Sharing the Savior with a Child
by June Hunt
Can a child grasp the reality of an unseen God?
Can a child understand salvation and the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross?
Some people say you should wait to talk with children about faith, salvation and other spiritual issues until they can think abstractly. Later in the teenage years you can reason with them … mind to mind, intellect to intellect. Yet parents who wait are often dismayed as their children grow up with no spiritual roots … only because of failure to plant seeds of truth in the earlier years.
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
A. What Is Child Evangelism?
When Jesus called the disciples to become “fishers of men,” some of them mistakenly took Him literally—some disciples thought the gospel was only for grown men old enough and wise enough to fully understand God’s plan of salvation. But, as the song says, “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” and He clearly delights in having them come to Him!
“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ … He took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”
• Child evangelism is sharing with a child the good news of how to receive the full forgiveness of God by entering into a personal relationship with Christ Jesus.
• The Greek word euaggelizo means “to bring good news” (glad tidings).
• Evangelism is declaring the good news of the gospel.
B. What Is the Gospel?
A messenger holding a telegraph indicates a significant message needs to be delivered. But what if the messenger needlessly delays the delivery? The messenger who withholds spiritual truth from a child may lose a golden opportunity … the timeliness may be lost. The heart that was once ready to hear may no longer be open.
God is the Message Giver, you are the messenger, and children are the ones who need to hear.
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
• The gospel is the good message of salvation available to us through faith in Christ and His finished work on the cross.
• The Greek word euaggelion means “good message, good news.”
— Eu … means good.
— Aggelion … means message.
“By this gospel you are saved.… Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures … he was buried … he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and … he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred.”
(1 Corinthians 15:2–6)
II. Characteristics of Young Children
Some people will say, “Don’t expose your children to church—wait until they can figure out their own faith.” However, unlike adults, children are like moist clay—their minds are moldable. As you impress spiritual truths on the hearts of your children, in time their lives can be conformed to the character of Christ.
Myth: “Young children are intellectually incapable of responding to salvation.”
Truth: Young children are more capable of responding to the message of salvation than adults.
“The disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’ ” (Matthew 18:1–4)
Children Have …
• Children eagerly ask questions about everything. “How did God make the mountains?” “Where did I come from?” “Who wrote the Bible?” “Where does God live?” “What happens when people die?” “What is heaven?”
• What an opportunity to answer questions correctly with the truth of God’s Word!
• Children are accustomed to being under authority; therefore, they are teachable.
• God opposes unteachable adults because of their pride. Adults find it harder to humble their hearts before the Lord, but a child is naturally humble.
• Children are able to visualize the unseen.
• They love fantasy and can draw pictures in their minds without needing to have things proven.
• Children find it easy to believe in the supernatural.
• They take adults at their word. Although everything said to a child is not always correct, children tend to take words at face value.
• Children are already dependent on adults for protection and provisions.
• They have faith that food will be on the table. They have faith that they can depend on adults to provide clothing and meet their needs. The life we live in Christ is to be a dependent relationship—a life of faith and dependence on Him.
• Children can retain what they don’t understand more easily than adults.
• Children learn by rote. Many parents start Scripture memorization with their children at age three. Children absorb passages far more easily than adults. Children may not understand all that they memorize, but parents can lay a foundation upon which the Holy Spirit can develop godly character.
Eagerness to receive gifts
• Children find it more natural to receive a gift without feeling they have to earn it.
• Children can receive a gift without assuming strings are attached. They look forward to receiving a gift, and that is exactly what salvation is—a gift of God.
No hardened hearts
• Children do not have such deeply embedded sin patterns, addictions or beliefs that they can’t give up their “old ways of life.”
• Children have not lived long enough to be cynics and skeptics. They are far more responsive to the message of Christ.
Seventy-five % of those who receive Christ do so before they are fourteen years old.
All growth is a process, and each child will mature differently. Only God knows the true disposition of a young heart, that time when a child has reached an age of accountability—the age at which a child is capable of accepting or rejecting the Savior. As you nurture young children from birth in things of the Lord, rely on your own spiritual sensitivity to determine when they are ready to move from “spiritual baby food” to the “meat of the gospel.”
