By Matt Upton

Did you know that children learn more in the first five years than throughout the rest of their lives? Children benefit greatly when parents are involved in their education during their formative years. According to Harvard Family Research, such benefits include an easier transition to the classroom, advanced language capabilities, and emotional maturity. Parents who are heavily involved in this early education also understand “more about their child as a learner” and “had a reference point for evaluating if their child was performing at age level.” When raising our children to become positive, productive members of society, early education is invaluable.

The church has a similar task to raise healthy, positive, productive Christians. The goal is to “grow” believers who bring glory and honor to God by using their spiritual gifts and God-given passion. Just as children absorb information during the first years of life, most Christians are impacted by what they learn in the early years of Christian experience.

For many Christians, what they learn the first year after they are saved, will determine their level of positive, productive living as believers. Just as parents strive to not keep children at home their entire lives, the local church should not keep believers in their pew their entire Christian lives. Rather, it is the mission of the local church to bring us Christians who will affect their world for God.

Discipleship, mentoring, and developing healthy relationships are all part of educating new believers. Because of this, our church has developed a one-year series of classes designed to GROW positive, productive, mission-minded believers.

Guided by God’s Principles is the first 12-week study. The young believer quickly learns the basic principles of a healthy devotional life filled with prayer and Bible study, how to lead a Christian family, and what it means to serve Christ in both the church and world.

Revealing God’s Word is the goal of the second 12 sessions. As they learn the basics of God’s unchanging Word, participants emerge from the class with a firm grasp on how the Bible provides nutrients for a healthy, growing, spiritual life.

Overcoming Life’s Challenges continues developing new Christians. No one has to tell them that life is unpredictable with many ups and downs. Students learn to lean on God’s unchanging principles for the stability they need to maneuver through life’s challenges.

World Wide Missions leads new believers into the final step of the ultimate mission of the church. As parents teach their children to be productive adults away from home, so the local church should teach new Christians to serve their culture at large. In this module, each believer learns how to share their faith with friends, relatives, and neighbors. They learn to identify their unique spiritual gifts and find their place as positive, productive children of God.

Article adapted from ONE Magazine, December 2005-January 2006.