As parents and teachers, our greatest goal for our children and youth should be that they come to genuine faith in Christ and live as His faithful disciples for the glory of God. Therefore, clearly presenting and explaining the essential truths of the Gospel and demonstrating what it means to follow Jesus in daily life is our greatest duty and privilege as we teach and train them. But it’s harder to discern or assess whether or not a child has truly understood and grasped the meaning of the Gospel. Therefore, we can better serve our children and youth by applying wise discernment when we share the Gospel with them.
One way in which parents and teachers can be more discerning when a child professes faith in Christ is by asking some specific questions. In his excellent book, The Faith of a Child: A Step-By-Step Guide to Salvation for Your Child, pastor Art Murphy provides some questions to help discern a child’s profession of faith. Here are a few:
Can the child explain in his or her own words the basics of becoming a Christian? When explaining how one becomes a Christian, does the child use “good works” answers such as “going to church, reading the Bible, getting baptized, praying, being good,” etc.? Or do his answers mention his need for forgiveness?
Does the child have an affection for Jesus or a strong desire to be close to Him? Does he show a passion to follow Jesus or just a basic knowledge of the facts about Him?
Does the child demonstrate a personal need or desire to repent of his sin? Is the child ashamed of the sin in his life? Knowing what sin is, is not the same as being ashamed of sin. If a child is not repentant but goes ahead and makes a decision to become a Christian, then his decision is premature and incomplete.
Listen to how he talks about salvation. Is there an urgency on his part? Does he have a personal desire to talk about salvation?
Does the child demonstrate a personal desire to make this commitment with his life, or is he just being agreeable with those around him who want him to become a Christian?
Is this a way of getting some undivided attention or public recognition?
What influenced him most to make this choice?
Has his decision come after realizing how much he needs and wants Jesus in his life?
(copyright©2000, pages 73-78)
When using questions such as these, it’s always important to keep in mind that God is ultimate in a child’s salvation. His sovereign grace will have the final say, not our efforts, nor a child’s ability to articulate what he or she has experienced in his or her mind and heart. But these questions are helpful reminders for parents and teachers to apply great care and wisdom when our children and youth express a desire to repent and believe the good news of the Gospel and pray for the Holy Spirit to do His life-giving work.
Would you like to explore this important topic further?
Parents, we’ve developed a concise booklet, Helping Children to Understand the Gospel, Helping Children to Understand the Gospel, to use with your children. It includes a 10-week family devotional to help you explain the Gospel to your children, and explores the following topics: preparing the hearts of children to hear the Gospel, discerning stages of spiritual growth, communicating the essential truths of the Gospel, and presenting the Gospel in an accurate and child-friendly manner.
Teachers and small group leaders, please see “Sharing the Gospel With Children,” a free, two-page guide for use with your students.