The other day I was picking up my university age daughter from Winnipeg’s downtown after an evening class.  We don’t really like her walking by herself to the bus in the dark inner city streets.  While I am waiting in the car, I see two children going down the street unsupervised after 10 PM.  They were maybe 4 and 7 years old.  It was a heartbreaking sight as I imagined what the future held for these still innocent little lives.  What are their chances of NOT being victims of the cycle of sexual abuse, drugs, alcohol, violence and teenage prostitution?  Not very good.  Then I felt anger towards the parents.  Where were they?  I actually have a pretty good idea where.

The devil’s proven approach has always been to take the youngest.  Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Matt 2:16

It’s a simple strategy; target the youngest while they are most defenseless and you determine what future (if any) they have.  Hitler established his Hitler Youth Movement in 1922 as a paramilitary arm of the Nazi party.  Weapons training was given to children sometimes as young as 10 years old.  By 1936 there were 5 million members.  Hitler’s murderous march across Europe could never have happened without having first captured the impressionable minds of an entire generation while they were still youth.

Youth today are still Satan’s primary target.  Music about sex, violence and suicide fill their Ipods.  Peer pressure to pierce, tattoo and lose one’s virginity are at extraordinary levels.  And many parents are frankly just clued out.  “I have no idea what Jimmy does on the Internet all night long?”  Well, why don’t you find out Mommy-head in-the-sand!

TattooCartoon-1.jpg Tattoo Cartoon image by emiesmom

Like my observation of the kids on the streets at night…it is a parental issue.  Parents need to engage their children in meaningful conversation through every stage of development.  If we miss even a few years because we are distracted climbing the corporate ladder or being preoccupied by our own self-actualization we chance putting our own children at risk.  No one is immune from the danger.  Before there was a Billy Graham there was a preacher named Billy Sunday.  At the end of his life he said, “My greatest regret is that I won thousands to Christ but lost my own children.”  He blew it!  Our first and greatest responsibility is always our children.

Our children are now all single young adults.  We engage them in conversation regarding dating, marriage, pre-marital sex, youth culture, music, the risks of drugs and alcohol.  Far from tuning us out, they tune in.  They are no less curious than anyone else and want to talk about it.  They are liberated from the peer pressure by being able to process it with people who have been there as well, albeit in a less complex age.

A couple of years ago we decided we as a church were going to be more intentional with reaching the next generation.  We launched a church-wide initiative we call The Amazing Journey.  It is more about equipping parents to reach their children then us reaching them.  We do father/son, mother/daughter, father/daughter and mother/son events.  We bring in some of the best known speakers on parenting from Focus on the Family and other groups.  We invested 1.5 million dollars to expand our Youth and Childrens’ ministry facility.  Our children’s ministry called KidzRock is the biggest in all of Canada.

We are now partnering with inner city ministries to reach the 10’s of 1000’s of at risk children in Winnipeg’s core.  If the strategy to take the youngest works for the Devil, it only makes sense to do the same and reach them first for God.  We are determined not to lose this generation to the world.  We cannot do it alone as a church, we need the parents of our nation to join us in this Amazing Journey.  How about you Mom?  Dad?  Are you in or are you out?

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  1. Tim here: IT guy and youth worker at Church of the Rock.
    I thought I’d post some links as a help for parents who want to know a little more about youth culture and what’s behind the stuff they are watching/listening/playing: – The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding – Great site with news/blog/reviews about all things youth culture – Great blog and reviews site done by Youth Specialties – Focus on the Family – Reviews on all media from a Christian perspective – Jonathan McKee’s blog where he constantly looks at youth culture – Brett Ullman’s video blog about current culture.

    Hope that helps!


  2. Mark Hughes says:

    Thanks Tim. All great stuff.

