Preparing the Heart
Leading a Child to Salvation
Jesus, the greatest teacher of all time, told stories. He talked to people about things they were familiar with. To the prophet Amos, God spoke about fruit picking because Amos was a fruit picker. Jesus talked to the disciples about fishing and to the woman at the well about water. He comes to where we are.
The art of teaching is the ability to lead people from the known to the unknown. God starts where we are and then leads us into things He wants us to know. He teaches us the things we do not know by using the things we know. Jesus used the parable of the fig tree because people of that day knew about the fig tree. He extended knowledge to the unknown. The mustard seed, the wind, and the new birth are examples of Jesus’ teaching technique. By doing this, he opened people’s understanding to spiritual things they could not have received otherwise. Jesus was the Master Teacher.
An accurate perspective is necessary in order to help a young child receive salvation. The following discussion will provide six guidelines for conversing with the child about salvation. Notice the words and phrases that might be difficult for young children to understand. Be sure you know what a child needs to know in order to understand
Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
- These are things the child should understand:
- God loves you.
- You have sinned. (You have done things that are wrong.)
- Sin must be punished.
- Jesus took the punishment for your sin.
- Tell God your sins and that you want to stop doing wrong things.
- Ask Jesus to forgive you for the things you have done wrong and to be your Savior.
- Ask Jesus to live in your heart by giving you His Holy Spirit.
- Ask Jesus to wash away your sin by baptism in His name. (Wisdom and experience suggests that we reserve water baptism for young children until after they have received the Holy Ghost. This, in some measure, ensures that the comprehension of the child is sufficient for the experience to be effective
- Be familiar with scriptural passages. God’s Word is powerful. Use the Bible, not another book, in sharing the salvation message with children. Mark these key verses: John 3:16; John 3:5; Acts 2:38-39, emphasizing the word “children”; Romans 3:23; I Corinthians 15:3-4.
- Avoid symbolism. Use words that are easily understood. Phrases such as “born again” are meaningful to adults, but they can create misconceptions in children. Explain key terms as you lay the foundation for entrance into the family of God. Briefly explain these terms:
- Sin: doing wrong things or disobeying God’s rules.
- Saved: becoming a part of God’s family.
- Forgive: to take away the punishment for doing wrong.
- Everlasting life: to live forever with Jesus.
- Talk individually with children who express interest in becoming a member of the family of God. Children who hear preaching and teaching frequently will sense that they need to do something they are not doing. “Being filled with the Holy Ghost or receiving the Holy Ghost” are terms used often within earshot of children. They will know when other children have the salvation experience and will want it too. They need a clear understanding of the process. Otherwise, they will seek the experience as a result of self-inflicted peer pressure instead of a personal realization of their need for God.
- Allow for free choice. We must allow children to respond freely to the call of the Holy Spirit. They should not be pressured to seek the Lord because a parent or teacher is worried about their lack of interest in spiritual things. The response that will last is a genuine response to God. Be careful about asking leading questions or questions that must be answered yes or no. Allow the Lord to work within the children, drawing them as He does adults.
- Focus on God’s love and forgiveness. Let children know that there will be times of learning, and that there are times when they will do wrong things. Remind them that God does not stop loving them when they sin. If we are sorry and ask for forgiveness, God will forgive us.
Teachers of young children have a God-given responsibility and opportunity to participate in a child’s understanding of salvation. You may be the only person in a child’s life to explain these things to him.
The above article, “Preparing the Heart” was written by Janet Trout. The article was excerpted from the book, Achieving Excellence in the Sunday School.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”