Spiritual Baby Food
• Sharing love through physical touch
• Seeing and meeting their emotional needs
• Speaking with a loving tone of voice
• Smiling each time you see them
• Soothing their hurts and disappointments
• Spending time reading to them
• Saying no and enforcing it
• Sharing ways to be thoughtful of others, saying please and thank you
• Setting an example by your response to others, forgiving and meeting the needs of others
• Saying bedtime prayers in the secure love of the Lord
Meat of the Gospel
Myth: “Adults shouldn’t impose their religious beliefs on children because they are not ready. When children grow into adulthood, they can make up their own minds.”
Truth: Children give clues as to when they are open for change and ready to receive the Savior.
Children Are Ready to Hear the Gospel When They Are …
Reaping consequences from their own negative behavior
• Feelings of guilt and shame
Expressing worry about the future
• Fear of darkness, separation, storms, death
Asking a lot of questions
• “What happens when people die?”
Drastically changing their behavior
• Withdrawal or sensitivity
Yielding to positive authority
• Release of a rebellious spirit
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
(1 Peter 3:15)
III. Causes of not Sharing Christ with a Child
If you discovered the cure for cancer, would you be willing to share it? Of course! Any intelligent, responsible adult would. Then why is there a reticence to share the Savior with a child? The reason for some may be ignorance, and for others, it may be feeling too sophisticated to talk about spiritual things … too embarrassed. Yet the brilliant “evangelist,” the apostle Paul, was not too sophisticated to say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The power to save is in the gospel itself. Your responsibility is to share it.
A. Surface Causes
Argument: “I don’t think my child is a sinner.”
Answer: All people inherit a sin nature, a natural bent to sin.
“Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.” (Psalm 58:3)
Argument: “Children can’t understand abstract truth.”
Answer: Children can understand dependency, being dependent on parents. Dependence on Christ is necessary for every child to become a true Christian.
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4)
Argument: “As an adult I never learned how to share the good news about salvation.”
Answer: As an adult, now you can learn. It’s never too late to learn.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7)
Argument: “I don’t want to be a part of anything where fear tactics are used to get children to respond.”
Answer: Just because negative tactics have been used by some people doesn’t mean that child evangelism should be rejected. Jesus did not hinder children from coming to Him.
“Jesus … was indignant. He said to them [His disciples], ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ ” (Mark 10:14)
Argument: “I feel too inadequate.”
Answer: The Holy Spirit is the One who is adequate. He will empower you to speak the truth. God gives every authentic Christian the Holy Spirit upon salvation.
“The Spirit of truth … will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13)
B. Root Cause for Parents Not Sharing
“I’ll leave it to the church to give my child the necessary spiritual instruction.”
I have the God-given responsibility to prepare my child spiritually to accept Jesus personally as Savior and Lord.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)
IV. Steps to Solution
A. Key Verse to Memorize
“He [Jesus] said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ ”
B. Key Passage to Read and Reread
“I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old—what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.”
|Parents’ Prayer of Commitment
|I pray for the wisdom and courage to communicate Your hidden truths to the children You place in my care. I will not hesitate to talk about Your power and praiseworthy deeds to the next generation, so that they, in turn, will tell their children and their children’s children the wonders You have done. My responsibility is to teach my children to put their trust in You. May they never forget Your deeds and always keep Your commands. My utmost desire is to encourage impressionable young hearts to resist being rebellious and become loyal to their loving, most holy God.”
C. Practical P’s for Preparing a Child’s Heart
A child’s heart is like soil that can be moistened and tilled—to receive the seed of Christ. In the Bible, Timothy stood tall as a young Christian leader known for his sincere faith. His soil had been tilled with the testimony of both his mother and his grandmother—two women vital to Timothy’s growth.
“I [Paul] have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”
(2 Timothy 1:5)
Never underestimate how God might use you in the life of a child.
Portray the character of Christ.
• Realize that, with children, more is caught than taught.
• Model before your children Christlike qualities such as integrity, forgiveness, patience and humility.
• With humility, admit that you need Christ to make you Christlike.
“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned.” (Titus 2:7–8)
Praise God in the presence of your child for specific blessings.
• “Thank you, Lord, for giving us this sunshiny day.”
• “Thank you, Lord, for raindrops, which the ground drinks.”
• “Thank you, Lord, for the gift of our family so that we can love and learn from each other.”
“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” (Psalm 34:1)
Play and sing Christian songs with your child.
• Purchase tapes, records and videos with spiritual truths.
• Sing Scripture songs from your heart—don’t be self-conscious.
• Put Scripture to music. Make up a spiritual song.
“Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!” (Psalm 66:1–2)
Place pictures and plaques with a spiritual emphasis throughout your home.
