It’s no secret that Chinese Christians have seen tightening restrictions and increased pressure against the Church. Some of these restrictions focus on young people and their interaction with the Church.
We’re used to images of children attending Sunday school, singing in a carol service or joining in with the worship songs. And we remember Jesus saying “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). But this is a different story in China as Churches across China are now canceling Sunday School classes for children in light of a new clampdown which forbids children and youths from converting to Christianity until they are 18 years old.
The recent crackdown on Christianity in China, has led to intensified enforcement of the law which is already on the books: children and youth cannot convert to the Christian faith until they’re 18.
“One of the rules that have always been in their law is that you cannot proselytize or you cannot convert somebody under the age of 18,” Erik Burklin of China Partner told Mission Network.
Previously, Burklin said parents “were having their children come to church and many churches started what we would call Sunday School classes.”
“They would use that time to teach children Bible verses and teach them Christian songs and so forth,” Burklin said.
Now, though, many churches “have been notified” by China’s “Religious Affairs Bureau” that “you can no longer conduct Sunday School classes in your churches,” he said.
“They even put signage up in the entrance of some churches to indicate that,” Burklin said.
This means China Partner’s YouthServe ministry – aimed at teaching church leaders how to conduct ministry for teens ages 13 to 18 – is “problematic,” Mission Network News reported.
During a recent trip, Burklin said, pastors approached him and said, “Please, we can no longer invite you to come and do these youth ministry trainings for us because we need to adhere to this new enforcement of this law.”
China Partner has discontinued the YouthServe initiative, according to Mission Network News.
Churches in China, Burklin said, must be creative if they are to reach children and teens with the gospel.
“One of the ways that we have learned also that we can reach that age group is through the parents,” Burklin said. “As we’ve started these marriage retreats and couples’ counseling sessions, [we’ve noticed that] many of these young couples have teenagers in their home.”
China ranks number 23 in Open Door’s list of top 50 countries where it is most deadly to be a christian.