The greatest desire of any Christian parent is to see their children put their faith in Jesus Christ and be saved from their sins. The task of explaining the gospel to our most cherished ones is both the heaviest responsibility and the highest joy. It’s a privilege we must pursue wholly depending on God’s grace and wisdom, with much patience and prayer. How do we go about this incredibly crucial mission? How can we explain the gospel to our children in a way they can understand without diluting the message? Thankfully, the Bible provides clear instruction on how to share the way of salvation with everyone, including children. And, thankfully, God provides us the discernment and strength we need to gently shepherd our children’s hearts and introduce them to our Savior.
Where to Begin
From the time our children can understand words and communicate with us, we must teach our children about God. The psalmist wrote in Psalms111:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” While our children are very young, we need to implant a reverent awe and respect for God and His authority. How do we cultivate this reverence for God? By teaching our little ones these fundamental truths
- God made you and loves you very much.
- God has given us rules we must obey.
- God is always there and always sees you.
- God disciplines us for our good.
One of the most important habits you can establish in your family is to read the Bible out loud to your children every day, even if it’s just one or two verses. Have a set time each day to read the Bible and pray with your children, whether it’s in the morning after breakfast or in the evening before bedtime. In addition, integrate the Bible throughout your day and always be looking to point your child to God. For example, if you’re outside playing you could say something like, “Look at the beautiful flowers God made! What else has God made?” If your children are fighting over a toy, ask them, “Are you pleasing God right now by fighting? What would please God the most?” We need to teach our children that God is everywhere, He always sees us, and we should always be striving to please Him.
How to Explain God to a Child
This can seem a daunting responsibility. How can we explain who God is to our children when we don’t fully understand Him ourselves? The fact is, neither we nor our children will ever be able to fully comprehend who God is—we’re not supposed to! But we can effectively teach our children about God in ways they can grasp. Everything God wants us to know about Himself is in His Word. So the more you teach your children God’s Word, the better equipped you will be to help them understand who God is. Our tendency is to bring God down to our level by comparing Him to earthly things and people. But God is not like us or anything He has created. He is separate from us, supremely transcendent above us, and incomparable.
It’s crucial that we teach our kids about God’s holiness and righteousness. They need to understand that God is to be obeyed, loved, and worshipped because He is worthy. The best place to start is at the very beginning, at creation, and introduce our children to their Creator. In creation we learn of God’s power, wisdom, goodness, care, and love. From there we can guide our children throughout the Bible and teach them many other attributes of God.
How to Explain Who Jesus is to a Child
Scripture clearly teaches that we cannot know God correctly apart from knowing His Son, Jesus Christ, who has revealed God to us. “No one has seen God at any time,” the apostle John wrote. “The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18). Jesus Himself said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Everything God wants us to know about Himself is revealed in His incarnate Son (Colossians 1:15-20).
If we want our children to understand God properly, we must teach them about Jesus. He is God in the flesh, the exact perfect representation of God Who condescended to us on this earth. When teaching our kids about Jesus, we must always emphasize that He is fully man and fully God at the same time. Jesus is completely human like us, but He is not like us in that He is also perfect and sinless, completely God. As both God and man, Jesus is the only one who can save us from our sins. He is the only perfect, acceptable sacrifice that could satisfy God’s wrath and judgment on our sin.
How to Explain Salvation to a Child
We share the gospel with children the same way we share it with adults. The gospel means “good news.” It is the good news of salvation from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The wonderful thing about the gospel is that we don’t have to simplify it for children because it is already a simple, clear message that anyone can understand. We are all sinners, separated from God by our sin and under God’s judgment (Romans 6:23). Because of our awful sin against God, we deserve to be punished for all eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). We cannot do anything to save ourselves; no amount of good works or good behavior can save us (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus, the perfect Son of God, willingly took our sin on Himself on the cross. Jesus took the punishment we deserved; He shed His blood and died for our sins. Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave and He is alive today in Heaven at God’s right hand (Matthew 28). When we turn from our sin and put our faith in Jesus Christ alone to save us, God immediately forgives us of all our sins—past, present, and future—and gives us eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 10:10,13). We can now have a personal relationship with God. God changes us from the inside out and makes us a new person and helps us grow to become more like Christ every day (I Corinthians 5:17).
5 Tips for Sharing the Gospel With a Child
Tip 1: Show them their need for a Savior.
