Ministry among children has been considered to be of prime importance in Mizoram since pre-Christianity era. In pre-Christianity period, ZAWLBUK, an institution for Mizo males, was a very good and effective training ground for young Mizo males, in which was imparted physical and mental training - etiquettes and good manners like respect for elders, helping the needy, etc. were inculcated in the young minds of the Mizos. Handicrafts and the art of farming (one’s livelihood) were also taught. Female children were given training at home by helping their mothers and elders in cooking, collecting water, looking after their younger siblings and doing other household chores. One very distinctive feature of the Mizo society,“TLAWMNGAIHNA” (an ever readiness to help others) was instilled in the minds of the young Mizos. After the dawn of Christianity among Mizos, not only physical and mental but also spiritual growth has been considered a must for them. Because of this, an organisation known as Kristian Naupang Pawl (Christian Children Fellowship) came into being on the 23rd April 1943 at Serkawn, Headquarters of Baptist Church of Mizoram, Lunglei, Mizoram.
ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT:
Originally, this organisation was called Kohhran Naupang pawl (Church Children Fellowship). The missionaries of the Baptist Missionary Society, Ms. Zoduhi (Ethel M. Oliver) and Ms Zomuani (Irene M. Good) at Serkawn, Lunglei, Mizoram first started this Fellowship. On every Sunday morning, before Church service, the Fellowship used to have service at Serkawn Boys’ School. In 1946, there were only around 30 members. Seats were reserved for them in the general church service. Boys and girls used to sit separately, under the guidance of adult leaders. This Fellowship continued to flourish smoothly under the guidance of different leaders selected by the local church.
The need for this Fellowship was also felt elsewhere throughout Mizoram, resulting in the establishment of the same in different towns and villages throughout Mizoram. The Assembly of the Baptist Church of Mizoram felt the need for a proper organisation of this Fellowship and consequently placed the responsibility to the Mizoram Baptist Women Fellowship (Mizoram Baptist Kohhran Hmeichhe Pawl) to look after the children’s Fellowship at the Headquarters and asked every local church to establish this Christian Children Fellowship. The Mizoram Baptist Women Fellowship looked after the Children Fellowship from 1968 till 1983. From the Women Fellowship, the responsibility was shifted to the Central Sunday School Committee from 1984 till March 2001. Now, the Christian Children’s fellowship is being looked after by the Fellowship Organisations Department at the Headquarters. Today (2020) there are 333,84 members approximately in the Children’s Fellowship throughout Mizoram.
MEMBERSHIP: Every child below the age of 13 years or even above who are still treated as children can become members on their own choice. Roll call is made in every service.
ORGANISATIONAL SET-UP: At the BCM Headquarters level, since March 2001 a Fellowship Organisations Department (FOD) was established, especially to look after all the fellowships - Women’s, Men’s, Youth and Children. FOD is headed by a Director and there is also a Christian Children Fellowship Promoter who is in charge of all the activities of the Children Fellowship throughout Mizoram.
At the pastorate level, previously, a Pastorate Christian Children Fellowship was established in almost every Pastorate area, which organised Annual Conferences. After the establishment of FOD, this Pastorate level fellowship was abolished but Annual Conference of every Pastorate is still held once a year. The organising is in the hands of the Pastorate Committee.
At the local level every local church has a Christian Children Fellowship looked after by the Local church Committee. This Committee selects adult leaders to guide the children for a term of one year and they can be re-selected indefinitely. The following are posts held by the leaders:-
1. Convener, selected if available, from among the local deacons and sub-deacons acting as a chairman in committee meetings. He/She is the leader of the Fellowship. 2. Assistant Convener, who helps the Convener as and when necessary. 3. Secretary, in charge of organising committee meetings and doing other correspondence. 4. Assistant Secretary, to help the Secretary if the need arises. 5. Treasurer, in charge of looking after all the fellowship’s money and to keep an Account Book audited at the end of the year. 6. Finance Secretary, to help the Treasurer whenever necessary. He is to receive the fellowship’s money and record it in the Account Book audited at the end of the year. 8. Senior Adviser, to advice and guide the Fellowship. Pastor, Pro-Pastor, Chairman of the Local Church and Children Fellowship Promoter are to be ex-officio senior advisers in their local church.
Without at least one Senior Adviser, the Fellowship cannot have a committee meeting. In their absence, one local church committee member can be invited.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: 1. To bring children to Christ. 2. To show them the correct Christian way of living. 3. To enrich children with Bible verses and Christian songs.
MOTTO: Samuel 3:9 - “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”.
