Most children are more open to spiritual things than most of us adults give them credit for. Many times we stick with telling our young ones disconnected Bible Stories that, while interesting, don’t really help our children understand Biblical Christianity.
Maybe it goes back to the fact that Jonah and the Big Fish translate easily to Flannelgraph, but the Doctrine of Justification doesn’t.
My Parenting Goal
One of my goals, as a parent, was to have children who were genuinely converted to saving faith in Jesus Christ early on in life, knowing that Jesus is faithful to work in the lives of every Christian, no matter how young. Salvation is the starting point of the Christian life! Paul wrote,
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
That’s a confidence we can have as moms — once God has begun that good work of salvation in our children’s lives, He will continue to be at work, which is why this is important.
Avoid False Conversions
False conversions, however, are something we want to avoid! Jesus said,
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Our children need more than just “wonderful works” They need to know Christ. But how?
Here are 7 tips for leading your child to Christ:
1. Keep in Mind that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion!
Integrate your faith throughout your life. Your relationship with Christ should be a part of your every day, not just something you “do” on Sundays. God’s heart in instructing children was seen in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, when He said,
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
In other words, talk about what God has done all day, every day when it comes up naturally in conversation, and not just on your way to and from the church.
2. Don’t Excuse Sin — Call it what it is
Many people don’t like to talk about sin today; it’s not very popular. (it’s even less popular when it’s your sin!).
However, the reason you and your children need a Savior is because of sin — the sins we commit and the sin nature we inherited from Adam.
Don’t dismiss sin as “a cute phase” or “boys will be boys”.
There’s no need, of course, to be unnecessarily harsh or unloving when dealing with sin — as you read the Gospels, you’ll see that Jesus always confronted sin, but in a very loving manner. So should we.
Most children know, quite naturally, when they’ve done wrong. That’s why it’s easier to lead a child to Christ than a hardened adult who will look at you with a straight face and tell you they’ve never sinned.
3. Remember that the same grace that saved you saves your children
I’m not sure why it is, but as parents, though we’re thankful for God’s grace, sometimes we treat our children as if they are saved by works.
I’ve seen many parents hold up some impossible standard (based on the commands of God we particularly like), and expect their children to be able to keep that, and often before they have trusted Christ and have the indwelling Spirit of God helping them.
We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone. That doesn’t negate obeying Christ (or obeying mom and dad), of course, but obedience isn’t what saves us.
It’s important that, through the course of life, we convey this to our children, both with our words and our actions.
One great way to do this is to apologize when you screw up (when appropriate). My children know I’m not perfect.
Instead of trying to act like I have it all together (and being viewed as a hypocrite by them later), I admit when I make mistakes. I apologize. When I have one of those moments where I’m a little curt towards them, I apologize. I ask their forgiveness. I express gratitude that Jesus forgives me too.
I want to display to them that mom needs Jesus, so that they, too, will see their need for Christ.
4. Ask Questions
If you read through the Gospels afresh, you’ll see that one technique Jesus used quite a bit when teaching was to ask questions. Sometimes, as I read these accounts, I chuckle to myself because some of His questions have very obvious and childlike answers to them.
It is clear Jesus is asking the question not to get an answer for Himself, but to get the person He is teaching to think through what they already know. He is also wanting them to verbalize what they are thinking, what they know and what they believe.
This is a great technique when teaching your children anything. I use it frequently when homeschooling. I also find it useful to figure out what my children really are thinking about different issues.
With a child (and adults for that matter), simply running down a plan of salvation then having an altar call may lead to false professions because children naturally want to please (as do some adults). However, reciting the sinner’s prayer doesn’t save anyone.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Asking questions to see if they understand is a good way to gauge what they are thinking.
5. Don’t use bribes or rewards to get them to pray a prayer
Again, with children being natural people pleasers, don’t dangle any sort of carrot before them to get them to recite a prayer asking Jesus in their hearts.
They have to genuinely believe and trust in Christ alone, from the heart.
That doesn’t happen from parroting back a prayer.
6. Learn Memory Verses Together that have to do with Salvation
During our first few years homeschooling, our family learned verses specific to salvation together. The reason for this was twofold:
- To allow God’s living Word to work in their hearts and minds
- To learn verses every Christian should know, for the purposes of evangelism
This turned out quite well for us. I remember while we were in the middle of learning a specific verse, one of my daughters came to me. She was distraught because she had been trying to be “good enough” on her own to earn salvation.
However, she realized, through this verse, that no one is able to be good enough, and so Jesus was good enough for us and died for us. One simple verse worked in her heart.
In this same way, before I accepted Christ, I thought that I had gone too far and that God didn’t love me. The verse that started me towards the day when I’d eventually accept Christ is now my favorite verse:
“But God commendeth (showed) His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
7. Focus on Why Jesus Came to Earth
As I said earlier, we tend to focus more on “Bible Stories” and not on the overwhelming theme of the whole Bible: Jesus the Lord and Savior of the World coming to save mankind.
When the kids were still very young, we spent a lot of time doing devotions out of an old book, “Leading Little Ones to God” which beautifully works in the plan of salvation in a sweet and easy to understand way.
Look for other Bible studies and devotions (or create your own) that similarly focus on what Jesus did and what it means to be a Christian.