  3. Teresa says:

    Kudos Pastor Mark,
    As a regular volunteer for Church of the Rock’s “Threshold” on Friday nights, I am delighted to see attention drawn to this ever increasingly important subject. Satan wants our kids. He has an arsenal of weapons that are leaving the youth helpless if they have to go through life without the proper armor. Awesome Christian youth ministries such as ours help to supply that armor, but it cannot be done without investment and sacrifice. Senior staff members at COTR are to be commended for the allocating of funds to help save the next generation. Further sacrifice must be made however and we need to remember that parental involvement, both inside the church walls and in the homes is an absolute must.
    Fellow parents; ask your Youth Pastor how you can help. Our kids are worth it. Let’s give ’em Heaven and give the devil nothing but grief!

  4. Karen says:

    In the spring when the “Twilight” series came out, the local pastor was encouraging his children to invite the neighborhood kids (which included ours) to a viewing of this movie in the local theater. We wouldn’t allow our children to go. Our children argued with us because “it has to be okay if the “pastor” is taking everyone to the movie.” and “everyone is going.” That’s when Mark’s sermon came out called “the narrow gate” (I hope that’s the right title). I made our children watch that online three times to help us make our point clear about what we wanted our children to be influenced by…..God not vampires. It took a few weeks, but our kids soon realized that we were right not to let them go. But it made me more and more aware about how this kind of garbage was influencing Christian lives.
    I know that I’m preaching to the choir, but we need to stand firm to what is taught in the bible and not water down the word. We need to make sure that we encourage our children to hang out with kids that share the same beliefs that they do, and encourage the kids that are “wall flowers” to join them. The wall flowers are the ones that fall through the cracks and often are caught by Satan. I try to make a point of being a supportive parent to all of my kids’ friends.
    I am a little sad that your “kid rocks” program is only in Winnipeg, I would love our youth to be involved in a program like that.
    Thanks Mark for your relevant messages. You’ve helped us a lot!

    PS: It gives me great pleasure to say the “local pastor” is no longer the “local pastor”

  5. Bruce says:

    “Our children’s ministry called KidzRock is the biggest in all of Canada.”

    Is this statement correct Pastor Mark?

  6. Mark Hughes says:

    “Our children’s ministry called KidzRock is the biggest in all of Canada.”
    Is this statement correct Pastor Mark?

    No, I am lying through my teeth! LOL
    I have not attemted to verify this but I took a minister through the building that has been in all the bigger churches in Canada and he made the statement to me.

  7. Rob S. says:

    As a young adult who early on was a victim of the cycle of divorce, drugs and alcohol while growing up in foster care, I know the devastating impact these forces have on a child. A child under pressure can adopt such things as a normal way of life, it’s learned behaviour and once in the mix continues in many cases for decades, sometimes a lifetime simply because they don’t know how to live any differently. I see the city’s youth as perhaps the biggest battleground of all… What is early learned, accepted and normalized can follow a child for the rest of their lives without correction. We need to start loving this city’s youth as our own, enough to step out and show them there is another way, God’s Way! It starts with the smallest of actions, a seed is planted and doors are opened. What better way to celebrate Christmas this year than to give a gift to a child in our own inner city that may have never received one?

    You may or may not know that Walls of Freedom Outreach is having a Christmas Party on Dec. 18th 2009 for hundreds of families they reach out to in ministry every week and are collecting New Unwrapped Gifts at Church of the Rock to be given out to the children aged 4-16 who attend the party. Many of these children do not have any memories of Christmas, do not experience love and acceptance, and are raised in poverty, abuse, crime, drugs and prostitution. Why not consider bringing a $10, $15 or $20 toy to the Church for a child who has nothing but despair, pain and hopelessness to look forward to… who you can show God’s love to by planting a seed and helping bring an end to this vicious cycle.

    Mail works too!

    Walls of Freedom Outreach
    P.O. Box 28041
    1795 Henderson Highway
    Winnipeg MB R2G 4E9

    God Bless You & Our City This Christmas

  8. rick says:

    Am I imagining things or did COTR used to have a forum? MN8 or something like tthat……is there still something like that? (mods: feel free to delete this comment because I know its OT)

  9. Mark Hughes says:

    We never had a forum. Although the youth ministry has had an interactive blog for years.

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