The Church and Children: Vision and Goals for the 21st Century
The National Council of Churches is a community of thirty-six member communions from Protestant and Orthodox traditions that embody the unity of Christ and give common witness to his continuing mission and work in the world. "The National Council of Churches is a community of Christian communions, which, in response to the gospel as revealed in the Scriptures, confess Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, as Savior and Lord. These communions covenant with one another to manifest ever more fully the unity of the Church. Relying upon the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, the communions come together as the Council in common mission, serving in all creation to the glory of God." -from the Preamble to the NCC Constitution
As the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, we are committed to the well being of every child. While this policy focuses on the United States, we are ultimately committed to promoting a society in which every child is valued and has the opportunity to develop and flourish in healthy, positive ways. As Christians, we believe that every child is a unique gift from God. All children are created by God in God's image and are created good. All children are a gift to the whole human community and are vital to the preservation of the world. All children have the right to be children. All children deserve to be taught the love of God and to be nurtured by loving communities of faith. All children are not just tomorrow; they are today.
While many of our member communions have developed statements on children and while the NCCCUSA has existing policies that affect specific issues relating to children (public education, child care, health care, human rights, for example), there has not previously been a NCCCUSA policy recognizing the comprehensiveness of childhood and the diversity of children's gifts and needs. As a result, our attention and actions are often fragmented and too frequently political issues and public debate ignore the fullness of children's needs and capacities and their ongoing participation in and contributions to our society. Nurturing, supporting and advocating for children are central values of Christians. How we value and respect children reflects who we are and the kind of world in which we want to live. We call on all members of the NCCCUSA to be intentional and vigorous in assuming this responsibility for all children, God's children.
Created in the image of God, children are a gift to the whole of humanity. God has made them full members of the covenant and the Kingdom; we are responsible for and to children as we nurture children into the fullness of life for which they were created. Whether our covenant responsibility, for those whom God created, blessed and pronounced good and on whose face the very likeness of God is engraved, is sealed with a vow of baptism, a promise of blessing, the declaration of christening or the gift of creation - it is a binding into the whole Body of Christ that is meant to endure. It is God who provides for us what we cannot achieve for ourselves. Reflecting this free and immeasurable gift we are called to provide for children. As God has nurtured the church so too are we to nurture children in the love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ - teaching them to know and love the Lord, encouraging their spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit, and tending to their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Gathering the community of faith together, the Lord's Table is a visible witness to the welcome we are to offer to all children - an invitation to a life of abundance whereby the body is fed and the soul is nourished. Having been provided for by God's grace, we are sent out into the world to be partners in creating a commonwealth for children whereby the measurement of our faithfulness is God's standard of justice and mercy.
The witness and authority of the Bible provide a mandate for our work with and for children. The account of God's creation in the Hebrew Scriptures reminds us that God created human beings in God's own image. All children are sacred and good. From the beginning of the Story of the people of God, children have had a central role. It is through the child Isaac, and subsequent generations, that the making and blessing of a nation occurs. The deliverance of enslaved people is foreshadowed in the rescue of a baby found in the bulrushes. The guidance of Eli and the faithful response of young Samuel witness to a pattern of call and response to which servants of God still aspire. The contributions that the young can make to the Kingdom of God are modeled in the youthful David against Goliath, the girl, Esther, who became a Queen for such a time as protecting her people and the prophetic voice of the boy Jeremiah. And when the time came for the redemption of those whom God loved yet could not by their own capabilities keep the covenant, God became incarnate, born of a young girl, Mary, to bring light and life to all the world.
Jesus grew from boyhood to manhood within the shelter and nurture of the community of faith. He taught, healed, proclaimed and welcomed those whom society would toss aside. His teachings, through word and deed, on children rebuked a cultural standard of excluding and devaluing children. By taking them in his arms, he pronounced them full members of the family of God. When placing them in the midst of the disciples, he declared them exemplars of what it meant to be the "greatest." In welcoming them, he said, we welcome not just Jesus but the God who sent him. Children, Jesus taught, are among the most cherished of God's cherished. The covenantal standard of justice and mercy extended to all is especially tendered for children. To remove stumbling blocks, to clothe, to feed, execute justice for the orphan, the widow and the stranger are requirements of communal living for those who are recipients of the Promised Land and the conditions of the covenant constitutionalized in Deuteronomy and realized in the commonwealth of Christ.
The Contemporary Context 
For many, the beginning of the 21st Century is a time of renewed commitment to communities, families and neighbors and of hope for a prosperous today and a better tomorrow for ourselves and future generations. Yet for too many children, today is far from prosperous and tomorrow holds precious little hope. Each day in the United States, every...
