors that might skew the results. When the data was analyzed, the results were astounding – the children who had been sponsored far outpaced their brothers and sisters who had not been sponsored – in educational level attained, socio-economic status, and employment. Not only that, but standard psychological testing revealed significant increases in feelings of self-worth, self-esteem, aspirations to achieve, and hope. Many formerly sponsored children have grown up to be doctors, teachers, and community leaders; whereas without intervention they would have been destined for a life destroyed by human trafficking, drugs, prostitution or life as a child soldier.
What will the programs do for the children?
The main benefit that the children have is being exposed to the gospel. Beyond that, the children have access to a Christian education, free health care at clinics, feeding programs (which benefit the whole family), school uniforms (required in many developing countries), vaccinations to prevent high mortality childhood diseases, and the hope for a future. In addition, this approach helps to raise up and teach nationals who have been shown to be much more effective at reaching their own cultures and people groups for Christ than their foreign missionary counterparts.
Can I really afford to make a commitment like that?
To be honest, not everyone can afford to do this. If a single mother is struggling on low, fixed income with several mouths to feed and high medical bills, she does not need to feel as if she has an obligation to sponsor a child. But most Christians, if they look very closely at their finances, are likely to be able to come up with the dollar and change per day that would be needed. How much does that espresso coffee cost in the morning? The price does not seem significant, but at four to five dollars per cup, it may run into $80 to $100 per month. For the cost of expensive coffee every other day instead of every day, it would be possible sponsor a child. How many televisions, cell phones and other electronic devices do most households have? What is the monthly cable bill? If a family goes to the movies once a week, the cost of popcorn and soda alone would exceed the cost of sponsoring a child for a month. Going out to lunch with the office co-workers can cost $10 to $15 including tax and tip. Skipping one lunch per week could easily fund the child sponsorship project.
Isn’t it the responsibility of the leadership of the church to take care of social outreach programs?
We often look to the church leaders, elders and pastors to set up outreach ministries such as feeding the homeless, founding missions and planting churches at home and abroad. But we often fail to remember that all of us are equipped for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). Just because you don’t have the title of a pastor or a church or ministry staff member doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want to use you to impact lives for him.
Is the concept of child sponsorship programs scriptural?
It is clearly God’s heart for his people to share their wealth and personal resources with those in need (Matthew 25:31-46). Most traditional Christian child sponsorship programs are being carried out in countries where there is political oppression, war-torn countries or nations that have suffered from natural disasters. The Bible has much to say about caring for widows and orphans (James 1:27), loosing the chains of oppression (Isaiah 58), and justice (Luke 4:18-21).
What are some opportunities to participate in a trustworthy child sponsorship program?
Information on how to sponsor a child can be found at the following websites:
All of these organizations have been established for many years and have been instrumental in changing the lives of thousands of children. Those who have visited their sponsored children know from experience how much child sponsorship means to the children. For those familiar with the Christian rock band Audio Adrenaline, it is interesting to know that their song “Kings and Queens” highlights their Hands and Feet project in Jacmel, Haiti. Go to handsandfeetproject.org for more information and a dramatic and moving video made onsite in Jacmel. It is impossible to miss the joy on the children’s faces as they become the center of attention for a few moments in time.
Prayerfully consider how you can give hope for the future and make a difference in the life of a child created in God’s image through child sponsorship.
Bob Woods is a writer and author. He can be reached at [email protected]