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Give Children a Chance
Spunk, energy, fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Children have it all, and can be active participants in the life of a community.

In the olden days when I grew up, plenty of people thought children should be seen and not heard. Kids were viewed as empty receptacles, needing to be taught and socialized into an adult-centric world. Their voices were not particularly welcome.

Far from being passive recipients, children have much to offer…

In my work with children over the past 30 years—as a parent and grandparent, a lay leader in my church, and the leader of an organization whose focus is on children—I’ve had a chance to unlearn some of those antiquated notions.

Far from being passive recipients, children have much to offer, and can be active participants in the life—and leadership—of a community.

I love the story a colleague told me recently about a group of Canadian-sponsored children in Sri Lanka. Illegal brewing operations in their region meant alcoholism was a big problem, and abuse of children and women was high.

Banding together, the children alerted the police to more than 200 illegal breweries, helping stop 95 percent of the businesses. When one elderly grandmother complained that making alcohol was the only way she could support her grandchild, the children cleared a piece of land so the grandmother could cultivate a garden, and helped dig her a well.

Give children a chance, and they can do some pretty amazing things. As community and ministry leaders, we make a mistake if we see them simply as creatures to be shaped. Children want to serve and be trusted with opportunities, and their voices are worth listening to. It’s our role to listen and to help find age-appropriate ways to involve them.

See the related story, “Kids Can Change the World,” to meet some children who are making their mark in the world, hear from a leading theologian, and discover ways to engage children in your ministry. Jesus invited the children to come. Let’s follow his example.

Dave Toycen is the president of World Vision Canada.

Originally published in World Watch, February 2008.




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