by Shaw Clifton, General –
This is the seventh in a series of pastoral letters from the General to all Salvationists across the world. To subscribe to the series, go to www. salvationarmy.org or ask your corps officer.
In this seventh Pastoral Letter I feel led to think aloud with you about the children of the Army and the children of the world. In doing so I send you warm greetings from London where Spring has come early and is now in full bloom. God’s handiwork is matchless. So is God’s love, a love that extends in a very special way to embrace our children and children everywhere.
We know from the words and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ that there is a special place for children in the heart of God. That is why we too as individuals and as an Army must also hold the children in high esteem and look to their wellbeing at all times. Jesus had harsh words for any person harming a child. Also he made time and space for children, letting them come to him even when those around him tried to prevent it. He prioritized the children.
We must do so too. General William Booth visited India twice and published a clear-headed strategy for winning India for Christ. A key part of the strategy addressed our attitude to the children of India. Booth said that for India to be won for Christ we must pay, not just 1,000 times more attention to the children than to the adults, but 10,000 times more attention! This was a bold statement but it applies still today and not only to India. It would break the Founder’s heart to visit corps that have no work for children and where throughout a whole Sunday you will not meet a single child. What a tragedy!
Our Junior Soldiers are infinitely precious. Every child is a gem for Christ. A child who loves the Lord with a simple childlike heart can be used by God in turn to win the parents for the Kingdom. Also, the children are our role-models in simplicity and trust, just as we are their role-models in loving and caring for one another. As I write I offer up an earnest prayer for all who teach the children of the Army, for theirs is a very great and privileged responsibility.
In today’s world we must protect the children from all kinds of evil and harm: impure literature, the temptations of the internet, drugs and alcohol, those who would prey upon them seeking to damage and abuse them, materialism, low self-esteem, peer pressures of every kind, premature sexualization—the list could go on and on. Every Army center in the world is expected to have clear and effective child protection procedures in place. These procedures are not an optional extra.
Let us take a step back and ask ourselves if we are fulfilling our duties to the children within our influence. Do they sense that we respect them? Are we supportive of their family life? Do we teach them, at a suitable age, about the importance of marriage and fidelity? Do we have imaginative, effective programs for them? Is our teaching for the children sound and true? Are we settling merely for entertaining them or are we intentional about leading them to Christ?
I know that the Lord speaks into the lives of children because he spoke to me when I was only 12 years old. He told me what he wanted from me for the rest of my life. No one else knew what he had said to me, until I was ready to share it. So today this still happens and we who are adults have no idea what God is whispering into the souls of our children. For this reason we must respect them as tender plants growing up for Christ to do his holy will in the world.
God bless the children! Thank you for looking after the children! They are beyond price in the eyes of their Creator.
This comes to you all with my strong love in Jesus Christ and my ceaseless encouragement in the great Salvation War.
I commit you to the perfect love of Christ.