• In your child’s bedroom and bathroom
• In the living room and hallway
• In the car and on the refrigerator
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.… Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:5–9)
Provide a regular time to read and talk about Scripture—a daily family devotional time.
• Character studies—David, Daniel, Ruth, Esther, Jesus, Peter, Abraham, Moses
• Selected proverbs, parables, the fruit of the Spirit
• Activities such as plays, skits, pictures drawn about Bible stories
“Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14–15)
Prepare Scripture memory verses on cutout forms or cards.
Pick simple verses for younger children.
• Place 1 John 4:16 on red paper in the shape of a heart—“God is love.”
• Place John 3:16 on blue paper in the shape of the world—“For God so loved the world.”
• Place John 15:5 on brown paper in the shape of branches—“I am the vine, you are the branches.”
Pray out loud with and for your child.
• At mealtimes
• At bedtime
• At times of need and thankfulness
“We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9–10)
Prioritize regular spiritual programs for your child.
• Sunday school and church services
• Church choirs and Christian camps
• Vacation Bible school and any other programs offering spiritual training
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Play creative games that bring God into focus.
• The “I Spy” game
When riding in the car, challenge your children to “spy” something God has made that begins with each letter of the alphabet. The one who sees an item calls out “I spy an animal,” “I spy a branch,” “I spy a cow,” and so on.
• The “God Made” game
Let your children take turns mentioning as many things as they can that God has created, starting with the letter “A.” After the time limit, (such as two minutes), they must move to the letter “B” and so on.
• Visit the children’s section in a Christian bookstore for other ideas.
D. Learning the Language of Little Ones
You can become more and more adequate when you realize that children are literalists. Be aware of terms that can be very confusing to a child … words that a child could easily misinterpret.
|“Let Jesus come into your heart.”
|A full-grown man has to fit inside my little heart.
|“Jesus wants to come into your life.”
|“Jesus shed His blood.”
|His blood is on the wood shed behind the house.
|“Jesus had bleeding wounds as He suffered on the cross.”
|“The Holy Ghost”
|God has ghosts that fly around and scare people.
|“The Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit.”
|“Make a stand for Jesus.”
|Make a lemonade stand for Jesus.
|“Do what is right because you love Jesus—even if everyone else does what is wrong.”
|“Jesus rose from the dead.”
|Jesus is a flower.
|“Jesus came back to life.”
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
Vocabulary for Kids
Children are literalists and often have difficulty understanding the religious terms used in the church. The following explanations are offered as less confusing alternatives.
Arose Came back to life
Christians People who have trusted in Jesus to be their personal Lord and Savior, who want to please Him and have received His life
Church A group of people who have believed in Jesus as their Lord and Savior (This is not a building of sticks and stones.)
Death, physical When the real you—your spirit—leaves your body
Death, eternal When a person is separated from God forever in a place of darkness and punishment
Emotions My feelings
Faith Believing God will do what He says He will do
Forgive Not staying angry at someone for doing something wrong
Gospel The good news that Jesus died for me—He was buried and He came to life again
Guilt Feeling bad for doing some-thing I know is wrong
Heart The part of me that decides what I really want to do
Heaven A forever-home with the Lord Jesus where there will always be joy and happiness
Holy Set apart to be what God designed me to be
Holy Ghost The Spirit of God, who comes to live inside every true Christian
Lord The one to whom I am responsible because He has power over me
Mind My thinker
Morals Doing what is right or wrong
Obedience Doing what I am asked to do, when I am asked to do it
Prayer Talking to God and listening to Him
Repent Deciding that I am sad for what I did and I won’t do what is wrong anymore
Righteous Being good
Sanctification Growing more and more like Jesus
Saved/Salvation Trusting Jesus to live with me now, keep me from being punished for doing wrong, and live with me forever in heaven
Savior Someone who keeps me from danger
Sin Anything I think or do that does not please God
Spirit A living being I can’t see
Will My chooser
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
E. Doing What Comes Naturally
Children are born with the desire to want life to go “their own way.” They don’t have the ability to change their natural bent toward sin. This self-will is their “wanter” that simply wants what is wrong. When Jesus comes into our lives, He changes our desires to want what is right.
Children will know if they have a problem because they will be reaping the consequences from their negative behavior when their “wanter” is not changed.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.”
Adult: “Have you tried not to do wrong?”
Adult: “Have you tried really, really hard? I mean the very best you could?”
