D. L. Moody was asked how many came to Christ after a particular outreach. He gave a number and added “and one-half.” The person responded, “Oh, I guess the one-half was a child.” He answered, “Oh, no the one-half was an adult. His life is half over. The rest were children.”
Reaching children while they’re young is thrilling. They have their entire lives to live for the Savior. But how do you help children make sincere decisions? They must come to Christ because they see their own need and understand the gospel, not because their parents see their need.
1. Lead them. Don’t pressure them.
Children mature at different ages. Some understand the gospel at age six. Others don’t get it until years later. Yes, every child needs Christ but it may take some longer to understand than others. Be careful not to give a child the impression that because his friend came to Christ he must also.
Lead them by helping them understand the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection. Holy Spirit pressure brings them to Christ, not peer or parental pressure. When you sense they grasp the meaning of Christ’s substitutionary death, pray with them as they tell God they are trusting Christ. Make clear that saying a prayer does not save. Trusting Christ saves. Prayer is only how they tell God what they are doing.
2. Make the issue of faith clear.
The gospel of John explains how one receives God’s gift of eternal life:
“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life in His name” (John 20:31).
“Believe” means understanding Christ died for me and rose again, I must trust in Christ alone to save me. Use the word trust. Avoid phrases such as “invite Christ into your heart” or “give your life to Jesus.” Those terms are not used in Scripture in a salvation context. They are confusing and don’t explain what the Bible means by believe.
Can a child understand the concept of trust? Yes. As a boy plays in his leaf-shrouded tree house, tell him to jump into his Daddy’s muscular arms and he’ll jump. If a mom promises her little girl that she’ll give her a stuffed unicorn for her birthday, the little girl knows she will get it. If a child doesn’t understand what it means to trust in Christ alone as his only way to heaven, give him time. He will grow in his understanding of salvation.
3. Don’t question their salvation when they misbehave.
Assurance that we are forever His is based on what Christ did, not what we do. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).
When an adult says to a child who won’t share his Legos or Nintendo controller, “Do you think you would act like that if you were really a Christian?” he does more harm than he knows. Just because a child misbehaves doesn’t mean he is not a Christian. We are saved on the basis of His performance, not ours. Christians in the New Testament also misbehaved. Paul rebuked them without questioning their salvation (1 Cor. 5:1, 6:1). Children need to know that upon trusting Christ they are His forever—even if they act up.
The above cautions are helpful in leading children into a genuine decision for Christ. They summarize EvanTell’s emphasis when speaking to anyone about the gospel—Be clear! Be clear! Be clear!