35 seconds a child is abused or neglected
40 seconds a baby is born into poverty
51 seconds a child is born without health insurance
5 hours a child or teen commits suicide 
These statistics show a harsh reality that too many children in America face today. As we gather in safe sanctuaries to worship God in any hour of the week
102 children will be abused or neglected
90 children will be born into poverty
70 children will be born without health insurance and at the close of every day
5 children or teens believing themselves to be without hope will die at their own hands.
Too many U.S. children face increasing levels of poverty and hunger. A 13 percent increase in the first two years of this new century for families at risk of hunger in a nation that is first in the world in Gross Domestic Product is too high.  In the summer of the Poor People's Campaign in 196815% of America's children lived in poverty. In the second summer of the 21st Century 16.7% of America's children lived in poverty. "Without a vision the people will perish." (Proverbs 29:18 KJV) Without basic food, shelter, employment, education and community hope perishes.
Even children who seem to be economically secure and have access to the advantages of quality healthcare, education and positive social relationships, are part of a society that is beset with violence and fear. More children than we like to consider are not even safe in their own homes no matter how great the material assets.
Despite the abundance of knowledge and resources available to ensure their well being, too many of today's children live in increasing danger and are at risk of not being able to reach their full potential. Fear and uncertainty permeate many of these young lives. Violence, sex and disillusionment can confront them each time they turn on the TV, read a newspaper, walk down the street, or go to school. For many, poverty, neglect, inadequate healthcare, lack of quality childcare and education are an all too cruel reality. The increasing number of neighborhood shootings and incidents of school and domestic violence have numbed the will to prevent these horrors.
Too many parents struggle to meet life's basic needs (food, safety, social) and to understand how to support their children's developmental and learning process. Many children in the United States feel the stress of being on a fast track of seeking "success" or material possessions and are bombarded with so many choices that it is difficult to discern what is really important in their lives.
Habits developed in childhood will be present throughout their lives. Relationships in childhood affect one's ability to trust and to hope. Experiences of childhood shape a person's attitude toward racism, intolerance, violence, and other challenges as we strive together for true justice and peace. A child's faith grows as the child grows. Adults who model faith and provide opportunities for children to participate positively in a faith community influence children's future involvement in worship, education, stewardship, and service to others. If we are to grow and nurture the church of the future, children must be primary participants.
Every child is a unique gift from God. For children to prosper, we must meet all their basic needs. We must love, shelter, protect and defend children committed to our care and in our communities. We must nurture and support families in caring for their children, acting in their children's best interest, and recognizing and fostering their children's spirituality and unique gifts. We must advocate for the integrity of childhood and the dignity of all children at every level of our religious, civic and political structures. When children realize their potential and fulfill their dreams, our communities flourish and all are enriched beyond measure.
The Church is in a unique position to proclaim God's blessing and justice for children. Charged with a theological imperative and grounded with a Biblical mandate, the Church is called to be the voice of the voiceless as it calls a people and a nation to faithfulness for children within the church and beyond.
While the Church voices concern for children and many outreach ministries of compassion and mercy help children, public witness and advocacy will be necessary to create a political will for the common good that will address the root causes of children in peril and effect lasting systemic change. National priorities and budgets must reflect a lasting commitment to children's positive development and acknowledge that decisions that affect adult lives also have lasting impact on the lives of their children. Adults without adequate education, housing, jobs and healthcare are not equipped to meet their own needs, much less focus on the deep needs of their children. Adults without community supports and positive relationships are less likely to ensure that their children know positive, trusting relationships that lead them to become loving, contributing members of society. Ifwe are truly committed to overcoming poverty, racism, violence and desolation, we must work together to ensure that all of our citizens have opportunities for joyful and productive lives.
Vision and Goals for Children
As Christians, we are called to make a commitment to work together, as families, congregations, denominations and as an ecumenical community of member communions, to ensure that all children have the opportunity to develop and flourish. Therefore we, the member communions of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, working with others in communities of faith and concern, strive to achieve the following Vision and Goals for Children.
All children need to be part of nurturing faith communities where they are included as full members and participants in the common life of worship, prayer, witness and service. Therefore, we commit to:
- Ensure through leader development and assignment of resources that faith communities are places of joy, nurture and safety for children
- Nurture the spiritual life of children and teach them of the love, grace and fellowship of God
- Receive, nurture and treasure each child as a gift from God
- Give high priority to the quality of planning for children and the preparation and support of those who minister with them
- Foster community beyond the family unit, in which children, youth and adults know each other by name, minister to each other, and are partners together in serving Christ in the world
- Appreciate children's abilities and readiness to represent Christ and his Church, to bear witness to God's grace wherever that may be, and according to gifts given them, to carry on the faithful work of reconciliation in the world, and to take their place in the life, worship, ministry of the community of faith and governance according to each communion's distinctive polity.
