What guidance does the Bible provide?
We make lots of decisions on any given day; and thousands in a lifetime. The most important decision we will ever make, however, is the decision to follow Christ. God's heart is that everyone will choose to place their faith and trust in Him. 2 Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." Beginning a relationship with Christ requires a realization of our need for forgiveness. There must be a recognition of Jesus' death and resurrection as the way God provides salvation ("For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." -Romans 1:16) There is not a "child's version" of salvation-- children come to a personal relationship with Christ just as adults do: through a recognition of their need for a Savior, acknowledgment that Jesus is the only one who can restore their relationship because of His payment for our sin on the cross and a decision of repentance and acceptance of His gift of salvation to us.
Things to think about:
Because children still lack maturity and a full understanding of spiritual things, they need thoughtful, patient guidance in coming to know Christ personally and continuing to grow in Him. Here are some specific things to help your child understand the Gospel:
- Pray: Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment in sharing the Gospel with your child. Ask Him to continue opening their heart and mind to understand clearly this important decision to follow Him
- Create an environment for on-going discussions: as God continues to work in their life, your child will have opportunities to answer spiritual questions. Ask questions that go beyond simple "yes" or "no" answers, like "Why do you think Jesus had to die for the wrong things you and I have done?" This will give you a chance to dialogue and discern understanding with your child.
- Present the Gospel clearly and simply: resist the urge to use "churchy" words that may confuse a child. Younger children are very literal; phrases like "asking Jesus into your heart" may hinder your child's understanding. Think through the Gospel in simple terms before talking with your child.
- Respect your child's response: you may share the Gospel many times with your child before they choose to take the step of placing their trust in Christ. Pause periodically in your discussion and ask "would you like to talk more about this or wait for another time?" It's ok to wait for that time. Declaring faith in Jesus is not up to us: this is the job for the Holy Spirit. Your child's response to Jesus is the beginning of a lifelong process of growing in faith.
- Encourage your child: leave your child feeling confident whatever his decision. Always close your time in prayer. If your child has decided to wait, pray a prayer of thanksgiving that your child is seeking to know and understand how to follow Christ. Keep communication open and let them know you are always willing to answer any questions they have.
What do I do now?
There are different ways and scripture passages to present the Gospel with your child. An easy one to remember uses the ABC's:Admit: we must admit to God that we are a sinner. We must be sorry for our sin and turn away (repent) from our sin. Use one or more of these verses:
- Romans 3:23
- Romans 6:23
- Acts 3:19
- 1 John 1:9
Believe: we must believe that Jesus is God's Son and that God sent Jesus to pay the penalty for sin. Talk about Jesus' willingness to die on a cross for the wrong things we have done, and His resurrection. Verses to use:
- John 3:16
- John 14:6
- Romans 5:8
Choose: we must choose to place our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Verses to read together:
- Romans 10:9-10, 13
You will want your child to pray in their own words; remind them there are no magical formulas or words, simply talking to God. After your child has prayed, celebrate with them. Begin talking about the next step of their Christian faith through baptism. Continue the dialogue of confessing our sin, along with the understanding that salvation is a one-time commitment but an ongoing process of daily faith in Christ.
Want to go deeper?
This article discusses four things a child must understand to trust Christ:
This article answers questions kids frequently ask about salvation, especially sin and baptism:
This article gives practical, real-life examples for sharing with your child: