Why I’m Excited for the Child Discipleship Forum

Article by Kevin Orris April 21, 2021

I’m an expecting dad, roughly a month away from our first born’s anticipated arrival. Despite the numerous Zoom classes, workbooks and conversations about childbirth and newborn parenting, there’s one substantial question I can’t stop asking the Lord: How shall we raise our son to be a lifelong disciple of Jesus?

As an Awana employee and child advocate, the questions hardly end there. My mind and prayers often wander beyond my own son. 

How do we raise his entire generation to know, love and serve Jesus?

Even the most egotistical side of my others-oriented, Enneagram 2 heart must acknowledge this task is far too big for me, a sole human, to take on. We can’t do this alone. Rather, we must completely depend on God, pray for a move of the Spirit and follow through on our collective conviction to prioritize child discipleship. 

Fortunately, I am surrounded by a global team of prayer warriors, child advocates and ministry professionals who have dedicated their careers to answering this question. The ever-evolving question of How do we raise a generation of Christ followers? is embedded in the hearts and minds of our staff.

In early 2020, members of our leadership published a love letter to the Church in the form of a book called Resilient: Child Discipleship and the Fearless Future of the Church. It’s the first of our many efforts to drive a kingdom-wide conversation about the priority and practice of children’s ministry. If you love children, it’s sure to stir you.

Resilient is a terrific start! But we hardly have all the answers. Instead, we’re still left with a myriad of crucial, generation-shaping questions too big for one organization to answer on its own.

  • Have we adequately prepared our children to lead the future Church and culture?
  • In what ways are we hindering our children from the kingdom? (Matthew 19:14)
  • How does our approach to children’s ministry need to be disrupted or reimagined?
  • How could we impact the world if we united to elevate effective child discipleship right now?

We — myself, Awana and the Church — must address these questions head-on and quickly. Amid the rapid rise of secularism, especially amongst America’s youth, we need you and others to bring their perspectives, insights and best practices to the table. The future of the faith depends on it.

To that end, we’re eager to host the first gathering of the Child Discipleship Forum on Sept. 16 and 17, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Awana has developed this unique gathering, both in person and online, to create space for intentional thought and conversations about cultural awareness, child advocacy, and local children’s ministry practice. We’ll do this together in three ways:

  • Leading voices including Ed Stetzer, Valerie Bell, David Kinnaman and Cynthia Dixson will help shape our collective responses to these consuming questions.
  • We’ll discover helpful research from Awana and the Barna Group about key factors to raising generations of resilient disciples.
  • We’ll receive practical tools and resources to bring biblical child discipleship to each of our local churches, communities and families.

Our conversations, both on stage and off, will greatly benefit the kingdom for eternity. May we — a generation of loving, caring adults — gather in obedience, humility and anticipation for what our heavenly Father has in store for us. 

Myself and hundreds of other child disciplers can’t wait to see you there. My son and his generation are counting on us. Save your seat today.