I've heard that phrase used so often recently with regards to various ages of children and young people. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I disagree entirely with the statement, but I do think there is something wrong with it.
Firstly, in a context of children or young people coming to faith and knowing Jesus, it is Jesus who does the catching. They are not a prize for us to win or something for us to bring to God and say "hey look what I did". It is a phrase that implies that we have to catch their attention and keep it by any means possible. And yes I suppose we do have to catch their attention but we are doing it to the glory of God, and to introduce them to Him by telling them the good news of the gospel: not to entertain them and keep them in our organisations and churches.
Secondly, it seems to be assumed of lots of age groups.... 7, 8, 9 and 10 year olds starting to fall to peer pressure, children moving into secondary school, young teenagers going through puberty, older teens getting into a new social scene, the 20s, the 30s, the young families........ the list goes on. So really if you have to "catch them" at all these ages should the phrase not be "If you can catch them you keep them"? ......... but like I said before we don't do the catching.
Thirdly: "you keep them"? This follows on a bit from what i said in the firstly bit in that they are not ours to keep: they are for God to keep.
However all that said we do need to have a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters in teaching the good news and discipling and encouraging. It's just very important to remember that none of this is for us! And that we need to be relying totally on God for his strength, guidance and His timing in it all.
You know I feel like I've just spent a lot of time waffling and not making any sense but I hope I have. I also feel like I may have just sounded quite controversial too. Please let me know what you think!