All children have a right to be a part of loving and safe families. All segments of society share responsibility for supporting families in raising their children and future generations. Therefore, we commit to:
- Protect the dignity and value the diversity of every family
- Respect and preserve the child's bond and covenant with parents, family and community
- Ensure that families have the skills, knowledge and resources to develop, support and sustain loving homes
- Nurture families in recognizing and appreciating their children's abilities and their gifts for ministry and in supporting their spiritual development
- Provide families resources and systems that enable them to balance the demands of parenting, work and education and make time for recreation
- Encourage parents to be active in their communities, in the democratic process, and in the promotion of the interests of children and families
- Encourage adoption as a healthy and appropriate means of securing for children a permanent family structure
- Be intentional in providing church and community support in those kinship care situations when children are being cared for by relatives other than their parents
- Encourage congregations to become caring partners with institutions and systems providing care for children, and engage in advocacy for children in those settings.
All children have a right to quality public education that fosters their intellectual, social, emotional, physical, cultural and creative development. Therefore, we commit to:
- Respect and support family as the child's first teacher, recognizing that learning begins at birth
- Value and invest in teachers as a key component of every child's development
- Create an educational system that is a partnership of family, community, and school
- Respect and provide for each child's differences and capacities to learn, recognizing the needs of those children with disabilities and with special gifts
- Ensure the availability of remedial education for children and their adult caregivers who need special help to be ready for further education and eventually to become employable
- Support an equitable, fully-funded system that prepares every child for life-long learning
- Ensure that every community provides safe, excellent, well-funded public schools for all their children
- Develop the use of schools as community resources during and beyond school hours
- Teach children to understand, respect, and celebrate diversity, multiple cultures and languages, and a global perspective
- Actively support the realization of the NCCC Public School Policy.
Every child has a right to live in a physically and emotionally safe environment that cultivates acceptance and peace and in which they are protected from the myriad of dangers confronting them. Therefore, we commit to:
- Provide child protection policies, safe church training and other resources that promote and ensure safe, non-violent family and community environments
- Promote legislation that eliminates children's access to handguns
- Teach and practice healthy conflict resolution in all segments of society
- Promote social justice through the elimination of prejudice and discrimination
- Promote non-violent, positive images and language that respect the dignity of every human being
- Advocate for reducing violence on TV, in movies, video games and on the Internet
- Ensure equal protection and due process of law for all children and youth in a system, which recognizes their differing capacities and promotes rehabilitation and learning.
ARTS, RECREATION AND CULTURE
All children have a right to express and celebrate their souls and spirits through arts, culture and recreation. Children need to have open time to dream, play and create. Therefore, we commit to:
- Advocate for the integration of arts, culture and recreation into the core curriculum of education
- Provide access to a wide variety of affordable, quality arts, cultural and recreational programs for children of all ages
- Promote an increase in safe indoor and outdoor neighborhood recreational activities
- Create ongoing opportunities in congregations, schools, and before and after-school programs to discover, recover, preserve and celebrate traditions across cultures
- Ensure that museums, libraries, parks and diverse cultural resources are supported as vital parts of our communities.
All children have a right to economic security and economic justice: meaning that all families have access to food, clothing, transportation and safe, affordable housing, and that all families have equal opportunities to provide these basic economic needs. Therefore, we commit to:
- Continue to strengthen the commitment to overcome poverty
- Promote family-friendly policies in the workplace
- Actively pursue a just tax policy
- Cultivate marketable job skills through providing congregational and community models of training and education
- Provide accessible, affordable, high-quality child care
- Promote corporate partnerships that strengthen communities
- Provide economic security through government initiatives for the children whose parents cannot support them
- Enhance access to jobs through sound policies for housing and transportation.
Every child and family has a right to guaranteed quality, comprehensive health care. All children deserve to live in a healthy environment that allows them to thrive. Therefore, we commit to:
- Ensure quality pre-natal care is available for all
- Focus on prevention as a key to preserving the health and well-being of children
- Ensure that no children go hungry
- Implement an effective health and nutrition education curriculum
- Work for publicly funded, integrated, accessible and high quality mental health care
- Develop partnerships for clean air, water, land and a healthy ecosystem.
Adopted by the General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, November 11,2004