Introducing a child to an eternal friendship with Jesus Christ is an enormous privilege, but it can be a potentially daunting prospect for many. What should we say and how? Do they really understand enough? If we don’t say things right, will their salvation come unstuck or not be sufficient somehow? Shouldn’t we leave the salvation prayer to the ‘professionals’?
Leading a child through the prayer of salvation is certainly a great responsibility and one we should be prepared for. But we can take some of the fear out of it by remembering who it is we are introducing them to and, most importantly, who does the work of salvation in a child’s heart. That is the role of the Holy Spirit, who convicts and brings revelation and transformation. We depend on Him to lead and guide us in all we say as we join in with what He is doing. Having this perspective can prevent us from feeling it's entirely down to us. God can and will use our inadequacy as we depend upon Him.
Each kid is unique, so our teaching approach to salvation prayer should be individual and not ‘one size fits all, although the truth obviously remains the same. Here are some things to bear in mind in tailoring our approach to be as helpful and appropriate as possible.
Ask Good Questions & Listen
Don’t assume! Ask them to explain what they understand about Jesus. Ask open-ended questions. Ask them what sin is? If they’ve expressed a desire to choose Jesus, ask them why? Once you’ve got a better idea of where they are up to in their understanding, you can fill in any gaps and lead them forward. Try to avoid putting words into their mouths.
Love Not Fear
Love is the focus of salvation. “For God so loved the world, he gave His only Son.” Salvation is the beginning of a relationship with God and God is love. We owe it to children to bless them with a solid foundation for their faith. When presented with the depth of God’s love for them and the truth of their sin and need for his rescue, a child’s heart can respond in gratitude and in a life devoted to their loving God.
Fear is not the basis for any loving relationship and a focus on punishment and God’s wrath may scare some kids into the kingdom but robs them of a healthy relationship with God that can take years to recover from. Painting such a one-sided picture of God is not good news. God’s love and grace towards us chase fear away. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18).
Watch Your Language!
In your explanation of the good news about Jesus, keep your language simple. Avoid ‘Christianese’ phrases such as needing to be “washed in the blood of the lamb” (yuck!) and talking like you have swallowed a King James Bible! Explain words like repentance and sin. We can use these Bible words but don’t assume they are understood. Make sure you are being age-appropriate and remember this is another step in the kids’ faith journey and not your only chance to make sure they understand the difference between justification, sanctification and glorification or know how to define substitutionary atonement! Above all else we want to facilitate a heart connection with Jesus.
Paint a Picture
Think of an illustration such as a kid in trouble in a swimming pool who can’t swim. They need someone to save them. Jesus is the rescue man who saves us. Or someone having disobeyed a warning sign who wanders into some quicksand. Their disobedience led them into trouble, and they need rescuing. Pictures like these, along with stories and real-life examples, can help kids better understand salvation and what accepting Jesus as Lord of their lives means.
Act It Out
Many kids learn and understand by doing and so it may be helpful to literally walk them through salvation. We are walking away from God and going our own way. Jesus knows we’re heading into trouble we can’t see and shouts to let us know. We can choose to turn and walk towards Him (repentance) or continue to go our own way.
Use a Bible
When possible, actually show kids the gospel using the Word of God. This is our reference book for every situation and if we want them to treasure God’s Word, they need to SEE it’s our go-to for truth and guidance. It’s great to have it memorized yourself but even better to show them for themselves and have them read it if they can. (You can speed the process up by having those scriptures highlighted and labeled whether it’s on your phone Bible or a papery one!)
When kids reach out and cling onto Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they move from darkness to light. Nothing can separate them from the love of God! They belong to him and are free from the eternal consequences of sin and death. Have them read this verse. “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
Arrange Next Steps
The gospel is not something that kids move beyond as they grow as followers of Jesus. Discipleship is working out how the gospel impacts their lives every day. We are in the business of making disciples. We cannot simply get kids ‘over the line’ and think our job is done. They must never be simply statistics but lifelong learners and followers of Jesus. This must be part of our thinking as we introduce kids to Jesus. What is next? How can we help them grow?
The Truth In a Nutshell
- God created us to be his friends.
- Sin messed things up and stopped us from being friends with God. It separated us from Him.
- God made a way for us to come back to Him by sending Jesus to deal with our sin. What a gift!
- We need to choose to accept God’s gift & ask Him to forgive us and clean us from our sin.
- The Holy Spirit now helps us live to please Jesus and makes us more like Him.
- Once we have chosen to follow Jesus, nothing can separate us from Him ever again!
Helpful Bible Verses
“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one..” (Romans 3:10)
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31)
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)