Kids in the 4/14 Window
- December 22, 2017
Reaching a massive unreached people group—next door
Ben Jorden teaches kids in a neighborhood Bible club.
Did you know that the best time to influence a child spiritually is by age nine? Ben Jorden ’09 MA ’17, missionary to Chicago children, says, “We talk about the 10/40 window—let’s talk about the 4/14 window. If we miss sharing the gospel with children, we may have missed it completely.”
Ben and his wife, Karis (Sims) ’09, have hearts that beat for this massive unreached people group in Chicago and beyond. “That’s what keeps us going—children who need to know about the God who loves them,” Ben says.
The 10/40 window is a loose term used by missionaries to describe unreached people in the middle areas of the globe. The 4/14 window is a new term formed by Child Evangelism Fellowship for children ages four to 14.
Danger and Opportunity in the City
Ben, Karis, and their three young boys can hear sirens every night, responding to violent crimes that would unsettle most young parents. But despite dangers in their chosen neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, Ben and Karis say they are committed to their mission. “God has called us to stay and to be laser-focused on the gospel.”
An estimated 700,000 children in the city have never heard the gospel, Ben says. “The average age of gang recruitment is age nine. There is a little boy in our neighborhood. I can pretty much tell the day he was recruited for a gang, and it broke my heart. This situation demands our response.”
Meeting of Like Minds
The Jordens have served full-time with Child Evangelism Fellowship in Chicago since they were students at Moody. Ben and Karis met in high school while attending a CEF training program in Missouri. They both decided to attend Moody as Evangelism and Discipleship majors, thinking they would return to Missouri for ministry after graduation. But as they began teaching at Bible clubs in Chicago for their student ministry assignment, they realized many kids didn’t know the name of Jesus and hadn’t heard the gospel. They decided to switch majors to Urban Ministries and keep serving in Chicago. “God was tugging on our hearts for the city, and He blew our mind with the need,” Ben says.
Their time at Moody deepened their commitment to serving God through children’s ministry. “I couldn’t be in the city doing what we’re doing without the classes in urban ministry we took with Moody professor Clive Craigen,” Karis says. “His care and concern for the city and scriptural support made me see what God is doing through the city and through His people.”
Today Karis meets with public school children through a voluntary after-school program. For 90 minutes, they sing, listen to Bible lessons, learn a Bible verse, and play games. “It is a great opportunity to have them hear the gospel and then grow in their relationship with Jesus,” Karis says. “They have people paying attention to them, teaching them how to pray and read the Bible, things that help us know who God is.”
For a time, the Jordens hosted the children in their home, and Karis loved seeing piles of shoes at the entryway. “We had a Christmas party and were singing carols—the kids had never heard the hymns we know and love so dearly. It was so neat to celebrate Christmas that way. One of the boys said, ‘I like to be here because I feel at home. It’s a safe place. It’s a place where I belong.’”
Karis adds, “That’s one reason I continue to this day, so kids like him can hear the gospel and know their Father God and find a place where they belong.”
The Jordens are always encouraged when they see the fruit of their labor. One of their students, Carvell, was raised by a single parent. He came to know Jesus as his Savior, and developed a deep love for Christ. “His academics flourished, and he challenged his mom to start living for the Lord,” Karis says. “Last year, at age 12, he came to a training program for teens so he could start teaching other kids. He has blessed us and everyone else with his genuine passion for Christ.”
Training the Next Generation
Besides working directly with elementary and middle school children, Ben and Karis recruit and mentor new missionaries. They supervise Moody students who serve in after-school programs throughout the city as their Practical Christian Ministry assignment. “We have 14 Moody students this year,” Ben says. “We train them how to teach the gospel within the public schools and how to lead a child to Christ. Each volunteer goes through twenty hours of training.”
Ben, who earned an MA in Ministry Leadership at Moody Theological Seminary in May, is also in the process of organizing three new after-school Bible clubs.
Many urban organizations try to meet kids’ physical needs, but the Jordens hope more people will get involved in sharing the gospel with children in their neighborhoods. “The only hope we have for revival is our next generation,” Ben explains. “God can use us to bring about a remnant of faithful followers for Christ. And I think the most effective way to do that is to start when they’re young, to show them who Jesus is before they’ve had a chance to be twisted by the world.
“One of our favorite things about working for CEF is that it’s in every single country in the world and in every state and in many counties,” he adds. “If people are interested in opening their homes or getting into local schools and starting a Bible club, free training is almost everywhere.”
Jamie Janosz is content development manager for Moody's Marketing Communications department.