Communicating Christian conversion to children

Since communication is one of the key elements found in a healthy relationship, our goal as parents and teachers should always be to sharpen our skills in talking with children. Once a healthy relationship has begun between a teacher and child or a parent and child, the next important skill that needs to be developed is a sensitivity to how we communicate with children about Christian conversion.

However, before we look at a few simple reminders related to conversing with children about conversion, we must address an important question: "Am I sure that I know the Lord personally?" It would be ludicrous for us to think that we can effectively lead children to understand something that we ourselves don't fully understand. Take a moment to make this quick, personal evaluation:

  • Has there been a time in my life when I learned what the Bible teaches about becoming a Christian?
  • Have I personally admitted that I'm a sinner?
  • Have I chosen to believe that Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins?
  • Have I confessed with my mouth that Jesus is my Lord and Savior?

Remember, we teach what we are! Each teacher and parent needs to have the assurance that he/she has accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, and that he/she knows basic verses from the Bible that teach these truths. Additionally, we need to be reminded that becoming a Christian is the same for a child as it is for an adult. There is not one way of salvation for children and then another way for adults.

Our journey begins with some brief reminders related to talking with children about salvation. Obviously, the way we address the topic of salvation with a preschooler and the way we would talk with an older school-age child would be different. Therefore, it would make sense to divide our thoughts into two sets of observations.

Preschoolers and Conversion

  • Preschoolers are concrete thinkers. Parents and teachers need to understand how preschoolers grow, develop, and think. Because they are concrete thinkers, they do not always understand symbolism. Preschoolers learn precept upon precept, just as the Bible describes.
  • Preschoolers need time. Adults need to avoid giving too much information to preschoolers about becoming a Christian. Preschoolers need time to process truth after truth after truth.
  • Trust development begins at birth. Communicating about conversion is both verbal and non-verbal. Trust is developed as we meet the physical and emotional needs of preschoolers. They begin to equate being fed when hungry and being consoled when hurt with trustworthy significant caregivers. This sets the stage for them being open to learning truths about God, Jesus, and the Bible.
  • Preschoolers are observers. They begin to form their image of God by watching and listening to their significant caregivers.
  • Preschoolers are curious. As older preschoolers begin to ask questions about baptism and the Lord's Supper, adults need to give simple, to-the-point answers. Adults should respond with questions that cannot be answered by a simple "yes" or "no." Open-ended questions such as, "What have you heard that caused you to think about this?" help to open up a child's heart and mind.
  • Preschoolers need Christian music that is concrete. Literal wording helps boys and girls begin to become familiar and comfortable with biblical teachings.
  • Bible thoughts, verses, and phrases should be used daily. Intersperse Bible verses with everyday conversation to help preschoolers develop a biblical worldview.
  • A child-friendly Bible is essential. Consider adding to your child's library The Read to Me Bible for Kids. This Bible contains great parent/teacher helps on talking with your child.

School-age Children and Conversion

  • Younger school-age children continue to be literal minded. When using symbolic words and phrases, adults need to make every attempt to explain what these words and phrases mean in the simplest terms possible.
  • Each child is unique. Each child will respond to the gospel at a different time and on a different timetable from others. The Bible does not assign an appropriate age when a child can become a Christian.
  • Children need to feel free to ask questions. Remind your child that you as a parent or teacher are always available to talk about spiritual questions and truths. It is always wise to admit when you don't know an answer. Tell the child you will check with someone or some resource and get back to them.
  • Encourage children to use their Bibles. Guide your child to mark verses in his own Bible that have to do with becoming a Christian.
  • Wait on the Holy Spirit. When God's Spirit leads and a child makes a profession of faith, assist the child in writing an account of becoming a Christian. Encourage the child to sign and date the story of his conversion. Ask the child to fold the page, place it in an envelope, and save this record of commitment for the rest of his life. Encourage moms and dads to keep the note in a safe place for future reference. The child can keep his letter the rest of his life to rebuff doubts and confusion about whether he made a true commitment to become a Christian.
  • Consider adding a study Bible to your child's library. The Illustrated Study Bible for Kids contains excellent parent helps as well as many study tools for children.

In addition to these simple guidelines, teachers and parents may want to add these resources to their own libraries:

  • "Levels of Biblical Learning." Free resources available here. Included in this resource is a great article entitled "Talking to Children About Salvation."
  • When Can I? This excellent book by Thomas Sanders gives parents and teachers practical helps in answering basic questions related to baptism, the Lord's Supper, and church membership.

One of the greatest blessings in life is to lead children to Christ. Teachers and parents need to join in developing skills to enable God's Spirit to use them in this incredible journey with children. Make that commitment today to develop and learn as many skills as possible in communicating with children about Christian conversion. There can be no greater calling!

Jerry Vogel teaches five year olds at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, and he is the director of Childhood Ministry Publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee.

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