It is a truly exciting thing to be involved in your child’s spiritual journey. The fact that you are reading this is proof that you are genuinely invested in your child’s spiritual future. Ensuring your child is well cared for in terms of physical and emotional provision is certainly important. However, the greatest contribution you can make to your child’s well being 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?
Deuteronomy 6:4-12 provides an excellent framework to answer these questions. It commands 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. As you read further, you will be encouraged in your attempts to spiritually impact your child. You will get some helpful hints in communicating the gospel to your child and learn about several means by which you can measure your child’s spiritual health. May the Lord bless you as you take bold and loving steps to lead your child to Christ.
Paul praises Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice, for imparting the gospel into young Timothy’s life. The primary way to lead your child to Christ is through the faithful testimony of your own life. Paul, in I Timothy 1:5 calls this a “sincere faith.” Your child has watchful eyes and will attentively notice your spiritual ups and downs. He will easily discern if Jesus is the love of your life and learn from you what makes up a Christ follower. He will observe how you go about growing in Christ and how you show your love for Christ to the rest of the world.
You are the X-Factor. Being an X-Factor means that you are a special piece of your child’s spiritual puzzle. You hold an almost irresistible influence over how your children will develop spiritually. Here are a few self-examination questions for you:
- How have you exhibited great faith in God to your child?
- Have you been transparent with your children about your imperfections and need for forgiveness?
- Do you openly talk about Jesus and how He is impacting your life with your children?
- Do your children see in you a general desire to please the Lord?
- Do your children witness you reading God’s Word on a regular basis?
- Do you pray often and lead your children in times of prayer outside of bedtime and meal time?
Communicating the Gospel
Kids (and all people for that matter) need to be certain of the facts of salvation before they can respond appropriately. 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 for them, He allowed His son Jesus to be crucified, buried and resurrected for their sin. Here are some Scriptures you can utilize to help 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 loves us greatly—Psalm 117:2, John 3:16, John 15:9, Romans 5:8,Romans 8:38-39, I John 3:16
- Jesus died for ours sin—Mark 8:31, Luke 24:45-47, I Corinthians 15:3-4,Philippians 2:8-10, Hebrews 9:14
- The proper response is Repentance and Faith—Mark 1:15, John 3:36, Acts 2:38; Ephesians 2:8-9, Hebrews 6:1
Repentance and faith are the internal responses that God desires to work in us in order to save us from our sin. It is good to raise a child up to know the Scriptures and to talk of the things of the Lord. However, a child is not “born” a Christian. He, as anyone else, must be born again (John 3:5, I Peter 1:23) by a work of God in his heart. As a parent, you must be able to see some sort of change in his life as a result of his repentance and faith. Repentance is a literal changing of mind and heart. It is a recognition that sin is destructive to one’s relationship with God and a turning toward God recognizing that one needs Him. Faith is a reliance on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus to wipe away one’s sin. It is a personal trust and approval in the person and work of Jesus.
When talking about the gospel with your child, you will want to be sure to use clear terminology. Until about the age of ten or eleven, children tend to think very concretely. They may not understand the metaphors we use to communicate the gospel. Here are a few confusing phrases that can muddy the waters for your child and tend to detract from the basic response of repentance and faith:
- Ask Jesus into your heart
- Give your life to the Lord
- 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 and properly respond to it. Below are a few analogies which may help you communicate the gospel message more clearly:
- Sin: Tell the child you are cracking eggs and putting them in a bowl to scramble. Sounds delicious, huh? Tell him you cracked one bad, spoiled egg and it all goes into the bowl to be mixed around. Ask him if he would still like to eat the other eggs. He probably will not. This is like our sin. Just one sin is offensive to God and messes up our entire relationship with the Father.
- 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 him how he would feel if his brother/sister/cousin took the punishment for something bad that he did. Tell him that if his relative took the punishment because they wanted to suffer in his place, he would know that the relative really loved him. God has such a great love that He is willing to sacrifice for the ones he loves through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
- Jesus: Ask him what someone does in a basketball game when he is too tired to play. He has a substitute come in and play for him. He gets someone to go in and do what he could not do. That is what Jesus did on the cross. He died to take the punishment we deserve and he was raised again to give us the eternal life we don’t deserve. If we had to suffer the punishment for our sin, we would be dead forever. We need a substitute to take our place so that we can have forgiveness.
Tips and Pointers
- Be sure to pray for and with your child. Ask for the Holy Spirit to work in his heart and to give you wisdom of speech.
- Remember that simply knowing all the right answers does not mean he is born again, you need to discern the work of the Holy Spirit in the process.
- Do not push or set a goal for your child to be saved.
- Keep a journal of your child’s questions or conversations to see how the Lord is working over time.
- Do not coerce your child to a decision or put words in his mouth. Let your conversations be conversational, not lectures.
- Let him pray his own prayer of response rather than repeating after you. This helps you to grasp his understanding of repentance and faith.
- Baptism, jealousy, recognition or peer pressure could be the source of his questions rather than a sorrow for sin and desire for forgiveness. Try to discern the spirit of his questions and comments.
- Steer away from yes or no questions when talking with him. Seek to get him to provide longer answers.
- Have him tell you about the plan of salvation and respond like you were a friend who did not know. Kids enjoy role playing.
Questions to Consider
- What has been the extent of spiritual conversations with your child?
- Try to imagine how your child might answer the following questions based on your previous conversations.
- Who is God?
- Who is Jesus?
- What is sin?
- How does God feel about sin?
- How did God make the way to forgive us of our sin?
- Based on your answers to the previous question, how would you rate the child’s readiness to repent and believe?
- My child does not seem quite capable of understanding those concepts yet.
- There is some understanding, but they need more information or is not quite mature enough.
- My child knows the basics, but has not yet expressed repentance and faith.
- My child knows the basics, but is resistant to becoming a Christian at this point.
- My child has had a defining moment of repentance and faith.
- If your child has expressed genuine repentance and faith, can you pinpoint several areas of fruit in his or her life since that moment?
- After working through the above questions, you should be able to accurately discern what next steps your child needs to take. Is it:
- More time
- More information and conversation
- Prayer that God will communicate in ways you have not been able to in order to bring better understanding
- Gentle encouragement to repent and believe
- Move forward with believers baptism