According to the 21st Century Evangelicals survey undertaken by the Evangelical Alliance, 54 percent of the present UK Church cited growing up in a Christian home as the primary reason they are in church today. That’s why faith in the home is a significant factor in future church attendance.


But that wasn’t my story! I grew up in a Welsh mining valley and I was 15 before I set foot in a church building. I’d never been to a funeral, went to lots of wedding receptions but never to a wedding service (my dad and I worked out that nobody ever noticed if we didn’t show up to the service and merged back into the crowd as the people left the church for the photos at the end).

My family never attended church. And I didn’t know anyone else who went. I heard about Jesus in school and sang plenty of hymns about Jesus in secondary school assemblies – they do that in Wales. But God was nothing more than an abstract concept who might or might not be real. I didn’t care one way or the other, I was completely uninterested.

It was in my Welsh valley on a wet Friday evening that I eventually went to church. It was a youth group in a small Pentecostal Chapel with a corrugated iron roof. I’d gone because a girl who I liked had invited me to attend, but I quickly made a lot of other friends.

This was no ‘open youth club’, this was songs on a guitar, testimonies, prayers and preaching. (I am yet to be convinced of the value of open youth clubs in terms of evangelism and long-term discipleship.) Every member of this group knew their job was to invite others. Outreach was key.

I went because of a girl and stayed because I’d made friends and we got to hang out at the end. It was several months later that I attended a Sunday service and that really was something else! 6pm Sunday evening, the place was packed (although anything over 40 meant it was packed) and everyone seemed to own a tambourine with ribbons.

I assure you that if there was a chandelier in this old building, people would have been swinging from it. It was certainly lively. And just before my 16th birthday I decided to become a follower of Jesus and was baptised in the local Baptist church – we didn’t have a baptismal tank, so we had to use theirs.

Three years later I went to theological college, and three years after that I got my first job as a children’s pastor in Milton Keynes. I’ve been employed by churches of varying denominations ever since, doing jobs from senior minister all the way up to children’s pastor! I’ve now been working for churches for over 30 years.


As we look across the UK Church at this point in history, we see a clear emphasis on family ministry emerging, and it is brilliant – it’s the primary focus for this column. Various organisations have produced resources such as The Kitchen Table Project and Parenting for Faith.

Even I’m not immune – my friend Jo Foster and I recently launched a Freedom in Christ family resource called The Lightbringers. To varying degrees, Spring Harvest, Focus and New Wine have all invested in family worship times and it’s so good to see these festivals coming back to life (I attended New Wine and Focus this summer).

God by his Spirit is clearly breathing on this exciting area of ministry to families. God-centred families really ought to be our prayer and I’m going to continue to bang that drum. But just allow me this one contribution to keep us balanced. I am passionately committed to helping church families communicate faith to their children and I celebrate the increase in family workers employed by churches across our country, but my plea is a simple one.

Don’t throw the unchurched baby out with the bathwater! Of course, my motivation is obvious: if there were no outreach ministries to children and no outreach ministries to young people, there would have been no way in for me! Becoming a follower of Jesus allowed me to become all that God had created me to be.

If our only focus is on those who are already ‘in’ because they grew up in Christian homes, what about most of the country who have never had an opportunity to connect with Jesus? What of the 95 percent who have no connection with church or church groups? 

This isn’t meant to be discouraging; 14 million boys and girls who need to have a relationship with Jesus sounds overwhelming, but this really is about enabling the 5 percent to find the lost 95 percent. It should be the child evangelist’s dream scenario! 14 million children and young people who we can connect with Jesus. And we’ll do it relationally and on the fringe.

This is the 21st century. We are too far removed from the Jesus story in most homes for there to be any anti-Christian sentiment left. We are dealing with generations that don’t know Jesus – they have never heard the gospel presented, negatively or positively.

There are countless fields ready for harvest. We simply need some gifted evangelists who will once again proclaim loudly and clearly the unequivocal truth that a relationship with Jesus will allow them to become everything God created them to be here and now, how to live well.

We have a blank sheet. A whole generation who know nothing, or very little, of this God we worship. As part of rediscovering their identity, Scripture Union have embraced the motivational phrase: “Going to where children are and the gospel is not.” Leaving the one for the sake of the 99.