My children were 4 and 5 when they believed in Jesus for salvation. At that age, they were like sponges soaking up the love of Jesus and spiritual truth. Together we would watch for “God sightings,” such as ants carrying their heavy loads or seeds maturing into beautiful flowers. Observing the world around us provided many natural opportunities for teaching my children about creation and the Gospel.
In order for children to put their faith in Jesus, they need to understand several basic truths:
- Their sin and need for a Savior
- The significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection
- God’s faithful presence in a believer’s life
One powerful way for these truths to be conveyed in the home is for parents to talk about them and live them out each day, so kids can learn from both their actions and their words.
Recognizing their sin
My friends Tina and Harry raised their children with an open dialogue about sin and the importance of asking for forgiveness. Praying together before and after discipline showed their children the seriousness of their infractions and the value of having a clean heart before God. They also demonstrated God’s love by offering their forgiveness freely, and displaying unconditional love and mercy.
For the concept of dealing with sin to become real to children, they need to
- Understand that they mess up (Romans 3:23)
- Admit to and accept the consequences of your wrong actions (1 John 1:9)
- Realize God loves them whether they succeed or fail (Romans 5:8)
- Accept that only God has the power to change their heart (Ezekiel 36:26)
The significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection
While this principle seems obvious, parents often neglect to tell their children the basic story of the Gospel, assuming they already know that Jesus came to earth as a baby, willingly shed His blood on the Cross, and died and rose again to pay the penalty for sin.
Children can understand the concept of grace — or undeserved favor — through our parenting. When you offer your child grace, relate it to the grace God showed us in sending His Son and forgiving our sin. We can model our own need for a Savior when sin is evident in our lives.
My friend Blanca says each of her children came to know Christ while sitting on her lap. In each case, a simple talk about sin and the Gospel or a follow-up conversation about a speaker’s message on salvation opened the door for her to ask if they’d like to believe in Jesus.
For the truths of the Gospel to become real to children, they should first understand that
- Jesus loves us so much that He came to earth for us (John 3:16)
- He taught us how to live and know His Father
- He died on the Cross in our place
- Jesus defeated sin and death through His resurrection — our Savior lives!
God is close
When my friend Christie’s kids were little, she reminded them how important children are to Jesus. She read them Genesis 5:1: “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.” Then she reminded them that God created them, too, and they are precious to Him. That prompted them to understand that Jesus wanted to be close to them.
I used to tell my kids that they could talk to Jesus at any time; He’s just a thought away and always with them.
- For God’s nearness to become real to children, help them understand that
- God promises to always be with them (Hebrews 13:5)
- Jesus came to earth, died and rose again to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18)
- God gives believers a helper called the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,26)
Leading by example
As hard as it is for us to comprehend, God loves our children even more than we do. He desires that they have a personal relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus. The most important introduction I’ve ever made is the one that led my children to God through a relationship with Jesus. Showing them Christ in my everyday life was essential to them making this decision.
Angelica says she does her best to live out Deuteronomy 11:19, which instructs parents to talk about God’s commands with their children at all times of the day, both at home and while they are out. As she walks her daughters to school every day, she uses the opportunity to tell them the stories of Bible heroes, such as Abraham, Joseph and Esther.
As you live out your faith on a daily basis, leading your children to Christ can be organic and beautiful. We can help them understand their sin and need for a Savior and teach them that God loves them and is always available to them. As we do this, we pave the way for them to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus and put their faith in Him.