It is a truly exciting thing to be involved in your child’s spiritual journey. Ensuring your child is cared-for in terms of physical and emotional provision is certainly important. The greatest contribution you can make to your child’s well-being, however, is instilling a fervent love for Jesus Christ. But how does this happen? What steps must a parent take in order to lead their child to Christ? How can you ensure that what happens at church is a supplement and not a replacement for spiritual guidance at home?
Moses provided an excellent framework to answer these questions in Deuteronomy 6. In this text, God commanded parents to nurture their children spiritually during all parts of the day: at home, during travel time, when waking up and when going to sleep. These are all excellent times to share the Word of the Lord with your children and take intentional measures to grow them in Christ!
The X-Factor: You
The primary way to lead your child day-by-day to Christ is through the faithful testimony of your own life. Paul called this a “sincere faith” (1 Tim 1:5). Your child has watchful eyes and will attentively notice your spiritual ups and downs. Being an “X-Factor” means that you are a special piece with a special place your child’s spiritual puzzle. With this in mind, here are a few self-examination questions:
- How have you exhibited faith in God to your child?
- Have you been transparent with your children about your imperfections and your need for forgiveness?
- Do you openly talk about Jesus and how he is impacting your life?
- Do your children see in you a consistent desire to please God?
- Do your children see you reading God’s Word on a regular basis?
- Do you pray often and lead your children in times of prayer outside of bedtimes and mealtimes?
Communicating the Gospel Clearly
When teaching your children the gospel message be sure they recognize the basic premise that they are sinners and that, because of God’s great love, he allowed his Son Jesus to be crucified and buried then he raised him from the dead. Here are some Scriptures to talk about to convey these truths:
- We are sinners—Genesis 3:1-24, Judges 17:6, Psalm 51:3-5, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23
- God is loving—Psalm 117:2, John 3:16, John 15:9, Romans 5:8,Romans 8:38-39, I John 3:16
- Jesus died for sinners and rose from the dead—Mark 8:31, Luke 24:45-47, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Philippians 2:8-10, Hebrews 9:14
- The proper response to the work of Jesus is repentance and faith—Mark 1:15, John 3:36, Acts 2:38; Ephesians 2:8-9, Hebrews 6:1
It is good to raise a child to know the Scriptures and to talk about what God has done. But never forget that no child is “born” a Christian! Your child must be born again by a work of God in his or her heart (John3:5,1Pet1:23). As a parent, look for changes in your child’s life as a result of repentance and faith. Repentance is a recognition that sin is destructive to one’s relationship with God coupled with a conscious turning toward God. Faith is reliance on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to deal with one’s sin, not on anything that any of us can do.
When talking about the gospel with your child, use clear terminology. Until the age of ten or eleven, children tend to think very concretely. They may not understand metaphors we use to communicate the gospel. Here are a few phrases that can muddy the waters for your child:
- Give your life to the Lord
- Ask Jesus into your heart
- Make a decision for Christ
- Come to Christ
- Get saved
If you steer away from these phrases and stick to clear and biblical terminology, children will be better able to understand the gospel message. Below are a few analogies which may help you communicate the gospel message more clearly:
Sin: Ask the child what happens when fruit punch is spilled on a white t-shirt in a store? It stains. The shirt cannot be sold now. Our sin stains us and keeps us from Heaven because nothing impure or unclean can enter into Heaven.
God’s love: Ask her how he would feel if her brother or sister or cousin took the punishment for something bad that she did. Tell him that if her relative took the punishment because they wanted to suffer in his place, he would know that the relative loved him. God in Christ was willing to become a sacrifice and a substitute for the people he loves.
Jesus: Ask what the coach does in a basketball game when a player is too tired to play. The coach has a substitute come in and play for the exhausted player. Jesus died to take the punish- mentwedeserveandhewasraisedfromthedead to give us eternal life that we don’t deserve. If we had to suffer the punishment for our sin, we would suffer death forever. We need a substitute.
Other Thoughts As You Lead Your Child to Christ
- Pray for and with your child. Ask for the Holy Spirit to work in your child’s heart and to give you wisdom. ␣ Remember that knowing the right answers does not mean your child is born again.
- Do not push or set a goal for your child to be saved at a certain time or age.
- Keep a journal of your child’s questions or conversations to see how the Lord is working over time.
- Do not coerce your child into a decision or put words in his mouth. Let your conversations be conversations, not lectures.
- Let your child pray his own prayer of response instead of repeating after you. This helps you to grasp his understanding of repentance and faith.
- Steer away from yes or no questions when talking with him. Ask open-ended questions to discover what your child really understands and believes.
- Have your child tell you the plan of salvation and respond as if you are a friend who has never heard the gospel. Children enjoy role playing, and you will discover the degree to which your child understands the gospel.
[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 3.2 (Spring/Summer 2013). You can view a PDF of this article here.]