Jesus made it clear that children are very precious to Him (Mark 10:14). While the disciples were discouraging the children from coming, Jesus welcomed them with open arms. They were drawn to Him and still are.
Statistics show that most people profess faith in Christ as a child. However, children are very impressionable and can respond to evangelistic invitations for a variety of reasons. They may go forward in church to please an adult, follow their friends, or see what they might get as a result.
How can we as believers avoid manipulation in children’s evangelism and ensure that the children we minister to are responding to the conviction of the Holy Spirit alone? Below are some guidelines to consider:
1. Give them unconditional love. Do not base your love of a child on their acceptance of your beliefs or on their behavior. This does not mean that you should not discipline them in love when they disobey, but it does mean to love them regardless and reassure them of your love. You do not want them fearful that they will lose your love based on what they say or do.
2. Don’t lead the children in a group prayer of salvation. This may lead some to believe that the prayer has the power to save.
3. Don’t connect the invitation to a physical action. We do not want anyone to think that they are saved by raising a hand, standing up, praying a prayer, or walking an aisle. Invite them to talk to an adult, but make it clear that it is a way to find out more – it is not how to be saved.
4. Do establish why a child is coming to talk to you. An excellent first question is “Why did you come to talk to me?”
5. Do use questions to ensure understanding. Here are some examples:
- Does they understand their need for Jesus??“Can you explain to me why you believe you need Jesus?”
- Do they understand what Christ did for them??“Can you explain to me why Jesus died on the cross?”
- Do they want to trust Christ for salvation today??“Would you like to trust Jesus as your Savior right now? Why?”
6. Encourage them to ask questions. You do not want them to automatically accept a belief “just because” you or any other adult says so. Encourage honest interaction and try to see things from their point of view. Facilitate an environment where they can honestly express their doubts without fear of a one-sided “sermon” (or other retribution) from you.
7. Leave room for the work of the Holy Spirit. Remember, children come to Christ the same way as everyone else, placing their trust in Christ alone through the work of the Holy Spirit (see John 6:44). We do not want to pressure children into a profession of faith based on their desire to please us or keep the peace. Only God can bring the harvest in His timing. We should teach and share the gospel to children, but be patient and wait on the Lord to work.
8. Do continue to present the gospel to them on a regular basis. Many doubt the validity of their salvation because they forget the details of what happened later in life or, even worse, have false assurance because they placed their trust in an action and not Christ alone. Continue to make it clear that salvation is a result of Christ and His work, not our own.