Communicating Christ to Children
The following notes come from Will McRaney’s book The Art of Personal Evangelism. I hope they will be a help to you.
Developmental Makeup of Children
- Until age 12, it is difficult for a child to handle abstract thoughts such as those involved in salvation. Children need us to draw a picture to see, not just expound on, theological concepts.
- Children have basic psychological needs: to belong, to achieve, freedom from fear, love and affection, freedom from guilt, and ability to contribute. Each need can be an effective tool for evangelism, but a witness can easily abuse each one during an evangelistic encounter.
- Keep in mind that each child is an individual. We should be sensitive to the particular developmental stage of the child to whom we are witnessing, and continue to check for understanding at each major aspect of the gospel message.
- There is no single way to assess readiness, but there are some good questions you can ask and some signs to look for in a child.
- Ask children open-ended questions, not yes-no questions.
- Rather than ask questions such as, “Do you believe Jesus died and rose again to pay for your sins?” ask questions such as “Who is Jesus? Why did He have to die? What happened to Jesus after He died? What do you want Jesus to do for you today?”
- Other questions that may be helpful:
- What would you like to talk to me about?
- What do you think it means to be a Christian?
- What made you think about this? When do you think about this? How long have you been thinking about this?
- What else do you know about being a Christian?
- How would you describe God?
- How do you think God feels about you?
- Who do you think God is?
- Why do you think a person needs to become a Christian?
- Let’s pretend that a friend of yours at school asks you to tell him what it means to become a Christian? What would you tell him?
- What other things are you wondering about?
- Several signs may indicate a growing readiness to receive Christ:
- A change in disposition. Serious meditation, sober thoughts, or expressions of worry could evidence a conviction of the Holy Spirit.
- An inquiring mind. Questions concerning church membership, baptism, forgiveness, the resurrection of Jesus, or death could indicate an interest in salvation. Be aware that such questions may only indicate a growing interest and not immediate readiness.
- The development of concepts. An ability to explain adequately the person and work of God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit, or a clear understanding of sin may indicate readiness.
What Must Children Understand?
- Because many children are eager to accept Christ in order to please an adult or to copy the actions of a sibling or friend, they must clearly understand their own personal need for Christ.
- They must understand that Jesus is the only way of salvation.
- They must know what it means to trust Christ.
- A witness should explain the gospel clearly to a child, being careful and flexible with terminology.
- Concepts such as faith and belief should be thoroughly explained, perhaps even terms such as trust or receive.
- Some basic to discuss when witnessing to children include:
- The nature of sin and need of the individual
- The person and work of Christ
- God’s requirement for salvation
- Results (what God does through salvation)
Guidelines for Child Evangelism
- Never assume anything; always start at the beginning.
- Use word and concepts the child can understand.
- Children think in concrete, literal terms. (i.e. “invite Jesus into your heart.”)
- Ask open-ended questions and listen to the answers they give and do not give.
- We do not want them to give answers they have heard from church leaders or parents if they don’t understand what the words mean.
- Children may not answer with standard Christian terms, but may understand.
- Stick to the basics when explaining the gospel, because understanding is gained through previously explained concepts and truths.
- Assist children as they ask questions and the Holy Spirit moves, but do not pressure a child.
Christian Terms Made More Understandable
- Sin: Sin is when you choose your way instead of God’s way. Sin is when you know what you are supposed to do, but you choose to do something else. Sin separates you from God.
- Repent: Repent means that you decide to do things God’s way instead of your way. You are sorry for the wrong choices you have made.
- Obeying God: Obeying God means choosing to live God’s way.
- Christian: You are a Christian if you have asked God to forgive you for the wrong choices you have made (sin) and asked Him to be in charge of your life.
- Saviour: Jesus is my Saviour because He does for me what I cannot do for myself. He saved me from being separated from God forever because of my sin.
- Righteousness: Always doing and saying what God would do and say.
- Holy Spirit: God is the Boss and the Holy Spirit is the One who tells you what the Boss wants you to do.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do be available to talk with children and be a safe person to them.
- Do clarify incorrect or inadequate understanding.
- Do stick to the basic issues.
- Do use the Bible (the child’s if possible) within the intellectual limits of the child.
- Do teach the need, concept, and urgency of faith without pressure.
- Do encourage the child to communicate with the Lord Jesus.
- Do verbally affirm desires for baptism and the taking of the Lord ’s Supper, even if the child is not ready to receive Christ.
- Do distinguish between receiving Christ and subsequent baptism and church membership.
- Do allow children to receive Christ as they demonstrate readiness.
- Do inquire about and review what the child did and said in receiving Christ.
- Do communicate with the parents as soon as reasonably possible.
- Do beginning follow-up whenever possible.
- Do provide reasources for Christian parents of new children who are believers.
- Do share the gospel with lost parents of the child.
- Don’t lead a child into a decision he or she is not ready to make.
- Don’t just use a memorized presentation. Children are unique.
- Don’t ask questions with the answer in or implied in the question.
- Don’t confuse the children with too many illustrations, Scripture verses, or concepts.
- Don’t expect adult Christian terminology from the child.
- Don’t assume the child is unsaved. Some children who respond to a personal invitation may already be saved and are seeking assurance.
- Don’t overemphasize fear and the threat of hell.
- Don’t tell the child everything you know about the Bible or sanctification.
- Don’t insist the child get saved now.
- Don’t tell the children he or she is saved. Let the Word of God and the Holy Spirit do that in due time.
- Don’t think your responsibility is over when a profession of faith has been made.
- Don’t baptize a child or allow a child to join a church without the permission of parents.