Recently, at our church we have had a number of children place their faith in Jesus. It is exciting to journey and celebrate salvation with children and families. There is no greater honor as a pastor than to lead someone to trust in Jesus. When it comes to the children in our churches, this honor is a great responsibility. Here are 6 observations about talking with children regarding faith in Jesus Christ.
- Theological clarity is needed when talking with children about trusting Jesus Christ. While this could a much more extensive topic, it is important that we are attentive to the theological lessons we teach by the means we use in sharing the gospel with children. For example, no one (child or adult) has ever been saved by a formula prayer. Salvation comes by placing our faith in Jesus Christ alone. If we lead children to pray a rote prayer as a formula or mantra, or salvation insurance, we may actually be doing them a disservice. Prayers don’t save you; Jesus does.
- We should avoid manipulative or leading questions when talking to children about issues of faith. I’ve heard of children in a large group being asked to raise their hand if they want to go to heaven. The follow up to the question is then to lead the children who raised their hands affirmatively in the group prayer and then declare them saved. Of course, many children will reply affirmatively to a question about going to heaven whether they understand their sinfulness or how the cross provides forgiveness and subsequently eternal life. Saying you want to go to heaven and being ready and willing to trust Jesus alone as your Savior are not necessarily the same thing.
- We should speak the gospel to children just as we would to adults. Children have an incredible capacity for faith and trust in God. They are also sinners in need of a Savior, just like adults.We need to clearly speak the gospel story and gospel truths to children—God is holy; we are sinners; Jesus is the only Savior and means of forgiveness; we must respond in repentance and faith. As such, we should use concrete language when talking to children about salvation. We should avoid using the phrase, “asking Jesus into your heart.” It is a metaphor that can be difficult for children to grasp and is not found in the Bible.
- When children ask faith-oriented questions, we should take the time to listen. Children who grow up in church or who have been exposed to the gospel often begin asking questions about heaven, hell, death, eternal life, the cross, Jesus, God’s love, etc. These questions give us clues as to how the Holy Spirit might be convicting of sin and bringing to light the gospel in the lives of children. Patiently and clearly answering their questions is an important aspect of child evangelism. One thing to remember—every child is unique and it may take more questions or more time for some children than others to place their faith in Jesus.
- My mentor taught me a fascinatingly simple question to ask children who expressed interest in trusting Jesus. “If you could trust Jesus today or wait a week, what would you do?” This diagnostic question helps discern the urgency of the child regarding salvation. If the child answers, “Today,” then we clarify the gospel and lead them to trust in Jesus. If the child says, “Wait a week,” then we give them more time. Once, I was talking to a young girl and asked her, “If you could trust Jesus today or wait a week, what would you do?” She said, “I think I’ll wait a week.” Before she and her mom got to her car, she turned, looked at her mom and said, “No, I think I need to trust Jesus today.” So they walked back, we talked, and she placed her trust in Jesus.
- Finally, we should remember that Jesus is really good at bringing people, children included, to salvation. Paul promised in Romans 1:16 that the “gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” We need not manipulate. Rather, we need to communicate. And when we clearly and regularly communicate the gospel, we should anticipate that God will bring adults and children alike to faith in him.
For more children’s ministry helps, check out Lifeway Kids.
Featured image credit (edited for size).