FLAG: The colour is a mixture of red and white with white in the middle. At the top is written Christian Children Fellowship, in the middle is the logo written in red and at the bottom is written the name of the local Christian Children Fellowship. Red signifies the blood of Jesus Christ and white signifies the holiness of the children’s minds.
1. Missionary Support: Annually a financial target is fixed by the Local Church Committee, to be achieved by local Christian Children Fellowship, mainly for Missionary support, submitted to the local Church Committee, which in turn, submits it to the Headquarters.
A budget, to look after the fellowship, is also made by each local Fellowship, which has to be approved by the local Church Committee.
Financial target and budget are achieved through various activities like collection of offerings, rice, water and firewood, washing of clothes and blankets, faith promise (by means of distribution of envelopes), doing various work like polishing shoes, cars, etc, selling lemon, household needs, etc. Variety shows are organised by some groups. Many also earn money from selling pork. Collection of items and auctioning them is also another source of income for the Fellowship.
2. A children’s magazine: Naupangte Thian (Friend of the Children) is published every month from the BCM Headquarters, by the Christian Children Fellowship Promoter. Till May, 2020, 12080 copies have been distributed. Articles, stories and reports are submitted by the local Christian Children fellowship for publication.
3. Salvation campings, crusades and vocational Bible studies have been organised by the local Fellowship at their convenience. Through these programmes, many children commit their lives to Jesus Christ.
4. Children Fellowship participate in the activities of the Bible Society, becoming its members by contributing money.
5. Help to the needy is given in cash or in kind.
6. Contribution is given to the Baptist Church Orphanage in cash or by personally visiting it, giving gifts to the orphans and the workers.
7. Christian Children Fellowship Leadership training has often been organised by different local Fellowships.
8. Social work like cleaning of streets, churches and their compounds are often done by different local Fellowship.
9. Every year, a special book is prepared by the BCM Headquarters for all the Children Fellowships. Such a book is learnt throughout the year, examination is conducted at the end of the year, and rewards are given by the local Fellowships, to those who participate and to those who acquire good marks.
10. On every Sunday, all the Fellowships have service apart from the general service. Some have it in the morning and some in the afternoon and some have service twice a week. In Serkawn, at the BCM Headquarters, they have service thrice a week. In such services, they learn Christian songs, Bible stories and they also have a variety of programmes like solo, duet, recitation and other items. Offerings are collected in such a service.
Songs learnt in their services are often sung in the general Church service.
11. Sometimes, open-air services are organised by local Fellowships to preach the gospel of Jesus.
12. Some units have home visits and have prayer meetings and counseling in different homes.
13. Joint fellowship with other Units are also organised
14. On Easter Sundays and Palm Sundays, some units organise processions, proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and that he has risen.
15. Every year, almost all units have a one - day fellowship with a feast and other programmes.
16. In some units, if any member is sick, selected members go to the invalid house to pray and if any member is hospitalised, then members go to the hospital and give them financial help.
17. Campaign against drugs is sometimes organised by some Fellowship by inviting expertise to create awareness.
18. Children Fellowship Special Sunday is observed once a year by some units in which one Sunday morning service is reserved for the children to organise the programmes as they like.
19. Some units reserve one day for talks on virtues among the children.
20. Some units make special programmes to pray for the Missionaries especially on Missionary Day, (11thJanuary) observed by the Baptist Church of Mizoram.
21. Some units provide financial help to De-addiction centres.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Though the aim of the Christian Children Fellowship is to help children to grow in the likeness of God, it depends, to a great extent on the local Fellowships. If the local Fellowship is weak, definitely children of such a Fellowship is likely to suffer. Different local fellowships differ in their enthusiasm for promotion of children physically, mentally and spiritually. So, there is a need for revival for the Fellowships. A questionnaire could be sent by the Children Promoter to each local fellowship to know the extent of the physical, mental and spiritual growth of the children. From the result, the Promoter can take various steps to encourage the Fellowships.
There is also a great need to enrich the children spiritually by providing them with a Daily Bread book to be used by the children everyday. Such a book is being prepared. Children need more books to help them in their spiritual growth. Such books are very rare in Mizoram.
Better and more vivid campaigns against drug abuse and other social evils need to be given by all the Fellowships.
Moreover, personal study of each individual child, especially problematic children should be made by the leaders and try to help them overcome such problems. For this, history and family background need to be examined.
CONCLUSION: The new system of administration, with the Fellowship Organisation Department at the Headquarters, operative from March 2001, gives us a hope for a better future for all the Children’s Fellowships. We can give our children an inheritance they can take to eternity. Let us then hope and pray for the dawn of a new programme approach to children’s ministry in Mizoram