Child: “Well, maybe not all the time.”
Adult: “Do you think the problem could be that on the inside you have a wanter that wants to do wrong?”
Adult: “Have you ever tried to change that wanter?”
Child: “I don’t know.”
Adult: “Do you sometimes do what you know is wrong because your heart wants you to do it?”
Adult: “Doing what is wrong is what God calls sin. It sounds like your wanter needs to change. Since your wanter is inside your heart, Jesus can change your heart! If you let Him take control of your life, He will actually change your wanter by changing your heart.”
F. Presenting the Gospel to Children
Every Christian delights when another sheep comes into the fold, but we must never pressure or manipulate a child to pray a salvation prayer. Salvation is of the Lord. Likewise, we should never assume that a child is a Christian. Don’t discourage a child who wants to pray for salvation by saying, “You’ve already prayed that prayer.” There may not have been a clear understanding of what it means to be saved, and the child prayed only …
• to please a Sunday school teacher
• to do what other friends were doing
• to be considerate and compliant
• to simply be a better person
How to Present the Good News
• “God created everything in this world, including you. He loves you and will always love you.”
— Establish His authority … Creator
“He made everything you can see or even think about.” Point out the natural wonders of the world around you (trees and birds, rain and oceans, stars and the sun).
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
— Establish His character … Love
“He has love for everyone, no matter what they do, and He loves you in a very personal way.”
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
• “There is a problem between you and God, and it is called sin. Sin is anything you think or do that does not please God. Sin is going your own way, not God’s way.”
— Explain inherited sin.
“We are born with a natural desire to please ourselves instead of a desire to please God by doing what is right. Babies cry for attention even when they aren’t hurt. They just want their own way.”
“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)
— Explain enacted sin.
“As we grow older, we all choose to sin. We choose to disobey our parents. Anything we think, say or do that doesn’t please God is sin.”
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)
Offering for Sin
• “Jesus came from heaven to earth, lived in a body and grew … just like you and I grow.”
— “God the Son came to help us because He loves us.”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
— Jesus is holy … which means different from us. We don’t always have good thoughts, but Jesus does. He is always perfect. Jesus has never sinned because He is God.
“But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.” (1 John 3:5)
Death and Resurrection
• “The Lord Jesus Christ died for your sins, but He also did something no one else has ever done—He came back to life!”
— “Jesus knew our sin would separate us from Him—that is the punishment for our sins.”
“Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
— “Jesus didn’t want us separated from Him so Jesus died for our sins. They put the Lord Jesus in a tomb (cave), and He came back to life. He lived His life on earth where people saw Him and talked to Him. Then He went to heaven.”
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures … he was buried … he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and … he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Corinthians 15:3–8)
• “We all need a Savior because our sin is a problem.”
— “We need to trust and rely on the Lord Jesus Christ for what He has done for us.”
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
— “Your part is to believe that Jesus has done this.”
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:17–18)
Q “What does it mean to believe?”
A In the Bible, the word believe means “to rely upon, to trust in.”
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” (1 Peter 1:8)
• “God’s part is found in three promises to us.”
— “We will not be condemned to hell for our sins.”
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
— “We will live forever in heaven.”
“Whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:26)
— “Meanwhile, God will cause us to live a different kind of life now while we live on earth.”
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” (Philippians 1:6)
Word of God
• “The Bible was supernaturally written by God.”
— “Some people say the Bible is no different from other books, but the Bible is holy—it is from God—it is without one mistake!”
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
— “The Bible, which tells us how to live, also tells us that we need a personal relationship with the Savior.”
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
• “God invites us all to come to Him.”
— Give an invitation for the child to receive Christ.
— Remind them again of their need for a Savior.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
— Review what Christ has done.
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18)
— “Would you like Jesus to be your personal Lord and Savior?”
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
|Dear God, I know I do things You tell me not to do, and You call that sin. I realize that my sin has separated me from You. Please forgive me for my sins. Lord Jesus, thank You for taking the punishment that I should have had—You paid the price for my sins by dying on the cross for me. Right now I ask You to come into my life to be my Lord and my Savior. I want to be what You want me to be. And I want to do what You want me to do. Amen.
Salvation is a supernatural work of God. You are not responsible for the salvation of any person, adult or child. Your responsibility is tilling the soil and sharing the seeds of truth about the Savior. As you plant seeds, pray that your child’s soil becomes fertile to receive the seed, take root and bear fruit.
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