You may have heard the saying that a person cannot get saved until they realize they are lost. Children need to understand their true condition: that they are sinners who have offended a holy God and deserve to be punished for their sins. We must explain that we are not mostly good people who do a few bad things. We are thoroughly bad with hearts that want our own way, not God’s.
Romans 3:10 says, “There is none righteous, no, not one…” Children must realize that “the wages (or payment) of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And the wages aren’t just physical death, but spiritual and eternal death as well. As hard as it may be, we have to explain to our children that if we do not put our faith in Christ alone to save us from our sins, we will spend all eternity in the lake of fire as punishment for our sins (Revelation 20:15).
Tip 2: Tell them the gospel.
We must take every opportunity to explain the gospel to our kids. The gospel should be a part of our everyday interaction with our children, not just something we teach during family devotions. When you have to discipline your children, point them to the gospel. When your children need comfort, point them to the gospel. Even when something good happens, point them to the gospel. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” The more our kids hear the good news of salvation, the more opportunities God will have to work in their hearts.
Tip 3: Use biblical terms regarding salvation.
“Accept Jesus as your Savior” and “Ask Jesus to come into your heart” are familiar phrases people often use when witnessing, but they’re not found in scripture. The words we use to explain the gospel matter, because we may end up unintentionally misleading or confusing our children. Whenever Jesus proclaimed the gospel, He used the words, “Repent,” “believe,” “faith,” and “born again.” We need to be careful to be as scripturally accurate as possible, using biblical words and phrases to explain salvation. “Ask Jesus to come into your heart” is vague and can mean many different things to children. But the meaning is very clear in, “Turn away from your sin and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you.”
Tip 4: Give your child an opportunity to respond to the gospel.
After you share the gospel, encourage your child to obey the command of the gospel whenever they’re ready. Understand it will probably take many times hearing the gospel before they are ready to respond. It’s crucial to give your child time and space; we should never try to manipulate or force our children to make a profession of salvation. The hardest part in witnessing to our children is waiting for them to respond to the gospel. It’s tempting to believe that if our child doesn’t trust in Christ this time they never will; but we have to trust God to work in their hearts and draw them to Himself in His perfect way and time.
Something to remember when encouraging our children to respond to the gospel is that we don’t have to lead them in a prayer. When Jesus was here on earth and preached the gospel, He never led anyone in “a sinner’s prayer.” He commanded them to repent and believe, but never told anyone what to say or how to pray. Romans 10:10 declares, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Saving faith happens in a person’s heart first, then verbal confession follows. There is no special prayer our children must pray to be saved.
Biblical Prayers for Salvation
There are only two verbal prayers for salvation recorded in the Bible. The first is found in Luke 18:13, when the tax collector beat his chest and cried, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” The second one is found in Luke 23:42, when the thief on the cross said, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”
Our assurance of salvation is found in Jesus Christ, not in a prayer we prayed. We can certainly encourage our children to pray and tell God their desire to trust in Jesus, but we don’t need to tell them what to pray. The danger in that is your children may believe they got saved because of their prayer rather than the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Another thing to remember is that you may not even be present when your children do put their faith in Jesus; they may come to you after the fact to let you know. This was the case with both of our daughters. They each put their faith in Christ when they were alone and later told us. Both my husband and I were thrilled to learn of their conversion and rejoiced with them. We didn’t ask them where they were, what they prayed or how they felt.
Instead, we asked them how they knew they were saved, and they both said because they had put their faith in Jesus alone. We knew that if our girls had been truly born again, we would see evidence of it in their lives—and we did. Since their salvation, we have seen God change them from the inside out and help them grow in their walk with Him.
Tip 5: Pray, pray, pray!
Besides faithfully teaching our children the gospel, the best thing we can do is to pray faithfully for their salvation. We cannot save our children; only God can do that. Only the Holy Spirit can work in their hearts, convict them of their sin, open their understanding of the gospel, and draw them to saving faith in Christ. We should be praying daily that our kids will understand the truth of the gospel, that their hearts will be tender, and that they will make the decision to trust Christ alone to save them.
• • • • •Jennifer is a pastor’s wife and mom of two young girls and loves homeschooling them. During her own twelve years of being homeschooled, Jennifer developed a passion for reading and writing. She earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and relishes writing during her free time.